YESTERDAY’S debate in the House of Commons on the cash-for-access scandal was not particularly instructive.
It seemed to consist of one side yelling: “You are worse than we are.”
And, panto-like, the other side yelling back: “No, you are worse than we are.”
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For all Ed Miliband’s calls for a “proper independent inquiry” into the Conservatives’ carry-on, it is difficult to see where the debate is leading.
Labour are not going to give up their lucrative union backers and the Tories are not going to give up their wealthy individual backers.
The public will not accept the statefunding of political parties at a time when their grassroots services are slipping away due to lack of cash. And we are not going to recreate our political parties so that they have massmembership with a million or more people paying annual subscriptions.
Therefore, for all yesterday’s sound and fury, the answer will be a fudge.
Prime Minister David Cameron should have one cooking up nicely as two years ago he correctly said party funding and lobbying would be the next big scandal. Unfortunately, he has not done anything about it in the meantime.
This, though, is not the big worry for Mr Cameron. The big worry must be what this scandal is doing to the perception of his party. He spent years in Opposition trying to detoxify the Tories, to shake off the image that they were somehow the nasty party only interested in the rich.
But last week’s poorly thoughtthrough Budget will be remembered for giving the wealthiest a tax cut while sucking 1.3m aspirational middle- class people into the higher tax band and leaving pensioners feeling they had been battered.
And now the Cruddas tapes suggest that the party is so reckless with its image that it allows its chief fundraiser to offer wealthy people a say in policy in return for a large donation.
All politics is suffering, but it is the Conservative image that is slipping the most.