|What's for breakfast?
4 Dec 2005
A few weeks ago, I initiated a debate in the House of Commons on Funding for Political Parties. The thrust of my argument was that, as all political parties seem to be getting into difficulties raising money from large donors, we should consider whether there might be better way of funding our democratic institutions.
It was a serious political debate with contributions from all the main parties; and, in common with other debates on serious issues in Parliament, it received no coverage in the national press nor, until this moment, in the local press. (However, a few days later, a former Treasurer of the Party sought to dismiss my argument in an article in the Times.)
So how do political parties raise their funds? I can shed no insight into the strategies of the other political parties in NW Hants, though, to judge by our relative number of votes, I suspect they must find it even more difficult than we do.
Part of the answer to the question is “We eat breakfast.” It is in the public domain that we shoot clay pigeons, play golf, play bridge, go to the Watermill, dance, race ferrets and consume cheese, washed down by modest quantities of wine. But as of last weekend, I started to eat breakfast for my Party.
Like other voluntary organisations, we hold auctions to raise funds, and we auction items which people are generous enough to donate. A signed bottle of House of Commons Whisky can normally be found on the table at these events. The Conservatives in Hurstbourne Tarrant, a small but powerful body of men and women, confronted with a sizeable quota to Andover Headquarters, held an auction. One item was breakfast for four at the home of a generous donor. It is a tribute to the auctioneer, Colin Ponting, that he persuaded me to bid £70 for this meal. His tactics were to lower my resistance by telling good jokes about his neighbours in between lots, and then to interpret the banging of my hands on my knees in appreciation as a high bid for the next item.
I was however the underbidder for the breakfast, with one hungry supporter bidding £80 for this gastronomic opportunity. He, generously, invited me and Aurelia to share his prize so we duly turned up to a farmhouse kitchen at 8am, having eaten little the day before. Due to the generosity of our host, the number of guests included on the ticket had risen to ten. The auctioneer was also present, presumably to ensure that the bargain was honoured.
And it was; no expense was spared with Bucks Fizz on arrival, then porridge from the aga, cooked breakfast with fried egg, sausages, mushrooms, and toast and coffee.
After an hour and a half, I looked at my diary to see what lay ahead. A Conservative Party Fundraising event at East Woodhay Village Hall. With sausages and mash.