Racist Tory donor scandal is just the tip of the iceberg

  • Post last modified:March 17, 2024
  • Reading time:8 mins read

Earlier this week, it came out that the Tories’ biggest donor allegedly made racists comments aimed at Diane Abbott (‘allegedly’ because he’s not admitted to making them):

The media ran with the story, and afforded it as much depth as they usually do.

How could the Tories accept money from a racist?‘ they asked, seemingly forgetting that the Tories’ political platform has been 50% racism for as long as they’ve had some group to direct racism against.

If we had a more competent media, they’d point out it’s actually not odd that the racist Tory Party would take money from an ‘allegedly’ racist donor; that actually – in fact – the Tory Party is in part so racist because its financial backers expect them to be.

A really competent media would push beyond this and identify the true corruption at the heart of our politics, and they would ask:

Is it possible to have a representative democracy when our representatives are more beholden to donors than voters?’

Allegedly representative

The UK is theoretically a ‘representative democracy’, which Britannica describes as a:

political system in which citizens of a country or other political entity vote for representatives to handle legislation and otherwise rule that entity on their behalf. The elected representatives are in turn accountable to the electorate for their actions. As a form of democracy, representative democracy exists in contrast to direct democracy, in which all citizens directly vote on laws to be passed and other issues.

We were going to use parliament’s definition, but when we looked into it, we realised even it isn’t brazen enough to pretend we have a truly representative democracy (emphasis added):

For centuries, Parliament consisted of a small landowning elite whose priorities were their own power and prosperity.

From the 18th century onwards, the social changes brought about by industrial growth and the decline of agriculture meant that the demographic landscape of Britain was altered.

With these changes came demands from the working and middle classes for equality and fairness. It took many years for a more representative Parliament to be achieved.

More representative, but representative of who?

As parliament notes, previously it consisted “of a small landowning elite whose priorities were their own power and prosperity”. Things are massively different now, of course, as only around one in five of the ruling party’s MPs are landlords (actually down on 2021 when it was more like a quarter).

It’s achingly apparent that many of our legislators are just there to legislate in their own interest. But what of the others?

Well, some might say that’s also achingly apparent:

The above example is a very clear one, as it highlights how unrepresentative our democracy is. A poll from 2023 found that “77% of Britons are concerned about climate change”, and that:

  • Just one in four think Rishi Sunak’s government are doing a good job dealing with climate change (26%) and 59% say they are doing a bad job. A year ago, Boris Johnson’s government registered scores of 29% good job and 55% bad job.
  • However, less than three in ten think Labour would do a better job (28%), with almost half (48%) saying they’d do about the same and 15% saying they would do worse.

The public wants the Tories to handle the climate, but they’re not doing, and now Labour has confirmed it won’t either.

This is not representative democracy.

Labour is arguing it needs to drop its climate pledge because public finances necessitate austerity (while the party isn’t using the word, what it’s proposing is most certainly austerity). The Tories also support continued austerity. To digress slightly, there are multiple problems with this:

Back to the point at hand, we know the public is against further austerity, with polling showing they:

These two points are important because what we call ‘austerity’ is actually just a smokescreen to transfer money from the public good into the hands of the mega-rich. We can see the public do not want this. Therefore, what the Tories and Labour wish to perpetrate is not representative democracy.

Austerity is certain to please their wealthy donors, though.

Political literacy

This week’s scandal has yet again shown the media’s capacity to not see the forest for the trees. Certainly, the (allegedly) racist Tory donor is a bad person, but it’s silly to lump donors into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ because there are no good donors; there are simply donors whose unjust influence we’ve decided to ignore, and donors whose unjust influence we sporadically call into question.

We need to get money out of politics.

Only then can we get it out of the Scrooge McDuck-style money pits these people horde it in and back into our public services.

Featured image via Channel 4 News

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