A peculiar trend has been spotted in the House of Lords. Have you noticed it? It looks a bit like high-value donors to the Tory party are being ‘awarded’ a peerage as thanks for massive wads of cash. Dodgy stuff.
There’s no denying the numbers. Earlier this month, The Sunday Times and openDemocracy revealed that 15 of the last 16 Conservative Party treasurers have been offered a seat in the House of Lords, having each donated more than £3 million to the party.
Many other Conservative donors have also been ennobled alongside party treasurers. In total, 22 of the party’s main financial backers have been given peerages since 2010. Together, they have given an estimated £54 million to the party.
A former Tory Party chairman reportedly told The Sunday Times, “Once you pay your £3 million, you get your peerage.” And one former Conservative cabinet minister this month described it as a “scandal in plain sight”.
The Scottish National Party’s Pete Wishart MP wrote to the Metropolitan Police to report this pattern and ask them to investigate. But mere days later, the Met wrote back to Mr Wishart refusing to investigate, saying, “there is insufficient information upon which to launch a criminal investigation”.
This is baffling. Buying or selling honours is a crime which the police have, in the past, been willing to investigate. In March 2006, Scottish National Party MP Angus McNeil brought a complaint to the police after it emerged that four wealthy businessmen, who had lent the Labour Party a total of £5 million, were nominated by Tony Blair for peerages. The police questioned a raft of politicians over the scandal and made several arrests.
We think this looks suspiciously like the Conservatives are selling off seats in the heart of our democracy. Members of the House of Lords get a say on laws that affect all of our lives. Why should someone get a vote on Universal Credit because they handed £3 million quid to the Conservative Party?
When asked about this this week, the Prime Minister defended his party’s reliance on major donors, saying: “Until you get rid of the system by which the trade union barons fund other parties… we have to go ahead.”
If the Government is selling peerages, it’s breaking the law. We think there is more than enough evidence to trigger a police investigation. If the Metropolitan Police refuse to investigate, they must satisfactorily explain why or risk judicial review.
Alongside Pete Wishart MP, we are asking the Metropolitan Police to share the information and documents they considered before refusing to investigate, and the internal record of the refusal.
At the heart of this legal action is a simple ask: that Boris Johnson be subject to the same law as you and I. And if there is reason to think he has broken the law, he gets investigated by the police, just like you and I would.
We are no longer pursuing this legal challenge. Counsel’s advice was that this matter is better pursued in Parliament for now, rather than in the Courts. We continue to monitor this issue and remain in close contact with MPs who are working to keep the pressure up.
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