Monday, February 23, 2009

Ashcroft: the sky is dark with chickens coming home to roost

In May 2008 I blogged about the power of money in British politics, and how it has reshaped the forms and methods of political parties, especially the Conservatives. The point of the post was to highlight the sinister role of Michael Ashcroft as a major source of finance to the Conservatives.

The news that the electoral commission has launched an investigation into the donations offered by the Belizean billionaire rather underlines my point at the end of that first post: that the Conservatives may rue the day that they entered into such a close relationship with such a controversial figure.

More widely, it underlines the increasing urgency for a major reform of the House of Lords. Michael Ashcroft refuses to confirm whether he is a resident in the UK or Belize- and he has even served as ambassador for the tiny country to the United Nations. After several very large donations to the Conservatives, he was nominated for a peerage. It is hard to avoid the idea that essentially this man, who refuses to confirm whether he even pays taxes in Britain, bought his way into the lawmaking body of the United Kingdom.

Given that the ex-convict Jeffery Archer continues to be a member of the House of Lords, and the certain rather questionable deals of four Labour peers the upper house is beginning to resemble a rogues gallery. The time has come for the reform of the House of Lords to be completed as soon as possible. It should not be possible for foreigners to seemingly buy a seat and it should not be impossible to expel a convicted criminal from the Upper House of our Parliament.

As for Lord Ashcroft- we must of course await the results of the investigation, but should the commission find against the Conservatives, the consequences would be serious, and they ought to be.

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