Lady Summerisle (strange_complex) wrote,
Lady Summerisle
strange_complex

What you can do about Peter Cruddas and his ilk

So I assume we all know by now that Tory party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas has been caught out by the Sunday Times offering businesses direct personal access to David Cameron for a minimum donation of £100,000. This BBC news article has the video if you haven't seen it. And just to be absolutely clear that this is not simply a matter of a few hand-shakes and photo-ops, let's take particular notice of this phrase from Cruddas' sales-pitch:
"If you're unhappy about something, we will listen to you and put it into the policy committee at number 10 - we feed all feedback to the policy committee."

Lobbying is a perfectly normal part of a functional and healthy democracy. It's what you do when you write to your MP, what campaign groups like Equal Marriage do when they organise petitions, and what business leaders do when they arrange meetings with ministers to express their concerns about current government policy. The problem with cases like the current Peter Cruddas scandal is that access to policy-makers is being arranged behind closed doors and being used as a money-making exercise which excludes those who can't afford to pay for it from the process.

This is why a full, robust and transparent lobbying register is needed, so that we can all see who exactly is talking to ministers, how much they are paying for the privilege and what they are saying.

As it happens, prompted by previous scandals of this nature, the government has recently published proposals for such a register. But their proposals represent a poor shadow of what's actually needed for real transparency, covering only lobbying done by agencies (roughly a quarter of the industry) and not directly by firms' in-house lobbyists (the other three-quarters), and recording only the minimum level of information about their meetings. This is why Unlock Democracy are currently campaigning for a full and effective lobbying register to be introduced, rather than the sop which is currently on the table.

If you'd like to lend your voice to that campaign, please take two minutes to sign Unlock Democracy's letter calling for a full lobbying register here.

You can also read more about their campaign, including details on how to contribute directly to the public consultation on lobbying, here.

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Tags: electoral reform, politics
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