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Thursday 11 September 2014

EXCLUSIVE Business For Britain Smearing CBI

Regular visitors to Zelo Street will remember Business for Britain, which, as I’ve noted, is in reality the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) under another name. Whereas the TPA claims to want a better deal for taxpayers, but in reality seeks to undermine Government, Business for Britain claims to want a better deal from the EU, but in reality seeks to undermine and demonise it.
As the two organisations are in reality the same, it should come as no surprise that their modus operandi is also the same. “Reports” and “Analysis” are underpinned by Freedom of Information (FoI) fishing expeditions, the figures generated aggregated into truly Scary Numbers to show that money is being “wasted” – or, as in this case, to discredit the targeted organisation.

Which organisation might that be? In this case, it is the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which has in the past committed the heinous sin of talking and co-operating with Trades Unions: the TPA and pals much prefer groups like the IoD. So Business for Britain “research director” Oliver Lewis has been on an FoI trawl to find out what public bodies pay to the CBI. Here is a sample of his email.

Dear Sir/Madam,
I am writing to obtain information about the amount your organisation pays to the Confederation of British Industry and its subsidiaries.

Please provide the amount paid to the CBI (and its regional subsidiaries) 
(a) in membership fees 
(b) fees for one off conferences or other events and 
(c) fees paid to the CBI for any other services. 
Please make clear if the response includes payments from any Non-Departmental Public Bodies, Executive Agencies etc which fall under the department and please provide a breakdown of what payments came from which agency/body. 
Please provide this information for the period 2009-2014 set out by calendar or financial year.
If you are unable to provide all of this information within the time/cost limit please work up to the limit focusing on membership fees.”
Many thanks
Oliver Lewis,  
Research Director, Business for Britain  
55 Tufton Street, London, SW1P 3QL
+44 (0) 20 7340 6044
+44 (0) 78 6781 1698

It may look innocuous, but the information thus gathered will be used to tell anyone listening – and this is bound to include the right-leaning part of the press – that the CBI has been disqualified from any debate on the EU because it has been getting money from public bodies, and especially those which, as Business for Britain will tell, have an interest in the UK’s EU membership.

Forget the fact that some of the fees revealed will be for professional services – in other words, a normal commercial relationship. Business for Britain is behaving exactly as the TPA would do: an FoI trawl, the purpose of which is not admitted to those from whom information is solicited, to support a conclusion that has already been reached, and a “report” that has already mostly been written.

I would like to think that Oliver Lewis, Robert Oxley or the great Matthew “Gromit” Elliott would be big enough to explain themselves here. But I am also realistic enough to know that they can’t, and so they won’t. Meanwhile, the CBI should consider itself warned: any intervention it makes into the debate on EU membership is about to be smeared by a TPA offshoot.

Business for Britain failed the Duck Test. Now you can see what that means.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

TPA have done a similar FOI trawl and managed to fill newsprint about the number of full time Union reps employed in the public sector.

Bottom line is not many, but they throw around figures of millions to make the 'wasted' amount seem extortionate.