As always money is the problem.
Those who think the American political system is broken, often point towards money from big business or the enormously wealthy meaning there is too much influence taken away from the public. We now have figures showing that the disenfranchisement of the citizens is also taking place here in the UK.
Just 76 enormously wealthy people accounted for 41% of all individual, and corporate, donations made to the political parties and other political causes in Britain over the past five years.
The first Sunday Times Political Rich List, published last weekend, found that 25 individuals had given more than £1 million each. Now that figure might not appear massive but those individuals accounted for 28% of £174.4 million donated in private and corporate cash between 2010 and 2014. That £175 million is still peanuts by comparison with the US system but how can politicians not be influenced when that amount of money is thrown at them?
The next question must be if so few people have that much monetary influence what is happening to make sure the people are still represented? Not much is the answer unfortunately. MP’s seems willing to take money from almost any source, this is shown by the Energy and Climate minister taking money from climate change deniers.
The list of 76 is topped by the Scottish EuroMillions lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir. Together they combined to contribute some £6.5 million to the Scottish National Party and, more importantly, to the Yes Scotland campaign, which aims to make Scotland independent from the United Kingdom.
The Scottish pair are followed by the City financier Lord Farmer, who gave more than £5 million to the Conservative Party, while chairman for JCB, Lord Bamford along with other members of his family, were said to have given the Conservatives a combined total of £3.6 million.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville, yes his family founded the supermarket Sainsbury’s, was reported to have donated more than £3.5 million to various political causes. This included £542,329 to Labour and more specifically to David Miliband, although he stopped giving to the party directly since David’s brother, Ed Miliband, became leader in 2010.
Other big donors on the list include David Rowland who gave the Conservatives, £3.4 million, Sir Brian Souter who like his countrymen donated to the Scottish National Party and the Yes Scotland movement to the tune of £2.1 million. James Lupton and Sir Michael Hintze both donated to the Conservatives giving £2.1 million Conservatives and £1.9 million respectively. Lord Verjee was one of the few not donating the Conservatives giving the Liberal Democrats, £1.8 million, but returning to normalcy Lord Edmiston donated to the Conservatives giving £1.5 million to the Tories.
Whilst this might not appear to be that large of an issue it represents a worrying trend. An elitist, and rich, few who are able to influence the political conversation across the country when the remaining citizens are left somewhat out in the cold. How are we as ordinary citizens supposed to compete with that kind of spending power? The amount of money given to political causes simply does mean they will be discussed more. The accusation against Labour has always been they are too influenced by the interests of unions or of workers; that may in fact be the case, but at least we know they weren’t bought by 50 rich men.