Sunday, 14 November 2010

This is why companies pay lobbyists

There are thousands of lobbyists employed to influence government policy at UK level. Some will be from charities and pressure groups but the vast majority - and the ones with the ability to wine and dine - are those employed by the large corporations.

Why do they bother to wine and dine obscure opposition MPs, you may think?

This story lays bare the reality.

Two paragraphs from Felicity Lawrence's excellent expose in the Guardian sum it all up. She describes a Tory meeting in 2009, laughably called the Public Health Commission, that was made up of leading members of the food and drink industry as well as Tory politicians:

Mark Leverton, policy director of Diageo, manufacturer of leading vodka, whisky and beer brands, joined them by phone.
Diageo, in fact, had closer links with the Lib Dems than the Conservatives – its corporate relations director, Ian Wright, was one of three people who paid donations directly into Nick Clegg's personal bank account to fund a researcher

Such meetings are part of a coordinated campaign by such bodies and this one has paid off with interest:

It must have felt like a new dawn for the food and drinks industries. After more than four years of determined and co-ordinated lobbying, they were about to achieve the corporate PR agency dream: being invited to write the policy themselves. And, if the Conservatives won the election, in Lansley they would have a health secretary who understood them.

He not only subscribed to the libertarian view that public health should be more a matter of personal responsibility than government action; he bought in to the whole pro-business PR view of the world. (At that time, Lansley was a paid director of the marketing agency Profero, whose clients have included Pepsi, Mars, Pizza Hut and Diageo's Guinness. He gave up the directorship at the end of 2009.)

These are the kind of politicians who we're regularly told "have experience of industry". Yeah, right.

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