One of the great strengths of the British political system (by comparison, for example with the US) is that the money we are allowed to spend on promoting our causes or parties is relatively small; and that all of it is openly declared.
In a general election, for example, any candidate may spend a figure calculated on the number of electors, which comes roughly to £14,000 per head. That is largely raised from ordinary supporters responding to a “Fighting Fund Appeal”; and any sums larger than £500 are routinely declared both to the Electoral Commission and to the Register of Members’ Interests. MPs declare any income they receive outside of their own salaries; and any benefit in kind which may influence their Parliamentary actions (such as overseas travel associated with being an MP). The rules for the funding of Party HQs are tightly drawn up (for example no funds may be received from overseas donors) and again wholly declareable.
The net result of all of that is that the British political system is more or less incorruptible. And anyhow, the checks and balances between Parliament, Government and civil service makes corruption of the kind which is sadly routine in other parts of the world, virtually impossible here.
That is why I think that the Labour Party’s current smear campaign seeking to prove that one or another minister has been unduly influenced by particular interest groups is very unfortunate. By saying it, the unwary believe it to be true. Angela Rayner was at it during the week, seeking to smear the PM, the Home Secretary, the Health Secretary and Lord Lister, despite the fact that their total donations received since January 2020 amount to just £4,660 for Boris and £55,586 for Hancock. Rayner’s coffers on the other hand have been working overtime. Since January 2020 she has received: £50,000 from Whaeed Ali; £1,683.21 from GMB; £47,227.58 from GMB; £1,000 from Simeon Honore; £25,000 from GMB; £10,000 from Rajesh Agrawal; £10,000 from USDAW; £25,000 from CWU; £2,000 from Mohammed Imran; £25,000 from Trevor Chinn; £10,000 from Intro Developments Ltd; £25,000 from Martin Taylor; £2,500 from Simeon Honore. That’s a whopping £234,410.79, some four times the total takins of the government figure she was pointing the finger at (£240,984).
That is all perfectly properly declared, and I am confident that Angela Rayner, who is a bit of a friend of mine, is wholly incorrupt and incorruptible. But by flinging mud around, some may well stick to the flinger.
We all need enough of this world’s goods to get our messages out to the wider public; enough but not too much. And all of it on open display to avoid not only any kind of corruption but also any suspicion that there might be any such thing.
So let’s get away from these personal smears, which merely tend to stain the reputation of the body politic as a whole, which lower the political debate to the gutter, and which are totally without foundation.