When the lobbyists take over…
By Nishma Doshi
Imagine a world where everything we own is trademarked. Where even the most simple of celebrations is constructed around a roundabout of corporate logos and business-fuelled ideology. Where 1% of the world’s population owns 40% of the world’s resources. Where water is privatised and inaccessible for the majority. Where your food prices are defined by a bunch of people sitting in a room playing gambling games. Yet with all of this, you’re told that you live in a utopia, that this is human progress, and that it’s all to protect your “freedom”.
This is our world, and it wasn’t born yesterday.
When New Labour was born, it was born agreeing with Thatcherite principles that Big Business is good. That allowing corporations and the fat cats of the finance industry to decide our policies and our futures is acceptable. That accepting bribes and giving power to your pals in your old job is normal. The left had shrivelled and shrunk to hide behind the backs of industry – the poor ignored at the cost of increasing finance, power and the GDP.
The public didn’t matter anymore. Political parties were wooing corporate capital, social capital was talk of yesterday. “Education, education, education” came down to corporate-sponsored academies, where teachers lost decision-making power and students were educated by Deloitte. The government promised us a brighter future with 50% of all young people in going to university; instead it gave us tuition fees. When over a million of us marched against the Iraq war – coming from all over the UK, from all classes, races, gender and ages – we were ignored. It was not in our interest that the government acted, it was in the interest of oil – growing the profits of big business.
Out of that generation came the Liberal Democrats and Tories, perfectly complimenting each other in the passionate embrace of a ConDem(ned) coalition. With the axe of individualism they divide us into caring about our own (deficit) debts, our own cash futures and our own tax ‘burden’ – as we sway with their doctrine, letting them desecrate our public services so big business can charge us for the same thing.
Yet, how has the left lost? How have corporations taken over our government? How can democracy allow for this overt political corruption?
In light of the Verheugen scandal, it is clear that our industries are our politicians. Privileged access is easy for those who know the game, have the cash and have the media on their side. With all of these acceptances, big business is using its own players to gain more freedoms.
With the right, they’ve swept through their own players: Clegg & Cameron – the happy couple. Clegg’s past lies in professional lobbying for the European Commission, where he gained the knowledge of how important the European Union is for our economy (or so he says). Cameron’s own stake is deeply rooted in Portland PR, whose main role is ‘reputation laundering’:
“Portland PR, headed by Tim Allen, Tony Blair’s former deputy press secretary, and Hill & Knowlton, among others, contested a recent contract said to be worth more than £1m a year to advise the oil-rich Kazakhstan government. Earlier this year the regime was accused by Amnesty International of failing to address its human rights commitments under international law.
“…Portland PR works directly for the Kremlin providing advice on relations with the UK parliament and advising on handling negative stories in the UK media.”
Of all the new Tories elected in May, 15% come from lobbying backgrounds. Privileged access to MPs goes to those who donate more to the party’s cashier, giving the rich lobbying access and denying the same to those who can’t afford to do so. More recently, Rowland the ex-party treasurer donated another £1m to the Tories, after relocating his profits of £700m from banking and ‘shady deals’ abroad. The Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) which came out in support of public spending cuts had both its Chief Secretary and its Head move to work for the Treasury.
Out of all of these dealings, Nick Clegg and David Cameron have promised to create a statutory register of all lobbyists, arguing that lobbying is
” a legitimate activity as long as it is out in the open, and [they] will ensure that there is a statutory register of all lobbyists so that that is completely above board and entirely transparent.”
Although this is definitely a step in the right direction, it is yet another plaster covering much deeper problems. A register will not change the layers of corruption that lie in-between the sheets of political beds; it will only point to the co-operation of the public and private sector, only benefiting big business as we drown under images of mutuality, holding hands and other media PR.
Where we have gone wrong is that we have allowed industry to creep in and steal the carpet from under our feet. We have watched corruption sink into the soul of politics and let it dance there without disturbance. We need to emphasise that Our Government is about the Public and not private; we need our services and our politics to be about us and not in the hands of those who just want to profit.