The Thick of It

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt look rather silly today after being caught on camera boasting about how they could influence government policy for money.

Lobbying has happened for a long time. It isn't new. There are 61 companies registered with trade body the Association for Professional Political Consultants who represent the lobbying industry. The industry has largely been self regulating to date though the current backlash against politicians following expenses means that Hoon, Hewitt and Byers' antics won't be popular with voters.

Neither is it new for politicians to seek lucrative employment making money out of their connections once their political career has peaked. A high profile example is former Prime Minister John Major is working for the Carlyle Group.

What has changed is people's attitude to money. This might be an effect of the recession. The fact that it is now news may be a good thing for the long term probity of politics because it shows that people are becoming less tolerant of people making money for the sake of it and distorting the political process at the same time. If we have a system where those with the deepest pockets get what they want at the expense of those who can't afford to pay confidence in democracy will be hit.

That these particular three former Labour ministers have been caught red-faced won't worry too many Labour members. They have never been well liked. The bigger impact will be felt on the doorstep where voters will tire of another piece of the political block of confidence being chipped away. Remember that Hoon and Hewitt were also behind the January failed coup against Gordon Brown. This affair and particularly Byers' boasting on camera smacks of fallen stars trying to prove to their egos that they still matter. Unfortunately their latest intervention could mean that ordinary members will face the backlash from voters at the doorstep.

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