Letter: It is reasonable to assume that wealthy donors like Ben Habib will seek influence on the parties they fund

A letter from Arnold Carton:
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If I ask the question, ‘Who owns our government?’ many will assume that because we are a democracy, the people own the government, but can we ignore the fact that political parties rely on, and are influenced by their largest donors?

Recently the reluctance of the Tory party to criticise the comments of Frank Hester about wanting to shoot the black MP, Dianne Abbott, only made sense when you discovered he had donated over £10million to them.

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The fact that Mr Hester’s company, The Phoenix Partnership (TPP), which has been paid more than £400m by the NHS and other government bodies since 2016, raises an important issue of transparency.

In 2022 two local political parties each received a donation of £30,000 from Legatum Ltd run by Ben Habib. For the TUV, with an annual income of £76k, this donation was almost half its annual income and even for the larger DUP this was a significant sum.

It would seem reasonable to assume that the person contributing half the annual income to a political party would have significant influence on the policy of that party. What would happen if the party chose a course of action with which the donor disagreed?

We know the answer to that question, because on page 5 of the News Letter on Monday March 18 (Click here to read: ‘Wealthy pro-Brexit businessman Ben Habib pulls DUP funding - and will only donate to TUV’) there was a report that in future Mr Habib will fund the TUV but no longer fund the DUP unless they change their position on the Irish Sea border.

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‘He who pays the piper, calls the tune’ is an old saying, but should the DUP dance to Mr Habib’s tune or follow the wishes of the ordinary voters?

It is concerning that any rich person from outside Northern Ireland should acquire a massive influence in what happens in our local politics (Click here to read: ‘Ben Habib: DUP has made huge mistake in claiming Irish Sea border is gone’).

Should we look again at how countries like Sweden ensure that politicians are responsive to their voters, rather than the size of donations from their richest benefactors?

Arnold Carton, Belfast BT6

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