There are some things that money can’t buy – material things like children or body organs, or immaterial things like happiness, friendship and a reputation. In my opinion, exclusive access to the politicians and statesmen of a society comes under this banner.
At their infamous Black and White Ball this week the Conservatives put all manner of expensive prizes on auction to raise money for their party. Among the selection were a skiing holiday, a tour of Downton Abbey and a 2015 Conservative Manifesto signed by the Premier himself. It all sounds quite pleasant at first, and some of the prizes really are desirable. However, also on the menu were the Cabinet ministers themselves. For example, bidders could pay to go shoe-shopping with the Home Secretary or have dinner with the Chief Whip.
It isn’t just the Conservatives offering ministers to be auctioned: the Labour councillor Karen Danczuk, infamous for posting images of herself in revealing clothes and with a good view of her cleavage, has made herself available for a Valentine’s Day date.
This seems to be a step too far. It is important to remember the work that these public figures do. As well as the huge responsibilities they bear to the Crown and country, regardless of what the media or commentators say about them. These men and women are responsible for the nation’s affairs and do their utmost to maintain its economy, security and our laws and freedoms.
I am sceptical of the idea that rich individuals can pay to be in the company of our country’s government ministers. We mustn’t trick ourselves into thinking that these wealthy donors are parting with their cash to talk with our politicians about cricket, Hilary Mantel, the football scores or their favourite album of the week. With these special privileges it becomes easy for a leading business to unfairly pass influence over political policy. All it takes is a sly word or two in the right ear and our politicians may be persuaded to ‘adjust’ their ideas to take the interests of the businessman into account. It’s bribery albeit without the physical cash.
Why is this unfair? To some political commentators, this is just the market at work: the people who pay the most can and will receive the greatest privileges. Secondly, it is in the interest of the Conservatives, or indeed any political party, to receive the cash of donors – how else are these parties going to be funded?
But what we must remember is that only a minority of people have the opportunity to personally address, let alone join to shop for shoes, members of our government. Parties benefit from the donations of wealthy individuals and corporations, both benefit from special favours and assistance given by political parties!
I certainly couldn’t afford to have food and drink with a government minister, and I doubt anyone reading this would be able to either. The guests and attendants who put forward their money in the auction have vast amounts of money and influence, all of which would be greatly appreciated by any political party. Our politicians should surely be serving in the interests of everyone in the country, and our social justice works to give the most assistance to those who most need it.
Who attended the Black and White Ball this year? Plenty of ministers and Conservative MPs, of course, joined by bankers, tycoons, the owners of our industries and a few dodgy owners of corporations from the sex industry (such as Ann Summers).
Is anyone else suspicious of this? Our government’s leading figures shaking hands, sharing drinks and frolicking with our country’s richest and most powerful business figures?