The contrast was stark. Joan Edwards, frugal, heroine of the NHS, left the savings from her lifetime of self-denial to the nation. Grasping politicians slyly trousered the money to squander on party political propaganda.
A swift volte face by Tories and LibDems limited the damage but the stench of new sleaze lingers. Unless parties combine to reform party funding more self-lacerating scandals are certain. They will reverse any move towards a restoration of trust in politicians. The contempt of the public after the great screaming nightmare of the expenses disgrace will be reinforced.
Party funding scandals now incubating are cash for peerages and other honours, buying access to the PM by prostitution of his office, double-jobbing by truanting MPs, donations without consent by shareholders and trade unionists, lobbyists' free-for-all and unlimited spending on campaigning between elections.
Inertia, self-interest and cowardice discourage reforms. No reform has been agreed between parties because of their shared distrust that has seen all past attempts fail in acrimonious bickering. Only a new puritanical discipline will restore politicians' reputation.
I sat on the Select Committee examining 'Cash for Peerages' in the last parliament. The charge was 'not proven' but all committee members acknowledged it was a widespread abuse. The 2013 new peers included big donors from all main parties. The honours system is equally corrupted.
Nearly £1million was raised in three months by the Conservation Party by hawking out dinner invitations to the PM's table to those seeking access to ministers. The limitless propaganda spending between elections was exploited by Lord Ashcroft. Targeting some of the most combative MPs wiped out their majorities.
In a recent debate a Tory MP claimed that the public would not object to his truanting from his MPs' duties for five months to act as a lawyer. He did not deny that he took his parliamentary salary while double-jobbing in court. Will Ed Miliband's initiative of seeking individual trade unionists' consent for party contributions be matched by consent by shareholders of commercial contributors? The PM's passion to reform lobbying was comatose for three years until it was jerked into new urgency by a lobbying sting. The planned transparency has been derided by all interests as inadequate.
Perhaps the lesson of Joan Edwards' legacy will persist. Her life was a model of integrity and sacrifice that politicians should emulate.