The Cruddas affair has brought out the words that are becoming synonymous with this Government: ‘there will be an inquiry’. It would have been okay the first, second or third time. I might just have believed the pre-election rhetoric about cracking down on lobbying and preventing, in Cameron’s words, the “next big scandal”. However, it doesn’t matter how much you talk about change, it is actually making it that counts. It seems that the link between Tory funding and influence is too hard to break. This Government has been a constant obstacle to reform on party funding and even the minister in charge of reforming lobbying won’t open up his books regarding meetings he has had.
“An issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money.” – David Cameron
The tragedy of it all is that it isn’t even a hard thing to stop. All you need to introduce is one idea: transparency. If meetings between potential donors and the party had to be public and subject to Freedom of Information then the Cruddas’s of the world would find it very hard to pedal access to the politicians. If you take this idea further and allow access to private meetings between ministers and lobbyists/business representatives then you might finally curtail this damaging link between big money and influence. People might argue that these meetings are private and should be kept that way, but why? What can these ministers and businesses be discussing that can’t be in the public interest to know? It would certainly go a long way to restoring a little bit of trust in the Government.
“We don’t know who is meeting whom. We don’t know whether any favours are being exchanged. We don’t know which outside interests are wielding unhealthy influence.” – David Cameron
If Andrew Lansley’s numerous meetings with health related businesses were published I am sure people would be much more ready to accept that his policy was for the benefit of the people and not the business. Or maybe we wouldn’t, I can only imagine that this openness isn’t ever going to come about because there is something to hide. Andrew Lansley even thinks himself above the Information Commissioner by denying access to the NHS Risk Register so it is obvious that transparency and openness is something he is not going to beg for.
The lengths that some politicians go to avoid the eye of the current, rather limited, transparency is also concerning. Michael Gove went so far as to use a private Hotmail account with a woman’s name (I won’t judge what he does at the weekends) just to avoid the Freedom of Information act. I would think that if you don’t want the public to know it then you probably shouldn’t be saying it.
If our politicians want us to trust them, want us to engage in the issues and understand their policies then they need to drastically rethink how they operate. I know I couldn’t get a meeting with even a Junior Minister if I had concerns about how policy would affect me so how come those with the big money can?
It seems that the lobbyists have lobbied the Government out of stamping out lobbying.
Cruddas dug out the stock non-appology used by Dr Fox amongst others. He claimed he was sorry for:
“giving an impression of impropriety”
It is this ‘giving an impression’ that separates us humans from them politicians. No right thinking person ever apologises like that, it basically says ‘I did nothing wrong but sorry it looked like that’.
~When is right?~