It’s no secret that UK politics has always been a hotbed of sleaze. From its earliest days, the political scene has been rife with corruption and the Tory party have been at the centre of much of it. From the rotten boroughs of the 18th century to the hedge fund scandals of today, it’s easy to see that there’s been no change when it comes to Tory politics.
Despite senior Conservative MP Colonel Bob Stewart’s claims last year that British politicians are “paragons of virtue”, it’s quite clear that, given the climate of sexual harassment claims, expense scandals and the host of corruption controversies that have hit the media over the last few years, there is something rotten in the state of Westminster.
In fact, MP Brian Binley was more likely to have hit the nail on the head when he was overheard telling his Maltese hosts in 2013 ““You see, we are totally corrupt”. The British public certainly seem to think that this was one case when a Tory MP actually told the truth. In a survey carried out that year, it was revealed that 65% of people thought politics in the UK had become more corrupt, with 90% of the public believing that politicians’ only interests are in helping themselves.
Despite the constant stream of minor corruption scandals disclosed in the media in the years running up to May’s General Election, the Conservative Party managed to emerge as outright winners with David Cameron at the head of a government that is becoming well known for allegations of corrupt behaviour.
At the height of the MPs expenses scandal in 2009, UK taxpayers thought there couldn’t possibly be any further revelations, however as recently as February 2015, it emerged that Tory backbencher Bob Blackman was fraudulently claiming inaccurate mileage expenses to the tune of £1,000. Freedom of information requests have also revealed huge four figure sums racked up in expenses amounting to over £500,000 of the public’s cash on overnight stays to attend sessions at the Council of Europe, an obscure European body.
Although the same 2009 scandal also revealed that vast numbers of MPs were employing family members in order to boost their salaries, that behaviour not only has not been wiped out in the current parliament, but is still rife, with 129 out of the 650 MPs that were elected in May employing their own families in various capacities. Tory MPs are certainly not above “double” or “triple dipping” in which they are paid for several jobs, and are topping up their pay with council allowances (often in authorities that are hundreds of miles away from their London base, raising questions as to how they could possibly undertake both roles at the same time). Many also receive expensive gifts, like David Cameron himself, who was delighted to accept a £500 Fortnum and Mason hamper the day after winning the election battle. With one Tory minister claiming mileage expenses for just a 250 yard car journey, we seem to be heading towards another expenses outcry.
Of course there are other more serious corruption allegations that have also been bandied about concerning the Tory party. Before the General Election, David Cameron was accused of holding sumptuous dinner parties for hedge fund chiefs and affluent business people who could well have been funding marginal Tory seats that could easily have swung the balance of votes in Conservative’s favour. In a cash for access scandal, these tycoons shelled out £50,000 towards party funds for the privilege of direct access to the prime minister and the cabinet. Small wonder then that millionaires are being offered tax breaks.
Then of course we come to the NHS contracts scandal, in which private health firms that have financially supported the government are suddenly being handed NHS contracts worth a shocking £1.5 billion. And let’s not forget the energy firms debate, which suggests that the Tory government have failed to tackle rising energy bills because they are “in the pocket” of the big energy firms who collectively donated £2.5 million to their election campaign. Of those companies, several of the largest donors were in the “Leader’s Group”, the same tycoons who were enjoying those lavish parties at number 10.
It’s easy to see that whether it’s 1815 or 2015, the Tory party never change. And for that reason, it may have now fallen to Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson to change how political parties operate in Britain.