You may not have heard of Bearwood Corporate Services Limited. After all, they don’t empty your bins, mend the roads, run the trains or maintain your car. But they have bunged an awful lot of dosh to a number of MPs. Tory MPs. Bearwood is controlled by Michael Ashcroft, who is not domiciled in the UK for tax purposes, but in Belize, where the tax regime is rather less onerous.
So, when you read that Bearwood gave over £5.1 million to a number of Tory MPs and hopefuls, you might expect to see as much prominence given to Ashcroft as is now being given to the Unite union, whose members’ political levies go to fund the Labour Party, those members having the choice of not making that donation, should they choose. There is no authority at work with Bearwood, bar Ashcroft.
Yet Young Dave and his jolly good chaps are howling the place down about Unite, all because in one selection for a Parliamentary candidate – the Scottish seat of Falkirk, to succeed Eric Joyce, who is standing down at the next General Election – there appear to have been irregularities in the way that a sudden rush of new members were signed up via Unite just before the selection process took place.
So Mil The Younger has personally stepped in and suspended the entire selection process in Falkirk, and the report on the saga has been notified to the Police, though this may be merely a precaution. So far, so sensible. But this has been followed by the dubious convocation of Tory stirrers, and hacks who want to damage the leader in whose office the press regulation Royal Charter was firmed up.
This has meant that any Labour MP or prospective Parliamentary candidate who enjoys the backing of a Trades Union, or the Co-Operative movement, becomes fair game for a good smearing, as calls of “another Falkirk” are liberally bandied about. Perhaps Labour should fund their MPs from magic dust. That the Tories have no room to crow does not appear to enter.
Undue influence? Consider the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet, whose donations include substantial sums from property developers and owners. Will he recuse himself from any decision regarding planning laws and regulations concerning landlords? Will he heck. Yet we are expected to “look over there” and not even consider this to be as much as irregular.
Unless we are going to see state sponsorship of political parties, these bodies must find their funding where they can. For Labour, the party set up to defend ordinary working people, to be funded by donations from, er, ordinary working people, is at least logical and transparent, whether or not you like Len McCluskey. If only that transparency were present with all the dosh going to the Tories.
Union donations I can be relaxed about. I’m not so sure about Ashcroft.