Monday, 26 March 2012

Lobbying the Tories

"It's an issue that crosses party lines and has tainted our politics for too long... an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money.  I'm talking about lobbying - and we all know how it works.  The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisors for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way.  In this party, we believe in competition, not cronyism.  We believe in market economics, not crony capitalism.  So we must be the party that sorts all this out."

These words were spoken by British Prime Minister David Cameron two years ago.  Let's compare them with the words of (now former) Tory party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas, speaking to undercover journalists who were posing as potential donors:

"Two hundred grand to two hundred and fifty is Premier League... what you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners."
"You really do pick up a lot of information and when you see the Prime Minister, you're seeing David Cameron, not the Prime Minister.  But within that room everything is confidential - you can ask him practically any question you want."
"If you're unhappy about something, we will listen to you and put it into the policy committee at No 10 - we feed all feedback to the policy committee."

Aside from the passing football reference, there is not very much to like about Mr. Cruddas' assurances.  Nor, for the Tories, is there much to like about this exchange being aired in the public arena.  If there is one thing that any democratic electorate cannot abide, it is that politically deadly combination of dishonesty and hypocrisy.

The culprit did of course attempt to backtrack as he offered his inevitable resignation:

"Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians."


Peter Cruddas was not simply making this stuff up on the spot, as many conservatives would apparently have us believe.  He was explicitly offering access to the Prime Minister and to the policy committee at No 10.  Nobody in their right mind would make such extensive promises to potential donors if they could not follow through.

Mr. Cameron had warned mere months before being sworn in that corporate lobbying was the "next big scandal waiting to happen" in Britain.  How very prescient of him.  He should have told his party.

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