Socialist Worker

Policies for sale? Cameron's in a crisis over lobbying scandal

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2363

Home of democracy - or sleazy lobbying by big business?

Home of democracy - or sleazy lobbying by big business? (Pic: (Pic: UK Parliament/flickr))


David Cameron stepped up plans to privatise the NHS just months after hiring an advisor who had links to private healthcare companies.

Lobbyist Lynton Crosby’s PR firm, Crosby Textor Fullbrook, advised a group of businesses looking to cash in on Tory attacks on the NHS.

The group was called H5. It is now called the Association of Independent Healthcare Organisations.

Crosby’s firm provided polling that could help the group overcome public opposition to them taking work away from the NHS.

Cameron then hired him in November last year. 

Three months later the government brought forward regulations to force health chiefs to invite private companies to bid for work.

Crosby has a long record of influencing politics. He introduced what is known as “wedge” politics into Australia.

The wedge aims to split groups away from an opponent’s party by sending messages on issues that stir emotions, such as race, immigration or taxes.

In Australia that meant whipping up racism and building up prejudice against Aboriginal rights.

Crosby is a firm believer in “dog whistle politics”. He advised Tory Boris Johnson’s team for the London mayoral election.

Apparently his advice was to focus on traditional Conservative voters instead of “fucking Muslims”.

Influence

Crosby’s influence seems to be impressive.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt dropped plans to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes last week. The government says there is no concrete evidence to support it.

Crosby’s firm is a consultant to the tobacco industry. 

It helped tobacco bosses fiercely oppose this same policy in Australia.

The Tories also dropped a plan to bring in minimum pricing of alcohol apparently for the same reason—lack of evidence.

In a remarkable coincidence, Crosby also represents the drinks industry that campaigned against minimum pricing in Australia.

Chancellor George Osborne slashed corporation tax on fracking firms from 62 per cent to 30 percent last week.

Crosby just so happens to represent the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, an oil and gas lobby group campaigning for fracking.

Cameron said Crosby is not employed by the government but by the Conservative Party for just one day a week. The Tories are paying Crosby £200,000 a year.

Meanwhile Cameron has said there will be a register of third parties “lobbying on behalf of others” to try and diffuse the scandal.

This wouldn’t help us find out more about lobbying. Because if you declare that the main part of your business is something other than lobbying, consultancy for instance, you don’t have to join the register.


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