Transparent Lobbying

When I lived in the US, I was appalled at how commercial interests seem able to alter government policy at their will, corporations are now so powerful that senators have to bow down to them if they want the support of their workers to gain re-election. For a great insight into how it works, I highly recommend Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, which is disturbing in many ways but the lobbying of the food industry and how it has shaped US politics is scary.

Recently, the Digital Economy bill here in the UK seems to have shown how powerful it is in this country, with MP’s voting on issues that they plainly failed to understand, making statements in parliament that caused geeks like me to stare dumbfounded at our screens in sheer incredulity at the lack of knowledge they displayed with their pronouncements. Discovering that secret lobbying is perfectly legal here just continues the old ‘cash for questions’ legacy which suggests that if  you have enough money you can change/influence policy.

Well, with a general election just 4 weeks away, the action group 38 Degrees which helps engage people with making changes to issues that affect the UK, are encouraging people to write to their candidates and ask about their opinions on secret lobbying. I’ve been encourages and inspired by my friends to try and become a bit more politically involved so this is the letter I just sent off to mine. It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, reply I receive.

Dear Sir,

after the recent debacle of the Digital Economy Bill, where it became ever more apparent that the MP’s voting on the issue appeared to have little knowledge about the issues involved, as seen in their clear misunderstandings of digital terminology and ignorance of what’s actually involved in putting their proposals into practice, it seems to me as though there is considerable lobbying pressure from financially motivated businesses pushing for laws that are only in their own commercial interests and not in that of the public.

Looking into this recently, I’ve been appalled to find that, right now, it’s perfectly legal for companies/interest groups to secretly lobby the government and that there is no way for the public to stay informed about this. Given the size of some corporate interests, I find this very worrying and believe it to be completely undemocratic. It continues in the vein of ‘cash for questions’ and suggests that if you have enough money you can influence parliamentary decisions.

With the general election just a few weeks away I would be interested in your views on this and whether you would state whether you intend to oppose secret lobbying in the future.

Thank you for your time,

Justin Peer.

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