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5th March 2023

The unseen costs of MP donations

With the extent of donations made to local MPs now made clear, it’s time to spell out why these ‘gifts’ come at a price.
The unseen costs of MP donations
House of Commons @ Flickr

A Sky News investigation recently revealed the donations received by political parties and MPs and where it came from. One of the most shocking revelations for Manchester students will have been the declarations of Labour MP Afzal Khan, who represents the Gorton constituency comprising Fallowfield, Rusholme, Longsight, and Levenshulme.

The largest gift Khan received was shockingly, and somewhat bizarrely, from the Qatari government. Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs made gifts to Khan to the tune of £7,510. It has not been stated what exactly this gift consisted of or was used for, but regardless of this students should rightly be annoyed for multiple reasons.  

Another of these reasons is that both Khan and Withington MP, Jeff Smith, failed to vote against the blocking of section 35 which blocked the gender recognition bill passing in the Scottish parliament.

Qatar’s record on gay rights was made clear for the world to see in the past few months and any involvement with a government that so vehemently pushes such an agenda is simply unacceptable.  

Fallowfield, one area of Khan’s constituency, was reported to have one of the largest proportions of LGBTQ+ citizens in the country with a total of 13.75% of people living there identifying as such. Elsewhere in Khan’s constituency, the proportion of people who identify as being LGBTQ+ was much higher than the national average (3.2%) with 9.05% of people in Rusholme and 9.28% of people in Longsight also identifying as being LGBTQ+.  

The discovery of Khan’s relationship with the Qatari government, I imagine, will be a disappointing one for many students alike. Khan is supposed to act in the interests of his constituents and represent their views in Westminster. His receipt of Qatari Government money casts doubt over his ability to do so.

No Labour MP should be taking money from a government which is profoundly and, if anything, proudly homophobic. How can his constituents, many of whom would face jail time in Qatar for simply existing, have any trust in their MP whatsoever after such a clear abandonment of their struggle by the very man who many voted for to represent them?  

Khan, however, wasn’t the only Labour MP who received money from Qatar. Chris Bryant, Ian Murray, Tan Manjeet Singh Dhesi, Gill Furniss, Justin Madders and Yvonne Fovargue all received money totalling to £34,730. This means Labour MPs in total received £42,240 from Qatar’s ministry of foreign affairs.  

The contradictions here are stark. Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer made his and his party’s opposition to the world cup abundantly clear. Speaking before the world cup kicked off, Starmer stated that: “It’s totally unacceptable that gay fans are unable to acknowledge who they love”. This begs the question, why were Labour happy to publicly denounce Qatar but privately take their money? Showing support publicly for the LGBTQ+ community is all well and good, but if it’s not genuine and you’re not prepared to make tangible changes, what’s the point?  

Is £42,240 really all it takes for Labour to leave their morals at the door on their way into Number 10?  

It’s also important to mention the fees received by other parties from the Qatari government. By far the largest recipients, were, unsurprisingly, the Conservatives. The Tories received, by far, the most from Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with gifts and donations totalling £162,827. This is more than three times the amount received by the Labour party.

However, I hardly find this surprising. Homophobia is to be expected from the Conservatives. They’ve made this clear, by allowing MPs with a history of homophobia, not least former PM Boris Johnson, to ascend to the upper echelons of the party.

It’s clearly not an issue they take seriously. As well as expressing homophobia through words, after 13 years of their governance conversion therapy is still legal. They’re either unwilling or unable to ban it due to a lack of support from the parliamentary party. This, coupled with the fact that just 10 years ago 127 Tory MPs voted against gay marriage whereas just 118 supported it, shows the party’s long-standing failure on the issue.  

Despite this, I must admit I find Labour’s actions the most shocking. Labour proudly claims to be an ally of the LGBTQ+ community. They depict themselves as being the party that will best protect the rights of the community, whereas behind closed doors there is a completely different story. MPs taking thousands of pounds from a government that sees the LGBTQ+ community’s very existence as a crime. This deception is what I find hits me harder; the betrayal and two-faced actions from a party that proclaims to be progressive is what stings the most.

The donation revelations show us that as a society we need real reform within Westminster and the wider political climate. The Qatari ministry of foreign affairs is responsible for £242,300 of donations to MPs in this parliament. This would have undoubtedly swayed political opinion in this country in Qatar’s favour and through simply throwing money at the problem, rendered their human rights abuses practically invisible to MPs.  

It should not be this easy. MPs shouldn’t abandon their moral fibre the second a cheque for seven grand is on the table. There should not be any amount of money that causes politicians to seemingly adapt their views at the push of a button. It sets a dangerous precedent and shows how weak Westminster can be. Money erodes any sort of democracy and trust we place in parliament. If all it takes is money, then where do we draw the line? How long will it be before Westminster is bought out to protect the interests of the wealthy elite instead of the constituents it supposedly represents?

Unfortunately, I believe this is already the case. Sky’s findings just help magnify the problem further.  

It seems every MP has a price, and we are the ones paying it.  

Jake Aldridge

Jake Aldridge

Deputy Investigations Editor 23/24

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