The Lycamobile Scandal Reiterates the Need for Reform


Party funding is a nefarious issue. It is well known that astronomical donations are tantamount to buying lobbying power, and the cash for access and cash for honours scandals highlight the serious need for reforms to shut down unfair influence in the decision-making process.

The insidious influence of money in politics seems to never end and the most recent UK general election saw even the Green Party brought in to the fold of the donations scandal when their donor, prominent couture designer and activist Vivienne Westwood, was revealed to be immorally benefitting from the use of offshore tax havens.

Different people and organisations can donate to political parties and for the most part they make civic-minded and legitimate contributions. But the fact that political representation can be decidedly monopolised by wealthy tax-evaders and firms with dubious ethics ought to sit at odds with the values of a society which has pretences to making its policy fairly, honestly and rationally.

In recent days the Labour Party has called on the Conservatives to address their affiliation with Lycamobile, the multinational telecommunications giant which sells SIM cards to people seeking cheap international phone calls. This comes after Buzzfeed UK reported that Lycamobile’s market competitors conducted an investigation which found evidence the company may be money laundering. Moreover, previous concerns had been raised by Tom Blenkinsop MP about the company’s ties to the Sri Lankan president, accused of widespread corruption and political repression. Although Lycamobile insists it is acting regularly and within the accepted boundaries of behaviour, Labour has asked the Conservatives to halt their relationship with Lycamobile and stop accepting donations while investigations are being carried out in to the true nature of Lyca’s operations.

The letter, addressed to Lord Feldman from Jonathon Ashworth MP, highlighted that:

Lycamobile has donated more than £1.3 million to the Conservative Party since David Cameron became Prime Minister, including over £500,000 this year alone….It is clear that serious questions need to be answered on this issue.

Corruption in politics is a hydra with a thousand heads and it’s clearly an endemic, systematic problem with grips beyond the borders of one party or company alone. That is probably why it is so difficult to effectively address. A cadre of lobbyists and politicians powerfully invested in the status quo will fight fiercely to preserve it. Nevertheless, ending tax avoidance practices, getting money out of politics and setting caps on party funding remains the focus for several politicians and campaigns who want a fairer, more transparent system and to reduce undue influence in government policy. Hopefully this will apply pressure to parties to be more discriminating in their alliances and to decide whether they are ready to pass laws which level out the playing field.


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