Thursday, September 14, 2006

Midlands Industrial Council: fat cat bungs for the Tories

With all the revelations over New Labour’s secretive funding arrangements in recent months, let’s not forget that the Tories basically invented the rules of this particular ball game.

Today’s Daily Telegraph has the skinny on the Midlands Industrial Council, one of a number of private funding conduits having been using since the now defunct ‘River Companies’ set up after world war two:

‘The MIC was founded in 1946 as a pressure group to fight the Attlee government's nationalisation plans and champion free enterprise. It has been giving money to the Tories for 60 years ...

‘Between April 16, 2003, and March 14, 2006, the Conservative Party received 52 donations from the MIC totalling £968,690.

‘Membership is exclusive, being invitation only. All have connections with the Midlands and none resides overseas. Members meet about five times a year, go to Westminster to lobby and each year discuss … the amount they want to give to the Tories. The fund varies with the political cycle, but is usually in six figures.

‘Only three of its members are known: Sir Anthony Bamford, the head of the JCB tractor empire, the truck firm founder Chris Kelly and Robert Edmiston, the head of the car importer IM Group.

‘A leading Tory benefactor, Mr Edmiston was put forward for a peerage by the Tories. But the nomination was blocked along with a group of Labour nominations by the Lords Appointments Commission.’

Telegraph journo Neil Tweedie – hi, Neil – adds:

‘Even helicopters are available, or money for a building survey. The more than 30 businessmen who make up the council are not short of the odd helicopter, or money.

‘As one well-placed source told The Daily Telegraph: "I once tried to add up their worth and gave up after £4 billion."’

Wealthy businessmen are make political donations for the good of their wealth, not for the good of their health. The reliance of both New Labour and the Tories on fat cat chequebooks cannot be healthy in a democracy.

Whatever happened to mass membership parties, funding by aggregating smallish donations from individuals who believe in the manifestos that are put forward?

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