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Barbara Panvel reports on a fledgeling movement to combat the VIPs - vested interests in politics.

On the 30th of July last year an article in The Stirrer article ended with a rather despairing question: “Will anyone find the will and energy needed to campaign for beneficial change, making our political-economic-social systems ‘fit for purpose’?” (see link here)

Most of us will soon forget the recording and video of peers discussing the acceptance of fees to amend laws in the House of Lords on behalf of business clients . . . but the good news is that a few are willing to go further.

A couple of weeks ago I found out that a visitor from Wales has the nerve, energy and passion to challenge the effect of vested interest in politics – VIP – and I’ll be glad to help her.

This is not a lone voice: UNISON has publicly said that tighter rules are needed to prevent ex-ministers moving into important roles as advisers to private sector companies now supplying public services, via the “public services industry” worth £80bn a year.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade [CAAT] project: 'Lock the Revolving Door' is highlighting the political influence of the arms industry.

Its list of military men, ministers, diplomats, civil servants and government advisors passing through the revolving door between government and the arms industry makes compelling reading.

Even the government’s own Public Administration Select Committee [PASC] chaired by West Midlands MP Dr Tony Wright, acknowledges that reform of lobbying is necessary: “There is a public interest in knowing who is lobbying whom about what.” Do nothing, the report warns, and public mistrust of Government will increase, fuelled by the perception that Government listens to - and is influenced by - favoured groups like big business more than the British public.

Two key reforms are proposed:

  • Government must introduce a register of all lobbying activity.
  • A tougher system must be introduced to tackle the revolving door between the public and private sector.

VIP takes a more absolute line: corporate lobbying and large donations to party funds should stop and individuals, whether teachers, drivers, bankers, newsagents, plumbers or company directors, should approach their MPs through the usual channels.

Other allies will be AGNI (Action for Good Governance and Networking in India). ( With other NGOs and groups, AGNI prepares draft citizens' manifestos for elections. Regardless of political affiliation they support candidates with a known source of income, the ability to grasp issues of civic governance, no criminal record and who are prepared to reveal assets.

Transparency International - - operates on a regional basis. Its global priorities are the fight against corruption:

  • Corruption in politics
  • Corruption in public contracting
  • Corruption in the private sector

However, unless the public consistently expresses its anger at undue influence, nothing will change and government will retain its current priorities.

If we later live near radioactive or dioxin fallout, find out that eating GM food is as bad for us as it has been for animals in clinical trials or are bedevilled by aircraft noise day and night, we will only have ourselves to blame.



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