Peer pressure?

Aaaaand we’re back. To the bad old days of Neil & Christine Hamilton et al, it would appear.

No sooner had it been “revealed” late last week that the BBC’s Panorama programme had allegedly caught Tory MP Patrick Mercer on camera dipping his sticky hands (so to speak) into a crumpled brown envelope full of used tenners, the light of investigative journalism shone into some of the darker recesses of the House of Lords and showed three peers of the realm – one Ulster Unionist, two Labour – also at it. Again, allegedly. Rightly, Mercer resigned the Tory whip and Lord Laird stood down from the UUP, while Lords Hill and Cunningham were suspended from the Labour party.

Such people seem to consider themselves immune to the common honesty and decency that most of us try to attain out here in the real world. Either they do not see that this kind of behaviour is precisely the reason so many potential voters are now entirely disengaged from politics, or they do not care. I suspect it is the latter, and it is this arrogance that will be the eventual downfall of the elite class of ‘machine politicians’ currently dominant, not just in the UK but across much of the world. Our ‘leaders’ are out of touch with the very people they are supposed to serve; one day, they will look condescendingly over their shoulder to find nobody there.

So, given that this latest lobbying scandal is all about dodgy MPs/peers, ‘cash for access’ and fake companies scamming Commons passes, how does the increasingly panic-stricken Cameron propose to deal with it? Why obviously, not by keeping to a promise made in 2010 – – but by introducing shabby and spurious measures which, far from affecting large-scale individual donations to the Tory party, directly attack the democratic funding relationships between trade unions and Labour!

Until recently, I was a regional chair of UNISON’s Labour Link. Here is how it works. A small proportion of every UNISON member’s subscription goes into one of two political funds; the general fund, for ongoing campaigns which support members in the workplace, and the affiliated fund, used specifically to support political campaigning by the Labour party and UNISON’s links thereto. This is referenced during the joining process, meaning that Jo – or Joe – Member is required to make an active and informed decision to allow an element of their subs to be used to support Labour. I do not believe the same could be argued for the staff of JCB or Sainsburys, for example…

The Tory-led government’s proposed actions against democratic organisations representing six million people in this country amount to a continuation of a ‘class war’ which many thought was in the past. It isn’t.

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