The influence of lobbyists has, following the departure of Liam Fox over his association with Adam Werritty, been brought centre stage. So the Fourth Estate has been forced to wake up and cover the matter, typical being Andrew Pierce’s thundering headline “Malign power of men who peddle influence” in the Daily Mail. Pierce now tells that he knew of Werritty all along.
Pierce, sadly, homes in only on those paying for access to senior civil servants and ministers – something that can and possibly will become subject to closer scrutiny in future – telling readers of “lavish hospitality ... wining and dining mandarins ... days at the races ... opera ... sporting events”. He reminds Young Dave of the warning sounded by the future PM. But he misses the think tanks.
These, too, are lobby groups: they persistently push their line to a Government whose right leaning part is all too susceptible to the message conveyed. Their actual support is minimal. But the Government listens, and from that point leads a very dangerous road, where this ideologically driven yet unelected minority is prioritised over all others. Those paid for by the 1% overruling the 99%.
Anyone doubting those figures need look no further than two rallies that took place in London earlier this year. First came the March For The Alternative, organised by the TUC and which garnered around 500,000 supporters. The Government is not doing very much listening to the TUC right now, especially on public sector pay and pensions – and union reps’ facility time.
But being listened to rather more, especially on facility time, is the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), who promoted the Rally Against Debt as a counter to the TUC-organised event. Despite the support of a number of right and libertarian leaning pundits and bloggers, this damp squib managed a measly 350, including speakers, hacks and snappers.
So who are Eric Pickles and Francis Maude listening to? That’s right: the ones representing the 0.1%. Cameron is also making appreciative noises towards the TPA. The group now has a former staffer inside the DWP, and thus a conduit into the heart of the Government machine. And, as George Monbiot discovered recently, the TPA will still not tell who bankrolls them.
And all the while, the papers that churn over the TPA’s diet of slanted copy will say nothing about the influence they wield – or that wielded by the rest of the right-leaning think tanks, like the IEA, Policy Exchange, the ASI and the GWPF. The real lobbying scandal is that these groups are allowed to carry on as before, gaining influence without accountability. That is a truly dangerous prospect.