Stuart Wheeler took part in the BBC’s ‘Broadcasting House’ programme on Sunday and claimed that the British public were against political parties being entirely funded from the public purse. Mr. Wheeler is the Eton-educated, multi-millionaire businessman that donated £5m to the Conservative Party during the 2001 election campaign. This was, and remains, the largest single donation ever made to a political party in the United Kingdom. Mr. Wheeler’s antipathy to removing funding of political parties from the grip of trade unions and businessman alike was voiced without the slightest trace of him having his tongue firmly stuck in his cheek. He is now treasurer to UKIP, having recently fallen out with the direction the Tories have taken.
In my view, what the general public are actually fed up with is those with lots of money, no matter how they came about it, trying to bring undue – and yes, unfair – influence over the political direction that this country takes. Most of us are not amused at the news that union members contribute to the Labour Party, regardless of their political allegiances, but we are even less amused with the likes of the well-oiled Mr. Wheeler placing a bet on the Conservative campaign that equals fifty year’s worth of take home pay for six average earners. Another example is the donation by Colin and Christine Weir, who won £161m in a Euromillions draw in 2011, who have pledged a seven-figure sum to the SNP to help its campaign for independence from the rest of the UK. This may seem laudable but it is yet another example of people with acquired privilege having a disproportionate influence to those of us who don’t have the kind of clout that is bought with an enormous disposable income. I shan’t even mention the likes of Rupert Murdoch.