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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 March 2006, 13:15 GMT
Party funding
On Sunday 19 March 2006 Andrew Marr interviewed Lord McAlpine

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Lord McAlpine
Lord McAlpine

ANDREW MARR: A relentless spotlight has been shining on the world of political party funding all week - as we've been seeing - on the murky business of secret loans, high value donors, dark hints of cash for honours.

This is, of course, nothing new.

Though the sums of money involved, may have got - indeed have got - a great deal bigger, Alistair McAlpine, Lord McAlpine, who was the Tory Party Treasurer in the Thatcher days, has been described as a genius with a cheque book after a jolly lunch.

He spoke to me earlier from our studio in Rome and I asked him if he thought that honours were, in effect, for sale.

LORD McALPINE: Well it comes passing close to it. I mean if you lend a million pounds or so to someone who has very little or no chance of repaying it, it doesn't fall into the category of a commercial transaction.

ANDREW MARR: In your day, if someone had come to you and said I am prepared to give a certain amount, a large amount, of money to the Conservative Party but I would hope for a knighthood or a place in the House of Lords afterwards, what would you have said to them?

LORD McALPINE: Well actually it happened to me once - the guy is now dead - and I - he was a very old man, and he was very sick, and he asked me to come and visit him - and I did and I listened to him and I said "Look, I'm very sorry but what you are suggesting is a criminal offence." And he was deeply shocked.

ANDREW MARR: There was a lot of talk back in the Eighties and Nineties about sleaze and how the Labour Party was going to clean up the system of donations to political parties and yet you look at the last few days and some people would say it's dirtier than ever.

LORD McALPINE: The Eighties, the sleaze wasn't just money - it was sexual and every sort of sleaze that anyone could lay their hands on.

ANDREW MARR: It certainly was.

LORD McALPINE: And of course when Tony Blair came in he said I'm having none of that. But, you know, looking back over the last eight years, or whatever it is, it's a mirror image.

ANDREW MARR: Looking back on it, with all your experience, what would be your advice to the Tories and to the Labour Party and the others now? How do they clear this up?

LORD McALPINE: I advocated that any donation should be declared and published in the London Gazette or something, within a week of receipt. No delay waiting for party accounts and that sort of thing. Now the problem about these loans is they don't appear to be donations but if you're lending money who has very little chance of repaying you, and no visible assets, it comes passing close to being a donation. It's just a technicality.

The perception is that both political parties - all three political parties, because for God's sakes, the Lib-Dems have had a pretty funny time recently - are a very sleazy bunch and there's not a jot of difference between them. Now somehow we've got to get back to the situation where the electorate has faith in political parties otherwise we face an ever falling number of people voting at elections.

ANDREW MARR: And you were raising all this money in the old days because of the hugely increasing cost of campaigning - you had to pay Saatchi and Saatchi and those advertising sites and so on - would another part of the problem be solved by actually putting a cap on how much parties could spend?

LORD McALPINE: No I don't think that that really would make much difference, because they'll find some way of spending more. You know, the German parties did something like that and they started having foundations, which weren't part of the party but, coincidentally, had the same aims and did the advertising for them.

ANDREW MARR: Lord McAlpine thank you very much indeed for joining us.

LORD McALPINE: Thank you.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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