Tamasin Cave’s article – which may be read here – ends:
The UK’s commercial lobbying industry expanded beyond the back streets of Westminster to become an estimated £2 billion industry today, the third largest in the world. For decades, undisturbed, it has helped business influence the decisions of government.
Except glitches are now starting to appear in this system.
- Fewer messages are landing with the public (see the campaigns for HS2 and fracking).
- The power of the press to influence opinion is far from broken, but it has been shaken by scandal and an apparent tin ear for public opinion.
- The recent downfall of the most notorious of London’s lobby shops, Bell Pottinger, brought about by its secret campaign to stir up racial tensions in South Africa, is a symbolic victory too. For decades, it laundered the reputations of some profoundly anti-democratic clients around the world.
- The current Labour leadership is also a disrupting force.
Lobbyists, whose business relies to a large extent on relationships – often built over years, or shortcut by hiring former colleagues of the target politician – didn’t bother with Corbyn. They are now. Don’t misunderstand me: there are legions of corporate persuaders with links to the Labour Party and some industries – property developers, the for-profit healthcare industry, nuclear power – appear as if embedded in it.
But, in the words of one industry insider, lobbyists with strong links to Team Corbyn “can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and you might still have five fingers spare”.
Perhaps the most powerful change, however, is the demonstration of how things can be different. The World Transformed in Brighton last month was a place to participate in policy debates, which was open to all. The Institute for Free Trade, by contrast, is a women-free zone, funded by hidden corporate backers, which presented a persuasion campaign as its response to public dissatisfaction with the form of capitalism currently on offer.
The UK needs to open up the activities of lobbyists to public scrutiny as a matter of urgency. As important, though, is showing that an alternative exists to the “cosy club at the top”.
Tamasin Cave is a lobbyist for the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, a campaigner with Spinwatch and co-author of A Quiet Word: Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain (Vintage, 2015)
Comment Writer Jamie Aspden, a third year political science student at the University of Birmingham, argues that that the Conservative Party Conference was the conclusive sign that the government needs to change. A ‘wake-up call’ – read the article here: http://www.redbrick.me/comment/brexit/conservative-party-just-managing/. Some extracts follow.
“For the first time in decades Britain faces the possibility of a truly socialist government, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn”.
After referring to the lost majority and questionable DUP deal, a Cabinet at war with themselves, little good news along the way and detailing the conference mishaps Aspden comments, “Theresa May has just about managed to get through it, whilst being tripped up by countless political debacles”. He ends:
“If the Conservative Party wishes to keep its reputation as one of the oldest, greatest and most successful political parties in the free world, it needs to get its act together and fast. The cost of indecision is too high.
“The United Kingdom can no longer afford this brand of governance. As at this time, when it faces some of the greatest challenges since the Second World War: an ageing population, a changing climate and the departure from the EU, we need a, dare I say it, ’strong and stable’ government. One with innovative and inspired ideas, and with the unity and discipline needed to enact them. ‘Just about managing’ will no longer cut it.
“For the first time in decades Britain faces the possibility of a truly socialist government, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. A party which is ‘just about managing’ to hold itself together is of little use in the fight against such an opposition. Instead the party must unite and move forward as one. If not, the electorate will never forgive it for falling apart right at the moment it needed to come together.
“The country deserves and needs a government that succeeds, and it needs it now”.
“The current Labour party is made up of dangerous and sinister people”
Athar Yawar from Surbiton comments on Michael Stapleton’s assertion (Letters, September 30) that “the current Labour party is made up of dangerous and sinister people”. Has he ever met any Labour party members? I have. So far, none of them has struck me as especially dangerous or sinister.
Labour party membership has, of course, roughly tripled to 600,000 in the two years since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. Recent polls show that his policies are overwhelmingly popular with the British people.
Are the British people, as a whole, “dangerous and sinister”? Or do they recognise, in Mr Corbyn, a man of integrity, ability and compassion?
Kath Woodward from Worksop believes that the surprising and misjudged decision to call a general election was the result of Mrs May and her advisers failing to grasp the existing scale of substantive grassroots support for Mr Corbyn. She says that this has also been understated by the media’s insistent representation of the Labour leader as a “scruffy, rambling anti-hero”, to quote Nick Pearce.
She continues: “Mr Corbyn has ideas that need to be taken seriously, as they are by his many supporters and, I would have thought, by the Financial Times, in light of the crises of neoliberalism.“
Emma Jones from Abingdon comments on economist Martin Wolf’s warning that Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to put power “in the hands of the people” is “astonishingly close” to words spoken by Donald Trump on January 20 this year (“The calamitous consequences of Corbynomics”, October 6).
She ends: “It might be more worthwhile to point out that the leader of the opposition is one of Mr Trump’s most consistent British critics, and that the prospect of an independent foreign policy is a considerable part of Mr Corbyn’s current appeal”.
Note links are probably ‘paywalled’.
Mure Dickie in the Financial Times writes about the favourite to become the party’s next Scottish leader, Richard Leonard, who is regarded by Ladbrokes as the clear favourite to defeat Anas Sarwar.
Richard believes that a leftwing vision of greater economic planning, support for indigenous industry and redistribution of wealth could propel Labour into power in Scotland in just four years, as there is growing discontent with the SNP’s record in government since 2007.
Labour’s better than expected result in Scotland in this year’s general election showed that Mr Corbyn’s manifesto of extending public ownership, redistributing wealth and power, and reversing austerity resonated in Scotland, Leonard said.
He added that Scotland should use its devolved powers to greater economic effect, including giving trade unions a much greater influence over government efforts to develop workforce skills. Sectors such as renewable energy showed Scottish industry was not getting enough benefit from state support and investment, with big overseas-owned utilities dictating the terms of construction and operation: “I want to make the argument for less reliance on the market and a bit more planning in the economy”.
He suggested that Scotland’s ageing population requires a shift away from commercial and non-profit care provision on a scale akin to the creation of the National Health Service in the 1940s. “Personally I would prefer a socialised system in the public sector,” he said.
Mr Leonard, who won a regional list seat in the Scottish parliament only last year, is keen to find ways to promote employee ownership of companies, suggesting staff could be given the right to buy an enterprise when it is put up for sale, go through a succession or facing closure: “I want to see . . . whether we can look at the structures of the economy so that we are less prone to predatory takeovers”.
From the archives: Jeremy Corbyn writing in the Times: ‘Power to the people can tackle climate change’
Britain must empower citizen suppliers and direct private investment into green technology
In December 2015, Jeremy Corbyn wrote about the final phase in world leaders’ attempt to reach a deal to keep global warming below 2C. He agreed that such a deal would be an important step in the fight against climate change, even if the targets and mechanisms don’t go far enough. He continues:
But we need to look beyond Paris and ask ourselves more fundamental questions that the problem of global warming raises.
I believe that climate change is a problem of imagination — of the limits to our imagination. It cannot be solved unless we open up our imaginations, unless we begin to think, talk and act as if we cared about the future. This means we must use our imaginations to ask: what would our world look like if we allow global temperatures to rise by 2-3C? It would be a world with a hostile climate: more of the storms, flooding and droughts we have begun to see over the last few decades. Events such as the flooding in Cumbria this week will become more frequent — these are entirely consistent with scientists’ predictions.
Moreover, if we do not turn back this government’s austerity drive, our weakened public services will not be able to cope with the consequences of such events. Despite Cameron’s pledge that “money is no object” in dealing with flooding, savage cuts to public services and flood defences have left people vulnerable.
A world 2-3C warmer would also be a world of war, in which millions will be displaced and forced to migrate in search of peace and security.
However perilously close we may be to this world, we must also imagine the world we want to create. That world is a more equal world, a more just world, and a world in which where you live is based on the quality of the air you breathe. It is a world in which businesses are producing products and services we cannot yet imagine, but with lower energy and operating costs.
We want a world where governments shape rules that promote public goods — where they protect the ultimate public good of a stable climate in which humanity can survive and prosper. To do that, we need a state that invests.
We need an entrepreneurial, nimble state that neither wages war with markets nor bows in their presence, but shapes them. It is the rules set out by the state that allows markets to flourish.
This means we can shape competitive markets and shape the goods they produce, so that we can all start making the right choices for our future. We need carbon budgeting to be the centrepiece of trade and commerce, taking the planet back to sustainable levels of CO2 emissions.
Reader’s comment: Those with coal, nuclear, oil and gas interests will naturally dislike Corbyn’s approach and their pain during the transition process should be alleviated – though not at the expense of those experiencing the current costs of climate instability and dreading future displacement.
We can choose to follow Germany’s lead, transforming an energy market previously dominated by four big corporations into one with two million citizen-suppliers. Democracy in developing energy jobs: three quarters of all jobs in Germany’s energy transition are now involved in turning homes into “energy-zero buildings”.
Reader’s comment: A welcome change from the usual negativity about the Labour leader. True, Corbyn is no technician, but neither are his counterparts in the House. Industry experts will supply the substance and hope for a thriving renewable energy sector – see Germany, Denmark and other countries – notably Uruguay.
In the world we want, ordinary people, trade unions and businesses will have the power to shape the future they want, not just through government but because democracy is meaningful and real. How do we get to this world?
First, the transition must be just. Environmental politics must include people working in today’s economy. Governments must invest in the skills and technologies we need to take advantage of the millions of new jobs that the low-carbon sector can create, protecting working families in the transition.
Second, we must resist measures set out by our government that take us backwards. The Conservatives simply do not understand the huge opportunities that the low-carbon sector offers, or that investment and borrowing can enable future generations to contribute to the upfront costs of a fairer, greener world. They are blinded to simple economic logic: that now is the time to invest, when the cost of borrowing is as low as it ever has been.
Third, governments must not only commit public investment to cleaner energy and infrastructure, but channel private trillions too. They must use a range of policy levers to direct investment and shape markets.
Fourth, all of us — towns and cities, businesses and investors, activists and trade unions — must localise the production and consumption of energy. Already 6,500 towns and city regions in Europe have committed to becoming tomorrow’s sustainable cities. We must follow their lead. We must get organised, harnessing the extraordinary powers of connectivity humanity has developed for itself.
I was elected on a message of hope. Call for the world you want; do not accept the one you have. This is a world we can create for ourselves: through our collective efforts, through democracy and investment.
Labour’s support has grown because of Corbyn’s policies based on peace, respect and our shared humanity. And this vision goes beyond national boundaries to his vision of how we relate to the rest of the world. No longer Blair’s ‘war-fighting nation’, ‘punching above its weight’, but a decent part of a shared community of nations.
The wish-list: spot the contradictions!
- scrap Trident,
- scrap HS2 and replace with local rail infrastructure projects, scrap metro extensions where they take space used by buses,
- scrap government funding of Hinkley Point B,
- introduce a financial transactions tax,
- increase corporation tax,
- increase income tax for those at the top,
- build more council houses,
- stop funding private landlords with public money,
- scrap the public funding of free schools,
- allow local government to introduce investment bonds
- increase VAT to 25%,
- reduce corporation tax,
- keep income tax at current levels,
- close 10 universities and
- add more bands to council tax and revalue properties sensibly.
Can you add to this?
Three of many reasons for Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity:
- his care for the ‘ordinary person’,
- his ‘sufficient’ lifestyle
- and his freedom from the greed which leads many in the political landscape to ‘milk’ the system and promote decisions needed by moneyed interests.
It was retweeted by a friend and Greg Foxsmith neatly summarises: “Grayling is an MP who purports to want to cut public expenditure. However, when it comes to his own public expenditure, Chris likes to get as much of it as he can”.
Foxsmith refers readers to the Telegraph for more information. Grayling’s record on cutting access to legal aid and lack of concern about prison suicides adds charges of inhumane conduct to those of greed.
Apart from passing through the revolving door to industry and then returning to aid government’s decision-making process, civil servants feature in the news less frequently than MPs.
Award-winning investigative journalist David Hencke recently re-published information about top bonuses and pay rises for five of the most senior and well paid civil servants at the Department of Work and Pensions over the last two years, which appears in the annual report and accounts of the DWP released last month. Sir Robert Devereux, permanent secretary at the Department of Work and Pensions; Neil Couling, director general of universal credit; Jeremy Moore, director of strategy; Mayank Prakash, director general of digital technology and Andrew Rhodes, director of operations are all responsible in one way or another for the delivery of Universal Credit.
All but Andrew Rhodes are paid more than Theresa May, the PM, but are, nevertheless, receiving bonuses
This, even though their new Universal Credit programme is said to be in chaos – leaving some claimants without money for up to six weeks. MP Kevan Jones (Durham North) has described the bonuses of £10-20,000 as “a reward for failure”, based on its performance in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne pilot project.
Hencke ends, “What this shows to me is a growing disconnect between the people at the top – who are computer savvy, have nice centrally heated homes, no problems with bills, can afford expensive holidays, and can’t conceive of anyone not having a passport – designing a system for poor, dispossessed, desperate people without any understanding of how the world works for them.
“It was this disconnect between the elite and the poor in the USA that led to the rise of Donald Trump and I suspect this huge gulf between the Metropolitan elite (of which top Whitehall civil servants are part) and the provincial poor, is in the end going to propel Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street”.
Many see the need for more MPs who have lived for the public good, even using their basic salaries to do this (such as former Coventry MP Dave Nellist). Ideally numbers would increase to such an extent that they will be able to transform the country. A beginning? Four MPs (three Labour and one Conservative) resigned from the advisory board at the University of Bath in protest against its vice-chancellor’s £451,000 pay package.