Sunday, 19 April 2009

Fixing 'broken politics' starts at home....

. Let me start by first praising the work Nick Clegg has done on the expenses issue. He has put forward reasonable policies for reform and to a large extent captured the public mood of frustration and anger. He has rightly talked about 'broken politics' and how it needs to be fixed. However, it is things like that which make this mornings story in the Guardian all the more disappointing and frustrating.

It concerns a party donor, Sudir Choudhrie, who is accused in India of receiving 'kickbacks' from arms deals with the Israeli government. Obviously, this is embarrassing for a party which has, rightly, called for the suspension of the European Union's arms dealing with Israel. It is embarrassing enough that Choudhrie should be involved with arms dealings with Israel as it is without the alleged kickbacks. Also, vaguely embarrassing is the non-domiciled status of Choudhrie and his son for a party committed to tightening the tax regime. Of course, we can't be held responsible for all the actions of our donors but it so obviously contradicts our stated position it is painful.

In defence of the Choudhrie position 'sources close to his family said;

"These allegations, as well as the ones from earlier, are completely and utterly unfounded. He has never been involved in arms deals of any sort. He did have a role in Magnum but that company was involved in the export of tea and car parts, while Eureka was involved in building ships in Singapore. The confusion may have arisen because an Israeli company that Magnum had business links with later became an arms company."

Nonetheless and despite the fact that the party can't be held responsible for the actions of its donors we still seemed to have learned no lessons from the Brown affair. Realistically, the only way around this is to publicly announce that we will vet large donors as we do vet candidates. I am at a loss to figure out why we do panel candidates but there seems to be no similar process in place for large donors. Of course, such a system would sometimes fail but at least then we could realistically say we are making the effort. In an ideal world we would be able to move towards a system which weans all parties off large donors and makes them much more reliant on small donations. However, this is not an ideal world and while politics requires large expenditure large donors will always be sought and so the best we can do is work with the system we have to ensure our 'broken politics' is fixed.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Inevitable that this sort of thing should be going on during a general election in India.

The Guardian reports that the allegations are said to be politically moptivated. And they are just that - allegations, not convictions.

Darrell G said...

Anon,

Regardless of the specifics of this case, the lesson still should have been learned. How stupid did we look dumbly saying we had no idea what Brown was upto?

I will also say that this person has been named by Haaretz which has no interest in the Indian elections as an Israeli paper ;)

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