So here’s an e-petition I won’t be signing

by Stephen Tall on July 3, 2012

It’s good that the rate-rigging of Barclays (and almost certainly other banks) has been exposed. It’s important that we have an inquiry — whether judge-led or parliamentary I have no particularly strong views either way.

But then I came across this e-petition (right), which is the kind of muddled reflex-agitprop that irks me:

All party funding from the finance industry must be returned following the regulatory failure at Barclays

For MPs to continue to receive financial support from the finance industry opens them up to accusations of corruption.

In order to have a fair investigation leading to new regulation, any possibility of unfair influence over the process must be removed.

Two points:

1) There’s a difference (grammatically at least) between the phrases ‘must be returned’ (past tense) and ‘to continue to receive’ (future tense). Must be returned? No. Money legally given, accepted in good faith (and probably spent by now) shouldn’t have to be returned — not least because it could only legally be returned to the finance industry itself. And I’m not sure that helps anyone, does it?

2) The issue of party funding isn’t just about the finance industry: it’s about the power of any wealthy individual or organisation to wield undue influence without legitimacy or accountability. Vested interests that subvert democracy exist within finance, within the media, within trade unions. Picking on one sector because it’s in the news today isn’t a real solution. Let’s sort party funding out, put it on a fully transparent footing, full stop.