In the aftermath of the story about the Tory treasurer trying to sell dinner with the PM I very much enjoyed Charlie Brooker’s description of David Cameron as the pay-per-view prime minister. Of course other PMs, probably all of them, must have done the same or similar but I always assumed it would be done more subtly, with non-specific and non-attributable hints at worst so that the whole thing is in a legal and moral grey area. It was quite astonishing to see it all done in such a blatant and shameless way. Perhaps this is what Francis Maude meant when talking about transparency?
Talking of whom, I just listened to Maude’s so-called ‘car-crash interview‘ on the Today radio programme on iPlayer. He seemed to be trying to say “so what?” at the same time as denying it all. Not the smooth performance I normally expect from my erstwhile opponent. It could only have been worse if he had tried to suggest that this was an example of caring conservatism’s new egalitarianism , opening up access to anybody, rich or poor, as long as they pay £250,000.
Personally I think the excuse that it was just one rogue co-treasurer rings about as true as News International and their one rogue royal reporter phone hacking defence.
What might be most unbelievable is the sheer gullibility of Cruddas in falling for a variation on the fake sheikh trick.
The worst aspect of it all is the way the Tories are trying to divert the whole fuss into an attack on Labour’s links with the unions. As a union member myself I see the political levy as form of membership fees for affiliate members and not as a donation. Hearing the accusations about union leaders expecting to influence policy of the Labour party all I could think was “Of course. We are members and members of a party want to influence policy”. The irony is that the affiliated members in the unions have so little influence, just as individual proper members have so little influence on party policy.
Is that the answer for trade unions? Send members two direct debit forms – one for the union and one direct to the Labour party as an affiliate member? The Tories could respond by increasing membership fees to £50,000 a year…
The whole thing is almost enough to make me regret not reading newspapers any more.