There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories

What kind of party is this?


Jon Cruddas - Labour MP, deep thinker, and man of integrity - was approached at a Fabian society conference by “students” who turned out to be Conservative  party researchers. They recorded his thoughts on the Labour leadership and on the party’s prospects. The transcripts were then passed to the Telegraph and the BBC. Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the committee on standards in public life, condemned the entrapment: “That is really dirty tricks stuff...very nasty stuff.”  Indeed.

All political parties behave nefariously. Power is a terrible corrupter. But the most dishonourable, sleazy politicians today are the Tories. Heartfelt apologies to those good, kind and ethical Conservatives who feel tarnished by my sweeping statement. They too must surely feel shame about some of what has come to pass.

Where to start? Spoilt for choice. Andy Coulson went to prison for phone hacking. Cameron brought him into government and said it was to give him a second chance - a priestly act of forgiveness for doing bad stuff, which incidentally had not been proven at the time. It was a bad lie. We all know the ex-editor of News of the World was sought out because he was master of  the dark arts.  After Coulson was convicted and sentenced, the PM brushed off his connivance as if it was a speck of dust on his bespoke suit. He was busy, had social gatherings of high importance to attend to.

Such as the Tory summer fundraising ball and dinner. The full guest list is still kept from the public eye, but we know they had Russian millionaires - including Putin’s judo partner – as well as Slovenian and Belarus magnates. There was the Arab rich alongside home-grown hedge fund gamblers and other businessmen such as lap-dance club owner Peter Stringfellow. There were eurosceptic bosses, Bullingdon fellas, MPs, peers and the political blogger Guido Fawkes, who has always claimed to hate all politicians. Since 2001, donations to the Tory party from these circles amount to a declared £205,951,396. After this ball nearly £5 million was added to the chest. As Will Hutton says, Disraeli and Churchill must be spinning in their graves as their descendants turn conservatism into a rootless, “multinational, libertarian sect”.

Loyalists claims this is simply active, participatory democracy. Bunkum. Those handing over piles want to be assured of the lowest taxes, and minimal, ineffective regulations. They are buying binding promises and are prepared to pay big money for them. Some are rather keen on power-sharing too - perhaps getting on to key quangos and into positions which give them control in public service sectors.

David Ross, co-founder of Carphone warehouse, who used to be a tax exile, is apparently being lined up by Michael Gove to become the chair of Ofsted. The respected Labour peer Baroness Sally Morgan was pushed out even though Gove admitted she was very good at the job. But, you see, Ross, is a Tory and gives hundreds of thousands of pounds to his beloved party. He also runs a string of academies, so can award those schools top ratings. What about a clash of interests? Who gives a damn about that? Moral anxieties are for weaklings, not this pushy party. 

I honestly don’t see that much difference between corrupt practices at Fifa and these shady arrangements between politicians and their rich mates. 

There’s more. We never get to see the shy, veiled backers or get full disclosure on the sly schemes which allow donations to be made to the Tories without scrutiny. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism alleges that the United and Cecil Club in Berkshire funnels cash from unnamed supporters. Several other private clubs, it is believed, do the same. We know how much the trade unions give the Labour party but are not allowed to know how much the Tories get from their tribesmen. Toffs don’t have to be open, don’t explain. Plebs must do both.

By yesterday another scandal had opened up.  In the week there had been speculation about child abuse and the political elite, questions asked by MPs , in particular Simon Danczuk, who recently exposed the paedophilic activities of Liberal MP, Cyril Smith. (The LibDems and Labour have, over recent years, brought shame on themselves. But they cannot match the Tory record). Leon Brittan when Home Secretary was allegedly given a dossier which was not followed up. His responses when questioned have been muddled. It was Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens who handed over the explosive material about a network of Establishment abusers. But guess what? Key files have disappeared. Danczuk claims that a senior Tory asked him to back off and leave matters be. But on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, Norman Tebbit said that there may well have been “unconscious” political cover-up over child abuse in the 1980s. Yes, just like “unconscious” dodgy fundraising and nepotism.

The nasty, dirty party just got nastier and dirtier. It is a disgrace to our nation.

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An exhilarating, yet terrifying, leap in human history  

The Digital Revolution show at the Barbican is exhilarating, electrifying yet terrifying, the stuff of dreams and nightmares. The installation “The Treachery of Sanctuary” created by digital artist Chris Milk insinuates the meaning of life, death and rebirth. It is beautiful, deeply spiritual. Elsewhere virtual butterflies fly around, more real than real. Some visuals and sounds seem to come from another planet. The talented individuals featured in this show are surely superhuman. God must be worried. This leap in human history is altering the outside environment, the body’s physiology as well as psychological contours and borders.

 Our desires can now be exactly measured, monitored and manipulated by advertisers, product-makers and internet giants. They can make us crave things we don’t want. We rightly worry about state surveillance and brainwashing by the powerful, but knew little about the new dangers. Last week Facebook’s CEO Sheryl Sandberg was forced to apologise for clandestine psychological tests on over 700,000 users, the aim of which could only have been to find ways to unduly influence those who use the site.

Read more: The landline is dead. Long live good manners
Facebook can make you happy...if Mark Zuckerberg wants you to be, who has his own innovative digital music blasting the senses at the Barbican, urges tech vigilance. Millions hand over information about themselves for free to operators who are making billions. The consequences of this surrender are unknowable. But it’s too late already. As it says in the Eagles song Hotel California, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”. 

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