Democracy

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An Alt-left?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/06/2022 - 1:12pm in

Tags 

Democracy, history

I

What is it with James Burnham? I associate him — via Curtis Yarvin — with the alt-right. And Burnham is the founding text of what I call the Alt-centre (of which I am the founder and which I’m hoping to parlay into world domination if only I can get some time away from the keyboard). And here is Burnham and the Marxist left. Well, Burnham was a Marxist, but his big contribution was the two books he wrote as he emerged as Trotsky’s best American mate and headed rightwards —  The Managerial Revolution and The Machiavellians. And they’re the texts discussed in the video.

Anyway, I can recommend the first presentation. It addresses Burnham’s concerns well. The only telltale sign that it’s from the Marxist left is the occasional creepy reference to where Burnham fails to be ‘dialectical’ in his thinking. I recall the phrase from Czesław Miłosz’s descriptions of the Stalinist intelligentsia in The Captive Mind. I hadn’t realised before then the imperative that Marxist regimes felt to ensure that all serious thinking to be done by the intelligentsia be ‘dialectical’.

Apart from that, the talk seems very thoughtful and unflinching about the current state of the Marxian left (it’s in roughly the same state as the star of the parrot sketch). Following the links I discover The platypus Initiative no less — it’s a good name for putting reality ahead of thought (fancy that!) via this story.  And here’s its premise:

Platypus contends that the ruin of the Marxist Left as it stands today is of a tradition whose defeat was largely self-inflicted, hence at present the Marxist Left is historical, and in such a grave state of decomposition that it has become exceedingly difficult to draft coherently programmatic social-political demands. In the face of the catastrophic past and present, the first task for the reconstitution of a Marxian Left as an emancipatory force is to recognize the reasons for the historical failure of Marxism and to clarify the necessity of a Marxian Left for the present and future. — If the Left is to change the world, it must first transform itself!

The improbable — but not impossible — reconstitution of an emancipatory Left is an urgent task ….. To abdicate this or to obscure the gravity of past defeats and failures by looking to “resistance” from “outside” the dynamics of modern society is to affirm its present and guarantee its future destructive reality.

That seems an excellent platform for developing an alt-left, one not weighed down by historical commitments and the sentimentalism that has so marred the left and its politics in the past.

II

Sad that, instead of dedicating themselves to reviving an emancipatory left, (or better still an emancipatory political outlook and/or politics), they want to revive a Marxian left. Not that I have anything against Marx particularly, but .… well apart from anything else, this is guaranteed to bring in all the pimply, pamphleteering, petty politicians preparing their peripatetic pathway from the Socialist Workers’ Party to KPMG (via the Greens).

Anyway, the headings of their “Short History of the Left” make sure it’s all neatly coraled into one intellectual silo — you know the one that brought us nothing but misery, disaster and dead ends?

Marx and 1848
Lenin, Luxemburg and 1917
Trotsky
AdornoFrom ’68 — and ’89 — to today

It’s a pity I think. The first speaker made much of the way in which liberationist Marxist politics pursued in one way produced a new top-down tyranny. I think this is a very significant thought because our own lives today are very top-down. They’re not top-down in a dictatorial way. Everyone can pretty much do their own thing, but the structures wherein power is organised are profoundly and increasingly uniform and top-down. Economists are taught to think that the market is bottom-up while governments are necessarily top-down.

III

However, both of these ideas disguise increasingly important realities. In most markets, almost all of what goes on is the same. Competition between suppliers drives down costs and prices which is a mercy, (though it’s also a source of toxicity around the disparities between what makes money and what’s good for people — see fast food, and far more importantly, media). Beyond that, businesses are run by grand systems which are essentially uniform among organisations. Finance, Legal, HR, Comms and social media, Marketing, Purchasing, Government affairs. These predominate in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, though in not-for profit sectors there are additional functions — like ethics, though they may not be identified as such. Those without university education are increasingly rare in these areas and junior people are recruited as graduates with specialist qualifications — like marketing. This is the structure that Curtis Yarvin calls The Cathedral.

I couldn’t help thinking of the value of the kinds of things I go on about — such as sortition and what I’ve come to call ‘de-competitive‘ merit selection — are a direct response to the kinds of domination that was spoken about in the talk on Burnham — which the speaker describes as concerns of the Marxian left. I can’t say this appeals all the way across the Alt-aisle, because Yarvin thinks democracy is a bad idea in itself — that however nice it sounds it leads to decline and disaster. But why wouldn’t it be music to a Monotremian Marxist’s ears?

My pointing to very specific institutional possibilities might seem strange as a response to Marxists. After all, they’re thinking of grand systems — of government and ideology. However I think this makes an instructive contrast with what I’m on about. One is modular, and thus, scaleable and protean. The other is grand. And for an area that is so complex and so freighted with human values and possibilities, some grand, unified perspective seems like the wrong place to start.

Anyway, there you have it. Two responses to the domination of those at the top of systems. Mine is to look for social and political artefacts that seem to address the issues, and which can be used in ways that seem safe and potentially benign. It doesn’t display the motivated impatience of the ideologue going from an analysis of our problems to a solution. (We have a lot of powerful analyses of cancer, but we’re proceeding to the solutions slowly because it turns out the quick solutions mostly make things worse, not better.) I don’t know what the Platypus folks plan, but I do know that whether it works or not, whether it’s benign, or whether it leads to the next hell on earth (though given their presence on the margins it will probably be nothing), it will be Marxian.

Brexit Benefits

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/06/2022 - 9:12am in

In case people have not seen the ‘New European’ this was their front page… I suggest there is absolutely nothing to add…... Read more

Labour’s Black Horse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/06/2022 - 6:44am in

I much regret that apparently, according to Aaron Bastani’s Novara Media: I’m most worried about the finance lobby. What the hell is Labour thinking of? Why is it necessary? Why do Lloyds want to gift Labour anything? It is completely suspect and also further pollutes our democracy. But of course, while we are a two... Read more

Could the money message learn from Mick Lynch?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/06/2022 - 7:43am in

This is a compilation of Mick Lynch’s interviews, which gives the general idea of the technique… Skip if you already know it.. The folksy straight talking style which does not accept many of the parameters of the framing of the question posed would fit the bill for talking about money admirably. Calling the Conservatives liars... Read more

Corroding Democracy..

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/06/2022 - 6:44am in

There is a very interesting article in the Byline Times by the curiously named Alexandra Hall Hall, who resigned from her diplomatic American post over Brexit. She has written a mea culpa (do please read it all) and concludes: The uncomfortable truth is that it is not just this Government which lies, though it has... Read more

The GOP descent into right-wing authoritarianism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/06/2022 - 1:35am in

Tags 

Democracy


In December 2020 I reviewed Hannah Arendt’s analysis of totalitarianism in The Origins of Totalitarianism (link) to try to assess the damage and threats created for our democracy by Donald Trump’s conduct as president. There were very worrisome indications at that time of the slide towards an authoritarian political regime caused by Trump's behavior and language.

Unhappily, the situation in the United States has worsened significantly since then. Less than a month after the post appeared the attempt to violently overturn the lawful election of President Joe Biden took place. Former president Trump continued to press his groundless lies about a stolen election. Republican members of Congress excused and justified the attempted insurrection of January 6. Violent militias and armed white supremacy groups have been encouraged by Trump and Republican politicians to make their presence known. Active calls to violence against “liberal Democrats” and RINOs have been featured by candidates in their advertising and social media campaigns. All of this sounds like a highly dangerous acceleration of the authoritarian, anti-democratic values of the GOP at almost all levels of leadership.

It is worthwhile to review the main tendencies that Arendt associated with the totalitarian impulse. These features are her observations of totalitarian regimes, based on her study of Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union. And they seem highly relevant to the political environment in the United States today, based on a sober assessment of GOP behavior throughout the country.

1. Orientation of politics towards an all-encompassing ideology or worldview, often involving racism and social division.
The racism, xenophobia, and gender-hostile content of Trumpism and GOP political ideology is apparent -- most recently in the Texas GOP platform enacted in June 2022. This unifying right-wing extremist ideology, now becoming mainstream in the GOP, encompasses anti-LGBTQ values and policies, anti-immigrant language, and a deference to white supremacy and serves as a rallying call for the GOP.

2. Consistent and sustained efforts at destroying liberal political institutions.
The GOP from top to bottom, with a very small number of exceptions (e.g. Cheney, Kinzinger, Romney), demonstrates virulent antagonism to the values of a democracy (respect for electoral institutions, respect for one's political adversaries, recognition that government represents all the people, not only one's own supporters) and determined hostility to the institutions of democracy (racially designed rules for voter registration, locations of voting stations, rules governing absentee ballots, ...). This list could be continued as a 20-page indictment. The anti-democratic idea of implementing "electoral college" systems in state elections (Colorado, Texas) is another instance of a profoundly racist attempt to minimize the votes of urban voters.
3. Use of violence-prone paramilitaries to further political objectives.
The alignment of Donald Trump and many GOP elected officials and leaders with violent organizations such as the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and many other violent militias and organizations has been documented by the House select committee investigation (link). The use of violent video and threats by GOP candidates in election ads is a frightening and rising phenomenon -- for example, Missouri Senate candidate Eric Greiten's campaign ad boasting open season on RINOs and featuring a special forces team invading a home (link). Many GOP candidates have used campaign images and videos featuring themselves with semi-automatic weapons -- a deliberate linkage between politics and deadly violence. And the threats and acts of violent harassment reported by election officials in multiple states at the June 21 House January 6 committee meeting are thoroughly chilling. These actions by Trump supporters are reminiscent of violence in Berlin and Rome at the time of the rise of Hitler and Mussolini.

4. Fundamental deference to the Leader.
The cult of Donald Trump is legendary. What is astonishing and frightening is the almost absolute hold this cult leader has on his mass following and the elected Republican officials who crave his support and endorsement. "Deference to the Leader" has new meaning in American politics following the Trump phenomenon. ""I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?" Trump remarked at a campaign stop at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. "It's, like, incredible"" (link). Yes, it is incredible.
5. Persistent use of lies and fabrications.
Trump's willingness to lie is legendary. The "Big Lie" about election fraud is the most egregious example, since it has created a dangerous and volatile social movement based on loyalty to Trump and willingness to adopt his lies. But lying is the fundamental mechanism of Trump's political strategy. The Washington Post estimated that Trump had told 30,573 lies during his presidency (link). The movement mobilized by Trump has continued to use lies to further its activism -- for example, about COVID, about vaccination safety, and about the many conspiracy theories promulgated by outlets like QAnon.

6. Intimidation and cooptation of legislators and political leaders.
Intimidation of non-compliant Republican office-holders has been apparent since Trump's defeat in 2020. Physical threats of violence have occurred (most recently against Adam Kinzinger), but also against other Republican House members who voted for impeachment, such as Fred Upton and Peter Meijer. In addition to threats of physical violence, non-compliant Republican candidates have been bullied in public meetings and vilified as RINOs. Public independence from Trump by GOP candidates is generally seen as political suicide.
7. Fellow-traveler organizations.
White supremacist organizations have been very public in their support for Trumpism. Many evangelical churches and organizations are unquestioning in their support for Trump and Trumpism. Fox News commentators have provided powerful propaganda support for Trumpism.

If these are reasonable markers of the makings of a totalitarian regime, as Arendt argued they are, then the US democracy is in serious, grave jeopardy. Our political sphere -- driven by the political worldview, motivations, and determination of the GOP throughout the country -- has declined rapidly by these criteria since 2016, and the decline accelerated in 2020.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the form of government the GOP would like to see is an authoritarian sham democracy in which only their supporters have the ability to vote, and in which GOP majorities are free to carry out their ideological agenda: reduce reproductive rights, subordinate the courts to the status of ideological henchmen, empower ever-wider ownership and brandishing of semi-automatic weapons, place ideologically inspired restrictions on curriculum from kindergarten to graduate school in public institutions, and restrict freedom of thought and expression when it comes to GOP hot topics (gender, race, BLM, CRT, ...).
What would it take for moderate conservatives with integrity and democratic values to regain their positions of influence and voice within the GOP? As for the leaders and elected officials who are taking their party down the road of unhinged extremism -- history will regard you with shame and infamy.

Boris Johnson’s Telegraph Meetings Leave No Paper Trail

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/06/2022 - 8:13pm in

No notes were recorded at two meetings between the Prime Minister and his ‘real boss’ at the outset of the pandemic, reports Sascha Lavin

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When a Times story claiming that former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had tried to hire his then-mistress-now-wife mysteriously vanished over the weekend, an article about cronyism was transformed into an even more concerning scandal about the Prime Minister’s relationship with the UK’s most influential press barons.

The Murdoch-owned paper seemed to cave to political pressure from Carrie Johnson’s team – not legal threats – and pulled the story.

Now, the Byline Intelligence Team can reveal more evidence that points to a worrying merger between Johnson’s Downing Street operation and the right-wing press.

The Cabinet Office has refused to release documents related to two meetings held between Boris Johnson and senior figures at the Telegraph at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Instead, in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the Cabinet Office claimed that “there was no agenda or papers” for the May 2020 meetings between the Prime Minister, Daily Telegraph Editor Chris Evans and the de facto heads of the Telegraph Media Group, Aidan and Howard Barclay. 

In other words: Johnson was holding undocumented meetings with the Telegraph at a crucial point in the pandemic – raising concerns about transparency and his dependency on the right-wing press.

Blankety Blank

On 19 May 2020 Johnson hosted Aidan and Howard Barclay – the sons of the late Sir David Barclay, who are thought to run the billionaire family’s business interests. Two days later, the Prime Minister held a meeting with Daily Telegraph Editor Evans. 

The Cabinet Office agreed to share some meeting details with the Byline Intelligence Team: the length – “less than an hour” with the junior Barclay brothers and “approximately an hour” with Chris Evans – and the location (both were held in Downing Street). But crucial details about content of the meetings remain unknown.

The agendas, briefings, and notes from the meetings were withheld because, according to the Cabinet Office’s FOI response, they simply do not exist. The Telegraph meetings were “informal business meetings”, they said, and so no such documents were to be expected.

A Number 10 spokesperson directed Byline Times to the Cabinet Office’s publicly available transparency documents, advising this paper that, “the Government transparently publishes informal meetings”. Yet, the entries for these two Telegraph meetings are conveniently opaque. Under the ‘purpose of meeting’ heading, there are only two words: “General Discussion”.

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What “business” took place at these meetings is unknown – the Telegraph did not respond to Byline Times’ request for comment. However, one possible topic of discussion could have been the subsidies paid by the Government to the big newspaper groups, initiated during the early months of the pandemic.

The Prime Minister’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings has claimed that “Newspapers negotiated direct bungs to themselves with him [Boris Johnson]”.

There were “no officials on [the calls]”, he added, and Johnson “told officials to send the [money] dressed up as ‘COVID relief’”. 

Cummings’ claims confirmed exclusive reporting by Byline Times, revealing the ‘All In, All Together’ subsidy scheme, which had an initial three-month budget of £35 million, launched in April 2020, and was still in operation two years later.

Without official documents, however, it is impossible to say whether these two Telegraph meetings formed part of the ‘negotiation’ described by Cummings.

The Torygraph

This is not the first time that concerns have been raised about the Barclay family using their personal access to influence Conservative prime ministers. Aidan Barclay told the Leveson inquiry that he had advised David Cameron to call the then Telegraph editor, Tony Gallagher, every day in the run-up to the 2010 General Election. Barclay would also text Cameron, pushing for greater financial deregulation. 

Gallagher, in his new position as the deputy editor of the Times, was the person who decided to spike the story about Carrie Johnson over the weekend. He has previously been pictured jogging with Boris Johnson at Conservative Party conference.

Johnson’s relationship with the Telegraph is long-standing, having been a £275,000-a-year columnist for the paper under Gallagher’s editorship. The Prime Minister has even referred to the Telegraph as his “real boss,” according to Cummings. 

Indeed, Johnson has appeared to prioritise the Telegraph over the climate crisis, ducking out of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, hosted by the UK late last year, to take a private jet to a reunion party of former Telegraph journalists.

But it is not just the Telegraph that can boast a cosy relationship with Johnson’s Government: Byline Intelligence Team analysis revealed that between the beginning of 2020 to June 2021, ministers in Downing Street and the Cabinet office held 86 official meetings with members of the media – 70 of which were with journalists or executives at right-wing newspapers.

A free and fair press is necessary to hold power to account in a democracy. No wonder Johnson, in his bid to dodge scrutiny, has done his best to erode it.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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Universal basic income: notes of an agnostic

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/06/2022 - 6:52pm in

Tags 

Democracy


I got this list from Google Images. It’s a good checklist though some may quibble with some of it.

Michael Haines, who has previously posted on Troppo, is campaigning for universal income funded from the adoption of sovereign money — which would yield a large amount of seigniorage like revenue to government. Geoff Croker is campaigning for something similar from the UK. I responded to this by email which I reproduce here.

As far as I understand it, you’re both arguing that you generate all this free money with sovereign money and then you spend it on UBI.  They’re two separate policies that need to stand or fall on their own merits. 

Thus for instance, I’m in favour of green taxes and wealth taxes and some move towards greater sovereign money (I don’t think I’m so clever that I know what would happen with full sovereign money so I’d like to take some substantial steps in that direction and then reassess). But the case for each is a product of their cost-effectiveness, distributional impacts considered in the context of the political economy of each measure. (If you’re not sure what I mean, the last two dot points of this post relate to political economy questions). 

The case for UBI likewise needs to be made on the merits. 

We have something quite like a UBI now but with work tests. Milton Friedman’s argument for UBI was based on getting rid of the moralism and bureaucracy of such tests. 

Others on the left of centre are more concerned with the stigmatisation of welfare. I have to say that that has been what has been the strongest influence tempting me to switch from agnosticism to support of a UBI. But this is very difficult because it is easy to imagine a situation in which, for want of targeting, the UBI is sufficiently expensive that, in the upshot of electoral competition the basic payment available via UBI is made lower than it would be for the dole.

Both on the right and left, most people arguing for a UBI have accepted that it would come with costs. Those costs include 

  • less targeting leading to higher rates of taxation 
  • removing the need to ‘work’. This will be a boon to many and to the extent to which it is, to society. But it will also shear away the incentive to work which is, in the minds of many, a foundation of the social contract and the quid pro quo for community support to the destitute. The hoi polloi are highly suspicious of doing away with this foundation, both in terms of its economic efficacy and its social ethics. This is relevant to:
    • the economics of how a UBI will turn out — considered broadly — whether it raises or lowers wellbeing (considered broadly) in the long run. I have at least as much respect for the hoi polloi’s suspicions of it underwriting an indolent underclass as I have for my own more optimistic view. I don’t know.
    • the politics of a UBI, both as to its long-term sustainability and the rate at which it’s paid.  

So I remain agnostic 

I’ve made these points previously. But they never turn up as central to your thinking about UBI. You’re an advocate for UBI and you’ve made up your mind. That’s your prerogative and it’s good that we have advocates in the community arguing for different things I guess. But with your stuff and with most of the other stuff I see advocating a UBI, it simply elides the central issues I’ve outlined above.

 

RMT’s media lessons

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/06/2022 - 2:33am in

I’m rather impressed with RMT’s media approach. First its leader gets asked on Sky News what he will do when agency workers are recruited (if only they could find any) to take his members’ jobs. And he says picket the premises. Sky news was obviously hinting at violence and so he gets asked how he... Read more

The Tories’ Big Money ‘Summer Party’ – What We Know and Don’t Know

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/06/2022 - 1:46am in

Sam Bright explores the facts and the mysteries surrounding Boris Johnson’s latest fundraising bash

Conservative politicians last night engaged in an act for which they have become renowned in recent times: partying.

The Conservative Party’s annual summer soiree was hosted at London's prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), where senior ministers mingled with those who could afford entry – tables at the event cost anywhere between £12,500 and £20,000.

It’s not known whether wine was spilled or karaoke machines deployed as many of the details from this event have been kept secret.

But, in time-honoured Tory tradition, various prizes were auctioned to the assembled guests – the highest-value item seemingly being a dinner with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his two predecessors, Theresa May and David Cameron, which sold for £120,000.

Auction prizes also included an African safari trip sold for £65,000, a shooting weekend for £37,000, and a wine tasting for £30,000.

Responding to this, the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT) asked why big money donors were being allowed access to senior ministers while the union is not. The RMT is leading strike action this week, causing major disruption across the country’s rail network, yet the Government has rejected calls to negotiate directly with union representatives.

There is no legal obligation for the donors or the party to declare the identity of the lucky winners of the auction prizes. Individual political donations worth more than £7,500 must be registered with the Electoral Commission – likewise for donations worth £1,500 to non-central bodies – but there is no obligation to declare what the money paid for.

Byline Times asked the Conservative Party whether and how it vets the donors who purchase auction prizes at these fundraising events – in particular those who pay for meetings with senior ministers. It did not receive a response.

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Lubov Chernukhin is one of these Conservative donors, who has regularly paid for events with party grandees. Chernukhin parted with £135,000 for dinner with Theresa May when she was Prime Minister, and £160,000 for the chance to play tennis with Boris Johnson and David Cameron.

It’s now understood that Chernukhin was the donor who paid £30,000 for the wine tasting at Monday’s auction.

Chernukhin has been the subject of several media stories in recent months, due to the past proximity of her husband, Vladimir Chernukhin, to the Russian regime – having served as Russia’s deputy finance minister from 2000 to 2002, after which he was appointed by Vladimir Putin as the chair of a state bank.

The family claims that it was forced to flee Russia to the UK in 2004 after Vladimir Chernukhin was dismissed from his position and senior Conservative figures have defended Lubov’s contribution to Conservative Party finances, which has exceeded £2 million in recent years. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said “I think it’s very important we don’t conflate people with Russian heritage with people close to the Putin regime”.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, the party came under scrutiny for accepting money from Russian-linked donors, who have given £4.8 million to the Conservatives since 2012.

Chernukhin was in attendance at last night’s summer party, and Electoral Commission records show that she has given a further £7,616 to the party’s ‘Spring Lunch’ fundraising arm in recent months. OpenDemocracy reports that the Spring Lunch is a “fundraising lunch group meeting at luxury hotels such as the Dorchester, attended by MPs and peers, which raises money for the Conservatives’ marginal seats”.

She is also one of several donors to have been granted access to Downing Street via a secret ‘advisory board’ – a little-known collective of big money donors given exclusive access to senior Downing Street advisors and even the Prime Minister. 

Boris Johnson gave an address at last night’s event. It is believed he was accompanied by his Cabinet counterparts Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel, Liz Truss, Sajid Javid, Nadine Dorries, Mark Spencer, Oliver Dowden and Nadhim Zahawi – though the full list of attendees is again unknown.

The Electoral Commission says that the political party in receipt of donations is responsible for conducting permissibility checks on potential contributions – based on guidelines set by the Commission. Donations from purely foreign sources are not allowed by the Electoral Commission, but donations are allowed from citizens or company owners in multiple jurisdictions, as long as one of those jurisdictions is the UK.

There are no national security or conflict of interest guidelines applied by the Electoral Commission. Indeed, Byline Times and The Citizens have calculated that COVID contracts worth £1 billion have been awarded by the Government to firms linked to Conservative donors.

It is unknown if the Conservatives apply any further checks – beyond the basic requirements set by the Electoral Commission – to prospective donors, and whether the party turns down funds accordingly.

The V&A has itself attracted criticism for its role in facilitating the Conservative Party’s fundraising efforts – with the museum auctioning a private tour during a recent Conservative fundraising event. Ben Elliot, a V&A trustee, is co-chair of the Conservative Party.

In the code of conduct for board members of public bodies, such as the V&A, it says: “In your public role, you should be, and be seen to be, politically impartial. You should not occupy a paid party political post or hold a particularly sensitive or high-profile role in a political party. You should abstain from all controversial political activity.”

Byline Times has previously calculated that, since 2009, the Conservative Party has earned at least £3.4 million from individual auction items – with the figure likely to be much higher.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of the donors – they are merely taking advantage of a system instituted and overseen by the Conservatives. However, these flows of money do raise serious questions about transparency. Meetings between donors and ministers are not recorded and concerns remain as to whether the ruling party is allowing undue influence to be bought by its biggest donors.

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