Two not unconnected stories from yesterday illustrate the stark choices now facing both Labour and Conservative parties.
Firstly, the candidate taken in adultery. Miss Truss broke one of the ten commandments that underlie our bedrock of social morality. Local associations are quite within their rights to expect both morality and probity from their candidates; if Miss Truss were a practising adulteress, I could not fault them with rejecting her. As it is, it seems, she went and sinned no more; the stones of the Turnip Taliban under those circumstances fell to the ground un-thrown and she continues as her local PPC. Good. We can count this both a victory for common sense, Christian morality rather than Squirearchical Sharia and the primacy of local associations.
Secondly, Peter Oborne's measured and restrained 'Dispatches' on C4 last night on the Conservative Friends of Israel and the influence of the shekel in determining Conservative thinking. I won't repeat the evidence he presented, but I think it's fair to say he established that the Jewish lobby has an unrepresentative influence on Conservative policy.
One of the consequences of the ruthless centralisation of party power that started under Margaret Thatcher in 1979, and has since seen over a million members leave the Conservative party, is that the rump local associations remaining are quite often not only unrepresentative of local Conservative consensus, but the lack of challenge and scrutiny at local level allows corruption and nepotism to flourish. In the Truss case, the usual four-members-and-a-labrador local quorum was overturned by the exhausted body of the local association rising from its sick-bed to vote.
The change of both Labour and Conservative parties from mass-membership organisations to centralised national commercial 'brands' has brought with it the danger of the parties being hijacked by small groups of significant donors. Money is drawn to power, and power to money. Better perhaps that Israel buys British political power rather than Russian oligarchs or Chinese generals, but without a mass membership our national parties have no alternative but to open themselves to such influence.
Local associations allege, with some justification, that Eric Pickles and CCHQ have too much power, even with open primaries. CCHQ privately excuses its interference, with some justification, on the grounds that local associations are neanderthal and can't be trusted.
The stark choice facing both Labour and Conservative leaders is that the only cure to this corrosive corruption of our democratic institutions is mass popular involvement at local level; State power must be wrested from Whitehall and devolved to local level, with power will come public involvement and a million local party subscriptions, with money will come the pre-eminent role of local associations in formulating policy and pushing it upwards, crowding-out the corruption of bought influence, whether Israeli or otherwise. You know it's true.