For once David Cameron was right when he previously claimed lobbying was “the next big scandal waiting to happen”.
First top Tory MP Patrick Mercer failed to register thousands in payments to work for a lobbying firm.
The former intelligence officer was previously sacked by Cameron after defending racism in the army.
Mercer set up a group of MPs to promote the interests of Fiji for cash. One MP joined it not for the money, but so he and his wife could get a holiday in Fiji.
Lord Laird, ex-cabinet minister Lord Cunningham and former senior police officer Lord Mackenzie were also caught out. They offered to use their influence to help a solar panel firm.
Laird said on tape, “I’ll deny having said this, but it’s a bribe.”
Cunningham offered a personal lobbying service for £12,000 a month. He said, “Are you suggesting £10,000 a month? Make that... £12,000 a month. I think we could do a deal on that.”
The former New Labour enforcer’s father went to jail in for his part in the Poulson corruption scandal in the 1970s.
Mackenzie said for cash he would ask questions and approach ministers to “bend their ears”.
Some 80 passes to the House of Commons have been suspended pending investigations into All-Party Parliamentary Groups by the Commons standards committee.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds flows into these parliamentary groups. They include:
- Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety paid for by Volvo, Direct Line and Michelin Tyres
- All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group paid for by Molson Coors, Greene King and Carlsberg.
- Parliamentary Internet and Communications Technology Forum paid for by Motorola, Vodafone and Fujitsu.
- All-Party Parliamentary group for the Armed Forces paid for by BAE Systems, Babcock International and Lockheed Martin.
None of these are breaking any rules and this isn’t seen as corruption by the establishment.
Nor is the meeting of the Bilderberg Group—an annual gathering of royalty, politicians and bosses taking place this week in Watford.
Guests include George Osborne, Ed Balls and Ken Clarke, who also sits on the group’s steering committee.
Others include Lord Mandelson, and the bosses of Google and HSBC.
So, it is a sick joke that the government’s response to the scandal has been to try and tighten rules of how trade unions spend money on politics.
The government plans to end self-certification of union membership, requiring unions to carry out costly annual audits of their members.
The costs of third-party leaflet printing as well as staffing overheads will be included in the £19 million cap on campaign spending in the year before a general election.
This is aimed at cutting the amount the unions can spend on Labour.
Bizarrely some have claimed the MPs should be paid more to stop corruption.
But MPs on £66,396-a-year are already in the top 3 percent income bracket without the bribes. And the vermin in ermine get £300 every day they bother to turn up.
Around them swarm hundreds of lobbyists. Dinners and receptions, trips and parliamentary passes are the currency of a foul trade which is all about increasing access for the bosses.
The bosses are presented as one lobby group among many that enter the political field as equals. In reality, they are economically vastly more powerful than the rest of us.
Payments are the way business is done—and the way business does politics. It is how they hoover up the contracts of privatised companies and push for tax loopholes.
There is a revolving trough between lobbyists and the politicians.