Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has oft been quoted as saying that western democracy is “closer to a system of one dollar one vote than to one person one vote.” With this in mind I am curious to find out more about the major donors to our political parties.
One of the top donors to the Conservative Party is Lord Stanley Fink. He has donated about a quarter of a million pounds a year for the last twelve years. That comes to a grand total of around £3 million. Stanley Fink was given a life peerage in 2011.
Lord Fink has been described as the ‘godfather’ of the UK hedge fund industry. After coming out of retirement in 2008 to act as chief executive of International Standard Asset Management (in partnership with Lord Levy) he was appointed co-chairman of the Conservative Party in 2009.
Lord Levy is a staunch Labour Party supporter and he was a key fund-raiser for the party while it was under the leadership of Lord Levy’s great friend and tennis partner, Tony Blair. In addition to raising an estimated one hundred million pounds for the Labour Party over the ten year period to 2007 Lord Levy was Blair’s envoy to the Middle East. He found himself embroiled in a cash-for-honours scandal in 2006, from which he was eventually acquitted. Lord Levy was made a life peer in 1997.
At this point I am thinking of a satirical cartoon in which these two characters (one Tory one Labour), are depicted counting out their spoils on either side of the House. Both men know how to curry favour in the right circles and both have been ennobled for it. In both cases the ability to raise large sums of money for the two main political parties seems to have played a large part in their political success. I wonder whether it is fair to say that whether red or blue the route to power and influence is much the same?
Whether we like it or not under the current system it is much as Stiglitz describes it. The consensus today is that inequality is bad for economic growth as well as being bad for the poor themselves. However, despite this economic reality, if the top 1% buy their way into positions of power and influence we will continue to see policies that favour the top 1%.
My metaphorical cartoon would perhaps be enhanced by a sprinkling of gold dust this Christmas! Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative Party’s candidate for mayor of London, has donated almost half a million pounds to the Conservative Party since 2004. Of this, in a charming, family-friendly gesture of support, £50,000 was donated in July this year directly to ‘Zac Goldsmith MP’ by none of than his mother, Lady Annabel Goldsmith! I hope this sparkling scenario brings much joy to you all this Christmas and fairer taxes in the new year.