What's the difference between the Prime Monster, Mr Balloon, and the man behind that big boat movie (currently being remade for telly as ITV's Drownton Abbey)?
Answer: they're both FISHY stories, but we've yet to hit fluffy bottom in Mr Balloon's latest cash for access scandal.
And, like the big boat in question, Mr Balloon's denials don't cut much ice.
When he says "this is not the way the Conservatories raise money", it stretches credulity un peux since Tory Treasury Mr John "Judge Dredd bad word" Crudd has resigned because you can see him on video doing exactly that.
Saying that the visitors to the upstairs flat are in Mr Balloon's "private time" was never going to wash. It stopped being his private business the moment that a senior Conservatory was on the tellybox saying that "private time" was up for public auction. Nor is the excuse that there would be no proper record of private visitors believable. At very least, they'd need to be on the list of people for the police to LET IN. (Or are we to understand that you can routinely troll up at Downing Street and tell the office on duty: "no, I'm not on the list, I've got some private time with Mr Balloon"?)
And Auntie Maude's appeal on the The Today Programme was also less than convincing: look, he said, everyone knows you can buy access to the Prime Monster. We are completely open and honest about how nakedly venal we are.
That Conservatory menu in full:
- "Treasurer's Club": £100,000 buys you a brief meeting with the Prime Monster
- "Leader's Club": £250,000 and you get an intimate soiree for deux in the Number Ten flat
- "Inner Circle": £500,000 and you can spend the weekend at Chequers and snog SamCam
- "Masonic Rites of Dracula": £25,000,000 and he'll do bad bad BAD with a pig on live national telly.
It was with something approaching heroic stupidity that Hard Labour fielded Lord Levy on this subject, the man who was cleared of selling peerages by a Metropolitan police commissioner who later received a peerage. No relation. Fortunately it turned out to be a TOTAL COINCIDENCE that every single person to donate one million pounds to Hard Labour received a knighthood or a seat in the House of Lords, or THAT might have been AWKWARD!
Brave, too, of Mr Milipede to demand an inquiry into "Cash for Policymaking" given where that's likely to go in his own Party, and the way that Hard Labour keep on scuppering cross-Party agreement on donations so that the Unions can continue buying access to Hard Labour policymaking, er, I mean making fraternal donations for NO REASON WHATSOEVER and dropping those changes to Hard Labour's constitution last year was ENTIRELY a COINCIDENCE too. HONESTLY.
Another inquiry, though, will get us NOWHERE. We already KNOW what the answer is: limit donations, a proper register of lobby interests and lashings of HUMBLE PIE.
It is EASY to lampoon politicians as in the pocket of SHADY PLUTOCRATS... because they ARE. We ALL get tarred with that particular brush. Protesting that it's "just the Conservatories" will only get us slapped with a "well YOU'RE in bed with them".
Mr Mark Reckons is DEAD RIGHT on this: the Liberal Democrats need to announce an immediate self-denying ordinance of only accepting donations of ten grand or less.
(If nothing else, it would spare us the embarrassment of another Michael Brown fiasco – our one and only big donor in all of history and it was a bad-word up of such, forgive me, Titanic proportions that one suspects he was actually a Conservatory sleeper agent all along, intent on providing that Tory blogger Dale Winton with an "all Parties are corrupt" riposte to be used every single time that his own Party are caught red-fluffy-footed with another brown envelope.)