Step Right Up! Buy Your Democracy Here!

Not exactly knock down prices ‘though. Members of Parliament at £100m each, all up front and above-board, complete with Ulster brogue. Brown envelopes not required.

Like the country peasant who, in the old English folk song The Ploughboy climbs up the social scale to end up an MP in Parliament,  ‘when all my ‘ayes’ are sold off, why then I’ll sell my ‘nos’‘. The DUP will vote with the Tories to prop up this government for an increase in Northern Irish funding to the tune of £1bn.

But wait, that’s not all.

Just how much funding for the Brexit Leave campaign was funnelled through Northern Ireland, where, in a hang over from the old Troubled days, the source of political donations can be kept secret?  We know, from the Electoral Commission, that the DUP spent more than £250,000 in the Brexit cause, which would almost have certainly bankrupted the party without significant (and secret) donations.

The Referendum isn’t the only vote in the UK recently which has seen questionable financial dealings. The Tory party was found to have under-stated their campaign spending in a number of constituencies, specifically in relation to Battlebus, teams of activists bussed into marginal constituencies for last-minute canvassing during the 2015 General Election. The Electoral Commission Report was passed to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

However, in May of this year, the CPS reported that it would not be pursuing criminal prosecutions in 30 cases. The CPS reasoned that the expenditure was not included as local expenditure, but it was included as national campaign expenses in the national total.  £3,800 in South Thanet means the Tory overspent his limit and there’s a re-run.  £3,800 in the national campaign doesn’t even register in the accounts, it’s lost in the roundings. Does this mean that the limits can now be stretched with impunity, by claiming funds are within the far higher national limits?

Talking of cash in brown envelopes, what of Neil Hamilton and his fellow UKIPers? Well, an audit in the European Parliament has found that the party misspent €450,000 of funding from the EU on electioneering. Why did it get the money in the first place you ask?  It joined a EP cross-party alliance, created to promote integration and democracy, and, as a member, was able to draw down up to £1m.  But not to spend on elections.  So, what happens now? Presumably UKIP taps one of its super-rich backers in order to pay the money back? Never did their logo look more appropriate.

The good news is that we have a hung Parliament. Ideal for a back-bench MP to table a Bill which makes very clear the rules by which we manage, and limit spending upon, elections in the UK? And makes clear the sanctions, including re-running elections, where wrong-doing is found.

So which MP is going to do it?

Just to cheer you up – Peter Pears singing Benjamin Britten’s setting of The Ploughboy, with Britten on piano.

If you enjoyed reading this article you might also enjoy       It’s Not Rocket Science                     Grey Eminences                        Four legs good….               The Scottish Play      The Demagogue’s Dictionary                  Democracy III  

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