Monday, March 23, 2015

What are the odds?

For a long time everyone has known that Britain's honours system is corrupt. If you donate enough money to a major political party, when they're in government they will reward you by giving you the right to call yourself by a silly name, wear a silly costume, and sit in an unelected upper house full of other people who have also bought their way in. And now its been proven: there is a statistically significant link between donations and peerages:

The academics examined the 303 Lords nominations between 2005 and the third quarter of 2014 and all donations since 2001. They isolated what they term the “usual suspects”: prominent people who would be expected to be in line for an honour, such as former parliamentarians, senior party staff, ex-council leaders, reserved public sector posts, “people’s peers” nominated by the House of Lords Appointments Commission, and those selected as part of Gordon Brown’s “government of all talents” agenda.

That left 92 “others”, who donated between them 97.9% (£33.83m) of all the donations coming from nominees to the Lords. Donations from the individuals’ companies, spouses or children were included. In the case of union leaders, the donations were generally from their unions rather than themselves.

Among those, 27 donated 95% of the £33.83m. The academics write: “Clearly, those peers nominated outside the ‘usual suspects’ are far more likely to be big donors.” The 27 came from a larger pool of 779 big donors who stood out on electoral commission records.

The academics ran the calculation of how probable it would be that from a random sample of 779 people from a pool of available nominees – defined as the 383,000-strong reported membership of the three main political parties – 27 or more would be nominated to the Lords between 2005 and 14.

In what they hope will be the opening shot in a debate about the state of British democracy, the academics – Dr Andrew Mell of Corpus Christi College, Oxford; Simon Radford, of the University of Southern California; and historian Dr Seth Alexander Thévoz – conclude the probability of such an outcome is “approximately equivalent to entering the National Lottery and winning the jackpot five times in a row”. They say that this is wholly in keeping with the argument that lifetime appointments to Britain’s upper house are in effect being sold.

They also found that individuals drawn from the “others” donated an average of a further £220,000 among Conservatives, £333,000 among Liberal Democrats and £464,000 among Labour nominees. If peerages are in effect being sold, the academics argue, “these could be thought of as the ‘average price’ per party.”

This is corruption, pure and simple. And all the major parties are in on it. Westminster needs a cleanout. And abolishing the House of Lords and ridding the UK of these corrupt parasites should be the start of it.

The full paper, Is There a Market for Peerages? Can Donations Buy You a British Peerage? A Study in the Link Between Party Political Funding and Peerage Nominations, 2005-14, is here.