The cash-for-honours affair must be a crisis if Tony Blair is prepared to show up for Radio 4’s Today programme. Appearances by the PM on that show are as rare as hen’s teeth – he’s usually much happier to appear in stage managed, touchy-feely interviews with Richard and Judy. He’s still refusing to step down, despite pressure from all quarters, which is hardly surprising. He must be confident of his own innocence then – if charges were to be brought against him, and he was then forced to resign, his reputation would be tarnished forever. Meanwhile, if he were to stand down now, as many would like, it would be a tacit admission of guilt and the effect would be the same. Better (for him and his government, anyway) to hang on and ride out the storm – assuming, that is, the whole thing will eventually blow over.
Something clearly stinks though, and this is the sad outcome of a system of poorly regulated party funding and the continued existence of the honours system in the first place. The solution? Full state funding for major political parties, audited bi-annually by an external company. Private donations or ‘loans’ should be illegal. This is not an ideal situation – everyone should have the right to financially support a political organisation if they wish – but if it would rid us of shady backroom deals with party benefactors and ensure that no party has a vested interest with any outside individual, corporation or trade union, it would be a price worth paying. We should also abolish the ridiculous honours system. It’s 2007 – do we need ‘knights’? No, we do not. Although I might be prepared to tolerate it if such titles were dispensed on the condition that the recipient must, at all times, wear a full suit of armour and travel everywhere on horseback. They must rescue damsels in distress on a regular basis and, if called upon to do so, slay the odd dragon. That, at least, would be entertaining for the rest of us.