“We’re not corrupt. One of our most senior party officials tells lies for money” is the Tory defence to revelations that their former treasurer was selling access to policy makers for up to £250 000. It’s a line that has fooled no one. The Tories reek of corruption and privilege.
The now disgraced Peter Cruddas, who has an estimated wealth of £750 million, was a long established tax avoider before he became bag man to the Tory party. He lived in Monaco, the super rich tax dodgers’ haven, commuting to London in a private jet to speculate in the City of London. By a happy coincidence George Osborne’s budget which last week took money from pensioners to reduce the tax burden on top rate payers had a little something for people like Cruddas. The Con Dems plan to increase the inheritance tax exemption for non-domiciled British citizens allowing them to give even more money to non-UK domiciled spouses. This at a time when they are driving down wages and forcing people on benefits into utter destitution.
What has annoyed the Tory donors is not the corruption involved in the deals Cruddas was peddling. After all they were a willing partner. One anonymous benefactor said, according to the Financial Times “he was now adopting a “hedgehog approach”. “My cheque book has been put away . . . there is no possibility of privacy,” This means that they don’t mind the governing party selling itself but they do object to people knowing they might be buying it. Another was more succinct: “That’s why all of this exposure is bad. Suddenly if you donate money you might end up on the front pages of the papers.”
As the Daily Mail has pointed out, 23 of the 29 members of the cabinet are worth more than £1m and the Lib Dems are just as wealthy as the Tories. Philip Hammond Secretary of State for Transport is worth £7.5m. Cameron’s fortune is around £4m. George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, gets by on £4.6m. Their class prejudices are as robust as their banks balances and they are the most ideologically driven government Britain has ever seen. They are privatising virtually every aspect of the public sphere from schools to roads and even court translators. They do this to drive down wages; push down pension provision so that the firms which give them bungs of £200 000 a year end up getting the contracts. It really is that crude.
On the Tory website they explain how you can buy influence and access and what the charges are. For a paltry £5,000 a year you can join The Front Bench Club. This gives access to meetings and debates with MPs at political lunches and receptions. Moving to the top of what is supposed to be in the public domain is £50,000 a year – The Leader’s Group. Members are invited to join David Cameron and other senior Tories at dinners, drinks receptions, election results events and important campaign launches. An irresistible bargain.
Cruddas’ mistake was in getting duped into telling the truth on camera by the Sunday Times journalists. He would not have been appointed Tory treasurer if he were not in tune with the ethics of the party. It’s a party run by the super rich for the benefit of the super rich. It always has been and it always will be.