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The implications of Werrity

The Werrity saga gets murkier. In particular, apart from any personal matters, did he profit from his friendship with Fox? If he went with Fox on 19 of his trips around the world in the past 18 months, why did nobody in the civil service blow the whistle that something suspicious might be going on, contrary to the Ministerial code? As an ex-Minister who has experienced the very close contact that officials keep with Ministers on foreign trips, I ask how could some of these meetings have taken place without the relevant officials knowing, or if they did know, why did they take no action to get the Permanent Secretary to rein in Fox? Who paid for Werrity’s trips, and why didn’t MoD officials check up on this to get at what was going on beneath the surface? But even all that is not the real point.

The real lessons of this saga is the increased professionalisation of lobbying activity, the enormous expansion of lobbying companies, the growth of in-house government relations units in large corporations, and the secrecy with which they can operate without any public regulation. There is now an inside track in the corporate world who wield privileged access and disproportionate influence because of the amount of money they are able to bring to bear on the political process.

What is more insidious is that the subjects of lobbying are not only direct contractual gain from government procurement, but the influencing of government negotiating positions in the EU and WTO designed to yield long-term commercial advantage irrespective of the public interest. Thus rules developed by the WTO to open up public services to private providers and to limit the range of permitted environmental and social regulation have largely been the product of lobbying by business coalitions.

Domestically the bankers and the City of London have the closest of contacts into the Treasury and the Bank of England, and have as a result been repeatedly successful in preventing reform of their structure, activities and rewards. That’s why the Vickers report was such a milk-and-water document, why bonuses have not been capped, why banks have escaped scotfree from any punishment or recoupment of the colossal taxpayer bailout, and why next to no reform has been carried out 4 years after the financial crash to prevent it happening all over again – though of course the fact that the City of London provides half of the Tory Party’s donations also helps.

2 Comments

  1. redmik says:

    Derek Draper eat your heart out !

    (Although it was reported that he was staying at the ‘Conference’ hotel with all the Party bigwigs in Liverpool a couple of weeks back. Seems he has been successfully rehabilitated.)

    I’ve just checked the Power Commission Report of 2006 and find that recommendation No.10 calls for: “Ministerial meetings with representatives of business including lobbyists should be logged and listed on a monthly basis”, and No.28 does the same for ‘campaign groups and their representatives’.

    It seems Helena Kennedy’s team’s suggestions were much too strong a meat for the Blair government of the day and they were ignored – as were most of the other very constructive ideas which were suggested.

    Yet another lost opportunity.

  2. Sean Swan says:

    A can of worms is opening up. Have a read of this from the Guardian
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/oct/15/liam-fox-resignation-exposes-tories

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