Leading article: Cash and honours are as close as ever

Saturday 20 November 2010 01:00
Comments

The list of 53 new peers of the realm released yesterday sends a depressing message: it is not necessary to have made a large donation to a political party to become a member of the House of Lords, but it certainly does no harm.

Stanley Fink, Andrew Feldman and Bob Edmiston have been put forward by the Conservative Party. Between them, these individuals have donated £4.7m to the Tories. It is not merely the Conservatives who elevated their donors to the upper house. Sir Gulam Noon is made a peer for Labour, having given the party £737,000 over the past decade. And Paul Strasburger is named a Liberal Democrat peer, having donated £765,000 to that party's coffers over the past five years.

So much for the "new politics". It appears little has been learnt by our political parties since the 2007 cash-for-honours affair. Two of the new peers, Sir Gulam and Mr Edmiston, were even questioned by the police in that tawdry business three years ago. And the Tories appear to have forgotten their recent torments over the tax affairs of their former paymaster, Lord Ashcroft. The Liberal Democrats have failed to learn lessons too. Mr Strasburger helped to fund the legal defence of the Liberal Democrats' disgraced donor, the convicted fraudster Michael Brown.

All three parties will doubtless argue that these new wealthy peers merit their place in the upper house because of their public works, and that their donations have nothing to do with their elevation. But it looks appalling. While big donors are selected by parties for peerages, there will always be suspicions that seats in our legislature are for sale.

That is a suspicion that sits very uneasily with Britain's claims to be a democracy. What this list underlines is the pressing need for reform of the House of Lords and an overhaul of the manner in which we pay for our politics. The link between political power and big money needs to be severed for good.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in