Saturday, 1 June 2013

An Observation on Lobbying

What is it with all these lobbying scandals at the moment? First Patrick Mercer MP and now Lord Laird have been accused of lobbying for some sort of payment, breaking parliamentary rules. No offence to the experienced political life of Lord Laird and Patrick Mercer, but don't they remember the cash for questions scandal? Perhaps not.

Patrick Mercer is MP for Newark and I was surprised to see him involved in a lobbying scandal. 

I actually met Patrick Mercer a few months back at the Gedling Victory Night and was surprised to see this story arise. He seemed a very competent and knowledgeable MP when it came to defence and foreign affairs. However clearly something was going on behind the scenes that was not quite right as he has had to resign from being a Tory MP.

So what is to be done, as Lenin once said? Well lobbyist will always follow the power and politicians will always be tempted by money. We need to really separate lobbyists and politicians from one another because the result is not just the odd early day motion in a company's favour. One of the reasons we have problems with big companies is that they buy favours in the political world to help them increase profits. But the population are the losers in this as this overcomes the power of competition so they have to pay more money for things.

Patrick Mercer MP signing the deal with the secret Panorama team.

We could regulate lobbying a lot more in Parliament. I am no expert on the lobbying laws of this country so I will have to look at each proposed law to see if it is an improvement. However I think something more profound needs to happen.

All political parties are running out of money essentially. Why so? because membership is decreasing and also revenue from events as a consequence. Nor are individuals rich party members able to fill the gap this leaves. Instead all political parties are allowing business, charities and other organisation to give increasing amounts of money for some sort of favour. Lobbying doesn't necessarily have to be a breach of parliamentary rules. You can see the amount lobbyists at Conferences and London events. A good example for me was earlier this year at the Jeremy Hunt CF reception. He answered a few questions from the audience and those who were picked, probably by chance, happened to be asking very specific questions on the NHS from people representing companies. I.E. Lobbyists have been chasing Jeremy Hunt around, and been allowed to, even at seemingly private CF events.

Jeremy Hunt has been lobbied by the Jazz Society of UK and now has to do Jazz hands to the camera's every time he walks into Number 10. 

Why have political parties switched to lobbyist money? It is because they fail to connect with their voters and so they won't give them any donations or help. Not good for democracy inside or outside political parties. In fact it makes me fairly upset because, taking the example above, we were not allowed speak to a senior party official, despite it being our party.

The decline in Party membership. Major falls happened for the Tories in the 1960s and just after Thatcher left office.

I don't think political parties will soon return to the day of the 1950s were almost everyone in the UK was seemingly a party member. But I think we need to move back to the voters. That way political parties connect well with the public, reduce corruption and also make money which is needed to fight elections. Reduce the role of the lobbyist for a better government.

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