There has been lots of sensible stuff written about Labour's secret pre-election loans, and it's clear that the story creates a massive problem for Tony Blair, who appears to have been the only person who knew anything about it apart from Matt Carter, the party's general secretary in the run-up to the last general election. Dave Osler has made Labour's funding a speciality, and I recommend his take on it: start here and move with the groove.
One point that no one has aired but is nevertheless relevant: the reason Labour needed to raise cash by borrowing before the 2005 election was that its traditional fundraising was getting nowhere. Membership revenues were disastrously down; the telephone fundraising that had worked wonders in 1992 and 1997 (lots of individual members and supporters volunteering £50 or £100) stopped working in 2001; the unions were prepared to cough up so much but no more; and the party's campaign for donations from rich individuals was on the rocks because by 2005 most rich individuals didn't want to make a big thing of being on Labour's donors' list. Loans were a desperate measure to keep the party in business.
This is a story of a political party that looks to be on its last legs (which is not to say that the Tories, who borrowed a lot more, are in better shape). And it's utterly demoralising for everyone who has attempted to keep the Labour Party going as an organisation that mobilises ordinary people's — rather than millionaires' — interests.
I'm shocked, and disinclined to get my finger out for the local elections. I can't see any alternative to Labour, as long as it is cleaned up ... but it needs to be cleaned up fast for me and everyone else I know who works for the party.
This looks like a Lloyd George-style loans-for-peerages scam that stinks of old-fashioned corruption, a betrayal of all we hold dear — even though we've given up the rheoric of betrayal. Blair has some work to do to regain any kind of credibility. And I think it's beyond him.