Our political system is corrupted.
There is a palpable sense among many people that government now works, in large part, for the benefit of large corporations and the finance sector rather than in the interests of citizens.
Lobbying has been central to this.
The business of influencing government – commercial lobbying – is dominated by narrow, corporate interests. They have rigged the system in their favour. They are inside the tent helping to make decisions.
This is how David Cameron put it in 2010:
'We all know how it works. The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisers for hire, helping big busi- ness find the right way to get its way... I believe that secret corporate lobbying... goes to the heart of why people are so fed up with politics. It arouses people’s worst fears and suspicions about how our political system works, with money buying power, power fishing for money and a cosy club at the top making decisions in their own interest. It is increasingly clear that lobbying in this country is getting out of control. We can’t go on like this.'
Lobbying is by no means the most significant challenge facing the UK government. But unless the influence industry is tackled, there is little hope of dealing with the big issues facing the country.
Lobbying is the ‘gateway’ problem.
Think of any number of issues facing the country and then ask this: how likely is it that this government, or any government, is going to take the necessary steps to tackle it in the wider public interest? Energy security and climate change; public health problems; dwindling tax receipts and the resulting pressure on public services; the rising cost of living and the fall in real terms in pay; a stable banking sector that serves the economy and not itself. The lobbies that dominate these areas of policy – the oil and energy companies, the sugar-heavy-drinks industry, the tax haven crowd, the employers lobby and the banks – benefit from the status quo.