Saturday, September 29, 2007

Lobby horses

When we at the awards recently (have I mentioned that?) we were give a conducted tour of the two Houses, which are connected by the lobby. This is where you can go an grab your MP and get a word in.

Hence, I guess, the origins of the word 'lobby'. Like most things it seems to have moved on a bit and, like most things, I have mixed feelings.

Nobody can be denied the right to speak their piece and, I guess, if those with a bit more wonga can drum up a few more to express then I guess that's democracy in a capitalist society.

Where I am erring on being put offside is when this has all turned into an industry and money, in some form or other (from withdrawal of support for, say, jobs in a community to unmarked tenners in a brown envelope) is used to effect some influence on a voting pattern.

Of course I'm sop naive to see how this can happen, does happen and is very difficult to police.

So I cranked the old eyebrow on getting this (no link that I could see):


Green Party Principal Speaker Dr. Derek Wall today questioned how
'green' the Tory Party can be given their links to big business,
especially the oil lobby, after it was revealed that the UK Petroleum
Industry are sponsoring a 'Tory Green Initiative' event at the
upcoming Tory conference. (1)

Dr Wall said: "Crucial to any real action on climate change are
polices that will reduce our reliance on fossil based fuels, and so
curb our emissions.

"But this is at odds with the needs of the oil lobby, who rely on our
addiction to oil to keep their profits booming.

"If the government got serious about tackling climate change,
companies like Shell would see a stark drop in their profits.

"How can the Tory party be expected to understand, or even agree with
that premise when they are hob-nobbing with organisations like the UK
Petroleum Industry at their conference?

"UK PIA are sponsoring the Tory Green Initiative dinner at their
forthcoming conference. Chris Hunt, the CEO of PIA will speak
alongside John Gummer, Chairman of the recent Tory Quality of Life
report. (1)

"This comes as no surprise, the Tories have long been the party of
big business,with a soft spot for fossil fuels. Alan Duncan, Shadow
Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform,
worked as a trader of oil and refined products with Shell.

"But it isn't just the Tories whose ability to make policies that
focus on tackling climate change is compromised, the Lib Dems are
also finding it hard going.

"Deputy Leader Vince Cable used to be Chief Economist for the oil
company Shell!"

(1) Please see

Now the thing is, in trying to be objective, I could point out that the Guardian Climate Change Summit was in fact sponsored mainly by Shell. On the one hand yes, you could say at least they were trying to make an effort, or on the other it was just a bit of greenwashing. Thing is, they got slaughtered on the day, so I think we could perhaps allow folk the opportunity to make their own minds up on a sponsor's motives so long as the agenda stays clear and open. Hob-nobbing is fine. Nobbling is not. To deny the former is a silly step too far, and in any case would only encourage the latter to happen behind much darker doors.

Equally, tackling the player and not the ball is also counter-productive. OK, Mr. Cable used to be employed by Shell. Maybe he has 'links'; maybe he does not. It would surely be better to judge him on his actions as a Lib Dem pol than allude to old allegiances in such a vague way.