I’m somewhat late to the party with commenting on the ‘cash for access’ saga, but I thought I’d share a few thoughts. (If you’ve been living in a hole, it was triggered by revelations that large Conservative Party doners were getting private dinners with David Cameron thanks to their donations.)
Here’s the thing though. Whilst everyone is in uproar and the media are making as big a deal of it as they possibly can, nobody is really that surprised. And that’s because our whole system when it comes to political donations is seriously screwed up.
The solution to things like this is actually really simple: ban any donation - whether by an individual, a business, or a trade union - from being more than, say, £10,000. I hate the fact that the Tories can inevitibly be influenced by major donations from wealthy indiviudals and big businesses. And I equally hate the fact that Labour - in just the same way - are influenced by the financial support they receive from the trade unions. It’s seriously messed up.
The problem is that both the Tories and Labour’s vested interests are too high for either of them to do anything more than make noises about change. They’ll each kick up a storm when the other crosses boundaries when it comes to donations, but neither will commit to truly reforming the system.
And so we will keep having incidents like what emerged over the weekend again and again.
Which is sad.
For too long, we have been unwilling as a society to talk about behaviour and morality. We have too often avoided saying what needs to be said - about everything from marriage to welfare to common courtesy. As a result we’ve created a sort of moral neutrality. We cannot shy away from the truth any longer. I believe faith leaders have a key role to play in instilling this sense of right and wrong - and it is up to all of us to help in this mission to build a fairer, stronger and more responsible society.