Let's make politicians display backers' logos

 

Amol Rajan
Thursday 24 November 2011 11:50
Comments
Chris Huhne's partner, the press agent Carina Trimingham.
Chris Huhne's partner, the press agent Carina Trimingham.

Not surprisingly, lobbying is back on the front pages only a few weeks after the resignation of Liam Fox. The former Defence Secretary, you may recall, had given extraordinary access and influence to his unelected friend Adam Werrity, a man in the pay of wealthy Tory donors. This used to be called cash for access.

Yesterday, the whiff of impropriety spread to Chris Huhne, a brilliant minister who has trouble avoiding scandal. His partner, Carina Trimingham, has been caught flaunting her "excellent contacts ... from Cabinet members to more junior members" in an emailed job application. In other words: pay me for access to the heart of government.

Meanwhile, the front of yesterday's Financial Times screamed: "Bankers accused of dishonest lobbying". Bankers are guilty of many things, and this may seem to be the least of their sins. But their vile purchase of lax regulation, through secret meetings and liquid lunches claimed on the company expenses, is a disgrace. Robert Jenkins of the Financial Policy Committee put it well: "A profession which should stand for integrity and prudence now supports a lobbying strategy that exploits misunderstanding and fear".

Lobbying is legalised bribery. Its growth in the past two decades has been phenomenal. In opposition, David Cameron said lobbying is the next big scandal. But across Western democracies, the scandal is already here. My second most depressing statistic of the year was $2.3bn (£1.5bn): how much American financial services spent on lobbying – more than agriculture, transport, health energy and defence combined. My most depressing statistic was 7,000: the number of lobbyists or media representatives at the Tory conference, as against 4,000 party members.

Journalism has been starved of cash by the internet. Politics is starved of honour by scandal. To fill those holes in our knowledge economy, lobbying and PR have grown fat. The number of brilliant young graduates who now "strategise" for suited, corporate schmucks is terrifying. Or go to any media awards ceremony, where you can't move for oleaginous, pinstriped losers who, rather than producing brilliant journalism, buy influence for their clients with promises of hospitality.

Some forms of lobbying – such as for charities – are less reprehensible. And a forthcoming review, proposing a register of interests, might help eradicate this cancer. In the meantime, however, I have a solution, pinched from the blogosphere. Force politicians to dress like Formula One drivers, with emblazoned logos of every large private donor, bank, real estate group, insurance firm and corporate toad they take money from. Perhaps then they'll think twice about doing it.

Follow @amolrajan

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in