The political scene in London is awash with controversy with Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing an uncertain future, according to newspapers and the media.
The root of this latest political upheaval is political lobbying. There is nothing wrong with lobbying so long as it is fair and part of the democratic process. The problem is that elected representatives too often receive financial or contractual rewards to use their influence.
Citizens, or organisations representing citizens, are a vital pillar of what I recently heard described as our capitalist democracy. As one Member of the Westminster parliament said in an interview on Friday in response to the Johnson U-turn upheaval: “Our democracy is fraying”.
He was referring to the UK but his point is relevant to the entire western world. Lobbying and hidden financial agendas have rocked the United States in recent years, and have contributed to the election success of the current President Joe Biden.
France, Germany, Austria et al have all witnessed scandal after scandal involving what the man in the street would term “backhanders”. Lobbying scandals regularly arise across the world. More importantly the European institutions have been bedevilled by outright, hidden or suspected corrupt lobbying practices for many years.
As someone whose career began in old time Fleet Street (for those unfamiliar with the term, the place in London where our national newspapers were once based) when today’s practices of politicians and public servants would have led to front page exposures. I find today’s reporting suspiciously indicative of some sort of involvement.
Questionable? Well here is a personal statement of fact: I was trained, taught and had the principal ingrained in me that it would be immoral to denigrate an employer excepting when someone were to be deliberately flouting the law. So, I cannot, and will never, expose who indulged the practices I found to be going on in the European Parliament when I worked there.
I did later expose some of what went on in the European Commission, Parliament and various sectors of the EU legislation system. Suffice to say that many MEPs, officials and Brussels based journalists wore two hats. That is to say they were being paid or bribed to vote, to adapt legislation or to lobby.
When I arrived in Brussels – to recount by rough estimates – the accredited press numbered some 1200 to 1500 (from memory). Today lobbyists are estimated at more than 25,000 with a combined budget of some €3 billion while journalists have dropped well under 1000 – serving 27 member states and the rest of the world – and some two thirds are allegedly receiving corporate renumeration. It is partly poor pay for both freelances and staff journalists that has led to this. It gives credence to the idea that lack of money is the root of all evil.
Doubt? How is it that legislation being voted through the different political groups in the EP is sometimes identical? This brings us to greed or the Love of Money is the root of all evil as stated in the Bible (Timothy 6: 10).
The EU and its member states are awash with lobbying funding that is not available to ordinary citizens. The Commission has for years been making announcements about dealing with it as has the European Parliament. Does anything change? Not significantly.
The problem is that giant corporations have become so powerful that government without their approval is becoming ever less feasible. This introduces the term ‘demagogue’ and should remind us that ancient Athens suffered from just that. For example the figure of Alcibiades a rich man who eroded basic freedoms and helped drive Athens into calamitous military adventures in Sicily.
The Northern Ireland Protocol is not a unique issue if dispute in Europe today but those negotiating this and other matters on both sides, but particularly those representing the EU, should study the possible vested interests of particular lobbies and consider what the consequences of trade conflict might be especially, for example, in respect of defence.
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