Saturday, April 16, 2016

Westminster: Behind Closed Doors

And while we are on the subject of democracy, do you get the feeling that we are all equal and in this together, but some are more equal and influential than others?

After the cash for questions and expenses scandals, then leader of the opposition, David Cameron, described lobbying as the next political scandal in waiting. And so it came to pass that David became Prime Minister and enacted the Lobbying bill.

Meanwhile, the previous scandals of cash for questions and expenses don’t seem to want to go away, and we now have the additional revelations of the Panama Papers and British overseas tax havens. So on the anniversary of the introduction of the UK lobbying register, let’s have a look to see how it’s working (or not!). Here’s a little quiz to take you through the still secretive world of lobbying supplied by Unlock Democracy. Click on the picture to take the quiz.

Find out who’s been lobbying on fracking and the sugar tax - and who’s missing from the register. Is lobbying still “the next big scandal waiting to happen” or has David Cameron fixed things for good? Spoiler alert - he hasn’t! Most people don’t know how much lobbying still goes on in secret.


On 27th April 1961, President John F. Kennedy gave a speech before the American Newspaper Publishers Association. It included this:
The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

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