Many people will be aware of the corrupting influence of Big Business on our government, but this is now being taken to a new level with the latest trend for party leaders to hire corporate gurus to run their election campaigns. It was Tony Blair who introduced the whole idea of ‘spin’, assisted by his henchman Alastair Campbell, but at least Alastair Campbell had a genuine interest in the Labour Party, and a genuine belief in its policies. Now party leaders hire professional lobbyists and PR consultants, who will work for whoever pays them the most, whose only loyalty is to themselves, and who invariably use their new-found political influence to alter legislation for the benefit of their corporate clients.
So we have David Cameron hiring Lynton Crosby, a £500,000/year consultant from Australia who has been called the “master of the dark political arts”. Shortly after his arrival at No. 10 David Cameron dropped plans for minimum pricing on alcohol, opted against plain packaging on cigarettes, and gave tax breaks to fracking companies.* The fact that Lynton Crosby’s consultancy counts Distillers (alcohol), Phillip Morris (tobacco), and Dart Energy (fracking) amongst its corporate clients, left many people gasping with incredulity. He also has business interests in the Healthcare Industry just as the Tories are pushing ahead with privatising the NHS. Co-incidence?
Not to be outdone, this week Ed Milliband announced he was hiring American David Axelrod (who previously worked for Barack Obama), as his election adviser, on a six-figure salary. Mr Axelrod is notorious for an advertising campaign he ran in the United States, where it was claimed consumers and small businesses were lobbying for energy companies to be allowed to charge higher prices, in order to guarantee energy security. It later turned out the ‘consumers’ were none other than the energy companies themselves, who conceived the advertising as a way to persuade the public to pay more. Despite widespread condemnation, Mr Axelrod’s company, ASK Public Strategies, benefited to the tune of £8m from that dishonest campaign.*
And finally the Lib-Dems, where Nick Clegg has hired South African political strategist Ryan Coetzee as his £110,000/year special adviser. As well as causing controversy by being paid with taxpayers‘ money, Mr Coetzee has also been accused of improperly awarding commercial contracts while carrying out a similar role for the government in South Africa*. One South African source said that Mr Coetzee ‘specialises in blurring the lines between political work, civil service work and commercial work.’
What all these appointments signify is a trend away from any attempt at government for the people, with policies for the common good, but instead show new heights of corruption of the democratic process. And it is absolutely clear that unless we all do something very soon, the takeover of our democracy by corporate interests will be complete, and ordinary people will be little better than slaves in a world ruled exclusively by money and big business.
*Refs: Lynton Crosby: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/lobbying-scandal-ex-watchdog-tells-david-2100461 David Axelrod: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2608117/Labour-hires-Obama-spin-chief-backed-higher-energy-bills-Axelrod-led-campaign-behalf-power-giants.html Ryan Coetzee: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2608707/Cronyism-probe-Nick-Cleggs-controversial-election-strategists-role-4million-deal.html