4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

We are living in an uncertain world at the moment, the coronavirus pandemic has changed people’s and governments priorities, then there is the impending climate change crisis that hasn’t gone away and here in the UK, we are almost about to embark on the disaster that is Brexit.

On top of that, we seem to have gained politicians who are even more shady and corrupt than usual, they have always lied, but the current crop seems to be telling massive ones nowsdays that are shouted into the echo chamber that is social media. They seem to be more grubby too, not only is nepotism and cronyism rife in our present government, but the people that back them crave secrecy and avoid the transparency that comes with knowing where the money comes from.

‘Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’ Winston S Churchill, 11 November 1947

Peter Geoghegan has been tracing this dark money to its sources and his findings are very worrying. There has been a massive concentration of wealth and power in the past 50 years and those that are donating their cash to political parties expect and demand certain things for their money. Their demands are starting to break our antiquated democratic systems, the fines that are supposed to keep things honest, are paltry compared to the sums sloshing around.

He begins with the LeaveEU organisation and unpicks the way that they used social media and vast sums of money to win the referendum and this theme carries on into the second chapter about the Bad Boys of Brexit and the third on the DUP and how they ended up with nearly half a million pounds to spend on the Brexit campaign from an unknown source.

The next chapter is about the European Research Group (ERG) who are a very right-wing section of the Tory party who sadly now seems to be in charge of things. He explains just how they are using the expenses system in parliament for us to effectively fund them. A lot of the money and influence on British politics at the moment is coming from America. Most of it is coming from hard right-wing individuals including Christian organisations who are funding populist and far-right groups all over Europe.

“Ankh-Morpork had dallied with many forms of government and had ended up with that form of democracy known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote.” ― Terry Pratchett, Mort

This book makes for grim reading. That is not to take anything away from Geoghegan’s research and writing, which is a diligent, brilliant guide through a shadowy world of dark money and digital disinformation stretching from Westminster to Washington, and far beyond. Follow the money is always the maxim, but in most of these cases, it always disappears into some sort of black hole. The main problem is that those that have benefited from our deeply flawed democracy have a vested interest in ensuring that it is still kept as it is. He does make some suggestions on how to start fixing the democratic system, but you need politicians in place that want to embrace that change; the present government has no desire to change, as it is highly likely that it would mean that they could be a generation out of power. It will either make you furious or despondent but should be counted as essential reading.

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