Much as one tries to avoid reading the Guardian for blood pressure reasons, it is occasionally cross-referenced by other media outlets and becomes unavoidable. But it really isn’t healthy. Some of the cleverest writers provide some extraordinary drivel. Polly Toynbee, the conscience of Britain, rides a predictable wave of hatred against “party donors with Swiss bank accounts” which now, apparently, qualify their owners for instant vilification under the “corrupt by association” banner. But that piece of sanctimonious libel is not even the worst of it. She launches into a diatribe against donors who, she assumes, give money purely in order to achieve honours and influence in return. Hoping to avoid any counter-accusations she claims that St Miliband selflessly introduced a rule last year to undermine trade union influence on Labour by ensuring that future donations to the party must only come from individual members. Sorry Toynbee. Not even close. Tuesday’s FT (two days before you wrote your piece) made quite clear that Miliband’s pledge to end a system under which 3m union members automatically gave money to the party is far from eradicated. It has merely assumed a different guise. Electoral Commission data shows that union funding has actually leapt from 61% of the total Labour funding in the last parliament to 72% in this one while major individual donations have fallen by more than half. Trade union members are not only paying as much money as before into union political funds, but instead of going directly to Labour the money is being distributed by union leaders on an ad hoc basis. According to the FT, United has already given £16.3m to Labour in this parliament (27% of total donations), Usdaw £6.4m, the GMB £6.5m and the Communications Workers Union £2.8 with union money pouring into coffers as we run up to the election.
So all this cant and bluster from Labour about rich tax avoiders buying influence with their donations is just Labour’s habitual attempt at crass news management in which they hope to spread enough muck over the Tories to stifle any criticism of their own duplicity. Fact is, if Labour run the next government, it’ll be beer and sandwiches with trades union leaders in Downing Street once again. With the SNP doubtlessly present, there’ll be a few drams of Aberlour chasers on the silver platter. Like so much about the prospect of a MiliSturg coalition, it’s so horrendous a prospect that it’s almost impossible to find any humour in it.