Tag Archives: big business

Labour ‘for sale’ as it cosies up to big business

Angela Rayner: she once denounced lobbyists acting as advisers to Tory government ministers; now her own electoral ‘battle bus’ is sponsored by a lobbyist and Labour is riddled with lobbyists advising shadow ministers on behalf of their clients.

Those of you who still think voting for Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is a good idea need to ask yourselves: who will this party be working for – you, or the big businesses that are buying influence over Labour in advance of the general election?

Solomon Hughes has exposed the increasing influence of some of the worst big businesses on Labour, in Tribune magazine, writing:

Keir Starmer says he wants to clean up politics. Instead, he has facilitated a lobbyist takeover of the Labour Party, where predatory gambling firms, big oil and gig economy giants are buying influence at our expense.

In 2020 the Labour Party issued a press release in which its deputy leader, Angela Rayner, ripped into the Conservative government over ‘reports that lobbyists have been secretly serving as advisers to government ministers and departments’ and other revelations of ‘cronyism’ around ‘businesses and individuals with close links to the Conservative Party’. Rayner said it showed there was ‘one rule for lobbyists and their paying clients and another rule for the rest of us’.

This press release has been deleted from Labour’s website, along with all other pre-2022 notices. But Rayner’s own ‘battle bus’ is now ‘sponsored’ and part-funded by a Labour-connected lobbyist.

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According to the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, Pentland Communications, a lobbying firm set up in 2018 by Barrie Cunning, paid Labour HQ £6,000 to fund Rayner’s ‘campaigning’, including ‘the provision of a branded vehicle’, a camper van with the slogan ‘Rayner on the Road’. Since August, Labour’s deputy leader has been using it for campaigning.

Pentland represents big housebuilders like Barratt. Rayner’s responsibilities include Labour housing policy. Pentland says it can help firms achieve ‘commercial objectives’ using its ‘good political relationships’. Paying for Rayner’s battle bus can’t hurt those ‘relationships’.

Pentland says other political events are also business opportunities. It tells clients that each party conference also ‘provides a good opportunity’ to meet politicians ‘in both formal and informal settings and have those important conversations’.

Rayner’s apparent reversal shows how Labour has fully embraced the corporate lobbying it denounced as ‘cronyism’ when it applied to the Conservatives. Concerns about corruption have disappeared as Labour pursues the intense lobbying that has come along with its lead in the polls.

The article goes on to suggest that “‘centrist’ politicians denouncing corporate corruption when in the opposition wallow in it when in government”. And it says:

Cameron highlighted how the ‘revolving door’ of ex-ministers and ex-advisers ‘for hire’ is key to lobbying. Labour has gone further, accepting lobbyists as its current officials. Abdi Duale was elected to Labour’s National Executive last September on the ‘moderate’ slate. The same month Duale became a director at FTI, a lobbying firm. FTI also employs former Labour MP Gemma Doyle, a director of key Labour ‘moderate’ group Progressive Britain. FTI offer clients ‘direct advocacy’ with ‘elected and appointed policymakers’. FTI’s recent clients include Palantir, the American spy-tech firm that is chasing contracts in the NHS.

The list goes on and on:

At the last Labour conference, Alice Perry won a seat on the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC). Typically for Labour, this dull-sounding body has significant power: it decides what debates Labour conferences hear. Perry, who was backed by both ‘moderate’ and ‘soft left’ factions, is also a public affairs director for the lobbying firm Cicero. The company tells clients she will be ‘advising on Labour Party engagement strategies’. Among Cicero’s clients are financial firms like Barclays and Blackrock, ‘buy-now-pay-later’ outfit Klarna, and privatisers like Serco.

In 2021 Rachel Reeves attacked the government over public services ‘being outsourced to a large private company like Serco, which has a poor track record and known links to the Conservative Party’. Now Serco hires Labour-linked lobbying firms. Serco executives shared platforms with shadow ministers at Labour’s 2023 conference. Perhaps we all misunderstood, and Reeves really objected to Serco’s ‘known links to the Conservative Party’ because she thought they should have known links to the Labour Party instead.

There are others, but we’ll skip those because the article goes on to state:

Corporations want to take big money contracts from the government while reducing any regulation or tax on their businesses. They want to shape the policy agenda and have turned to the consultants — as well as their own in-house lobbyists — to do so. Lobbying firms that spent years relying on their links with the Tories are adapting to a likely Labour government.

But – and this is important:

Something big is happening inside Labour as well. The party is welcoming lobbyists as the proof of, and route to, its ‘business engagement’. Under Starmer, Labour takes corporate support as a vote of confidence. If ‘business’ supports ‘labour’, then the party must be doing the right thing — and can hope for friendlier treatment by the corporate-run press.

And it could lead to scandal (again):

Labour is, in effect, using lobbyists to run much of its ‘business engagement’.

The last Labour government ran into a ‘cash for access’ scandal in 1998, when The Observer exposed lobbyists with New Labour links helping their clients get close to the new government. This was the first big blemish on Blair’s government. We are very likely to see a re-run of this scandal.

Worst of all is the possibility that the firms and lobbyists cosying up to Labour will use the connections (if the party wins the next election) to suck up government contracts, siphon off the cash and produce poor work.

This happened before, under Tony Blair’s New Labour:

We might end up with firms that suck money out of the public sector for poor work, giving another generation of future/former ministers jobs. The current wave of junior Labour officials taking corporate lobbying jobs acts as a kind of human promise, showing future ministers that they too can look forward to corporate jobs with a Labour government. This isn’t a theoretical risk: it is exactly what happened when the last Labour government embraced PFI and outsourcing. The lobbying and the jobs-for-the-boys-and-girls sweetened a bitter pill — although the former ministers got the sweeteners; we just got the bitterness.

Is that really what you want?

This Writer can’t see any difference between Starmer’s plan for a Labour government and what we already have under the Tories – apart from the possibility that the names of some of the ex-ministers taking jobs with big business will be different.

It seems clear that under a Starmer Labour government, public money will still be thrown away at private businesses who’ll provide no useful service to the public but will give jobs to the ministers who helped them.

So – please – do yourself and all the rest of us a favour.

Get yourself a list of all the candidates in your constituency and their manifestos, and educate yourself about what they are offering.

Then choose to vote for the candidate who offers the best deal for you.

I wrote the following in another article but it fits perfectly here, too:

Do not consider how other people will vote, either in your constituency or the other 649 around the UK. That is not your concern.

It is not for you to worry about which party will get enough votes to actually enact its policies. This will lead you down the usual garden path to voting in a government that won’t do anything at all for the good of the country, like the one we’ve had since 2010.

BE SELFISH. Bizarrely, it might be the only way to get the kind of government that all of us need.


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Soundbite Britain: This is a game we can ALL play!

Here's a good anti-Coalition soundbite: It's based on a well-known saying and it tackles the falsehoods put out by Iain 'Returned To Unit' Smith.

Here’s a good anti-Coalition soundbite: It’s based on a well-known saying and it tackles the falsehoods put out by Iain ‘Returned To Unit’ Smith.

Sitting in the cafe yesterday, I was discussing the situation in Egypt with a couple of friends. One was getting quite heated because he considered the problem to have been created by the “fundamentalist Islamic government they elected”.

He said something like, “These fundamentalists promised everyone the world. They said they would make everything better, did whatever they could to secure the vote – and then once they were in power they forgot all those promises and did whatever they wanted instead. They got what they wanted from the people and then the people could go hang.”

I couldn’t resist. “So you’re saying they’re exactly like the Conservative Party over here, then,” I replied.

Laughter all around. We laugh because it’s funny and we laugh because it’s true. And because the only alternative is tears.

Let’s not dwell on the Egyptian situation beyond what I said afterwards – that the ‘Arab Spring’ countries seem to need help in establishing the basics of real democracy but there is nobody around who can provide it. They would (rightly) distrust any foreign power that claimed to offer help, but there’s no independent organisation that offers such a service either.

The UK would be one of the last places I would advise Egypt to look. Consider the last general election here. People with a lot of money to spend on it funded a hugely expensive election campaign to get the Conservative Party into power, in order to serve their interests which are to accumulate an even larger share of the available wealth, along with the power that goes with it, while removing and restricting the freedoms of the people from whom that wealth was to be drained.

Those people got involved in politics and worked very hard to make sure they got a government that genuinely serves their interests – selfish and cruel as those interests are. They ended up having to put up with a Conservative-led government, rather than a fully Conservative one, but are now working very hard to finish the job with a propaganda campaign – based on lies – that appears to be swaying public opinion.

So they say (and here I’m quoting Owen Jones in his recent analysis): “We’re clearing up Labour’s mess. Labour overspent and now we’re balancing the books. A national deficit is like a household budget. Welfare is out of control and lining the pockets of the skivers. The unemployed person or immigrant down the road is living off your hard-earned taxes. Labour is in the pocket of union barons.”

All of these are falsehoods. They’re lies. But they’re also very effective soundbites that stay in people’s minds and colour their perceptions of the way things are.

And those responsible get away with it, I’m sorry to say, because the people who stand to lose the most are lazy. They can’t be bothered to get involved and make sure the government they get is one that genuinely serves their interests.

Why do you think Her Majesty’s Opposition is filled with neoliberals who agree with the government that our public services should be carved up and handed to private companies, to run them for profit and not in the interests of the people? Why do you think the Labour Party has agreed to stick to Coalition spending plans for the first year of the next Parliament, if it gets elected? Why do you think Labour has stopped opposing social security policies that have been killing an average of 73 people a week (according to figures that are now well out of date, so the average today is probably much higher)?

Labour doesn’t stand up for you any more. That’s why it has had no effective answer to the Tory lies. The masses can’t be bothered to find out the truth – and certainly won’t lift a finger to get involved and stop the corruption that is eating our institutions away. But that is the only way it can be stopped. You stay away and they get what they want.

At this rate, we’ll all be slaves by 2020.

It doesn’t have to be so hard, though. We could all turn the corner, just by devising a few soundbites of our own.

I was thinking this last night, while I was writing a response to Margaret Johnson. Ms Johnson was commenting on a previous article as follows (apologies to anyone who’s offended; they’re her words, not mine): “It was Labour who signed up Atos, engineered so many civil service jobs that were not needed, opened the borders for the rest of the world’s trash to enter our country, brought in more taxes, actively encouraged the demise of manufacturing and the rise of the banks, signed up to allow Europe to rule us, doubled the rate for income tax for the lowest paid, gave GP’s 100K a year to work 9-5 Monday to Friday, got the most revenue in and still left this country in the worse mess ever.”

So we could say something like (and feel free to include ‘Liberal Democrats’ wherever I have mentioned Conservatives):

“It is the Conservatives who employed a private firm, paying £1 billion to ‘A-toss’ disabled people off the benefits they need to survive.” If Labour was doing its job properly it would add: “A Labour government would save that money by throwing Atos out”.

“No wonder the government can’t make anything work properly – they have been sacking all the professionals. More than 600,000 government employees will have lost their jobs by 2015, replaced by amateurs working for the Conservatives.”

“It’s strange that the Conservatives complain so much about immigration from Europe – they signed the treaties that allow it! The Conservative governments of Edward Heath and John Major allowed the free movement of European immigrants into the UK. Now they see it is unpopular, they want to shift the blame.”

“Simplified tax under the Tories mean the rich pay less and the poor pay more.”

“Conservatives destroyed Britain’s manufacturing base in the 1980s – at the same time they created the conditions that led to the banking crisis.”

“Conservatives want to blame Europe for your problems. Who will they blame when Britain is out of the EU and your problems have multiplied?”

Going back to Owen’s examples:

“Conservatives: The only people who think they can clear up a mess by making a bigger one.”

“Conservatives say Labour overspent – but they have always spent more than Labour. You can’t trust them to balance the books.”

“If the Tories handled their household budgets like they’re handling the deficit, they would all have been evicted by now.”

“Privatisation is out of control; the Tories are using taxpayers’ money to line the pockets of greedy bosses.”

“You paid for Iain Duncan Smith’s £39 breakfast. How much do you spend on your own?”

“The Conservative Party is in the pocket of big business and the bankers.”

Of course, the above are just essays in the craft of soundbiting; I’m just a beginner.

So let’s have a competition to see who can invent the best soundbite, challenging the government’s lies with facts!

Please send your ideas in to this blog – but also put them out to the national media as well, any way you can. Try to get anyone opposing the government to use them, because this may lead to them being picked up by the newspapers and TV news reporters as well.

Above all, please try to make this fun. A soundbite is many times more effective if it makes people laugh, and the Tories and Liberal Democrats are silly, silly people. Let’s bring that out.

Or is it too much like hard work after all?

Are wages too low, or is the cost of living too high? Or both?

130722sentamulivingwage

How pleasing it is to see the Archbishop of York agrees with the view, long-held by Vox Political, that British workers should be paid a living wage, and that the taxpayer should not be subsidising big business!

Archbishop John Sentamu is to chair a year-long commission investigating the need for a living wage. In The Observer, he wrote: “The holes in millions of paycheques are being plugged by in-work support to the tune of £4 billion a year. But why aren’t those who are profiting from their workers paying up? Why is government having to subsidise businesses who don’t pay their employees enough to live on? It is a question we need to answer and act on – fast. The cost of living is rising but wages are not. In the rush for profit, and for high pay at the top, too many companies have forgotten the basic moral imperative that employees be paid enough to live on.”

This is a sentiment that Vox Political wholly supports.

Needless to say, there are also detractors. A commenter known as ‘neilcon’ pointed out: “The high cost of running a small business in this country is one of the main reasons why the hourly rates are so low. If you employ someone at £8 you then have to pay a further 13 per cent to the government in employer’s National Insurance contributions for the privilege of employing someone; you have to supply that person with suitable equipment for their work.” The commenter reeled off a few other business-related expenses before going on to “the issue of the banks utterly refusing to lend to small businesses, the high cost of renting office premises, business rates on your office premises to the government, the high cost of VAT, together with clients trying to squeeze the final price as much as possible and the very late payments by bigger companies.

“The real cost to an employer of an £8 per hour wage is calculated at about £15 to the business.”

I can sympathise with this sentiment. It doesn’t let off the bosses of larger companies, who have huge salaries and no excuse (FT 350 companies, for example) but they might have a reasonable excuse for not raising pay, if smaller companies say they’ll go out of business if the higher cost is forced on them.

But the simple fact is that the cost of living is too high and – if they had to rely on wages alone – millions of working people, up and down the country, would be unable to pay their bills…

… leading us to a recent blog article by our old friend Michael Meacher MP. He points out that our privatised utility companies are forcing every one of us to pay – through the nose – for substandard services.

He wrote: “More than £100 a year of an average household [water] bill, that is about 30 per cent, goes on profit, compared with 9 per cent in the energy sector which is itself known for egregious profiteering.

“In the last 10 years, water bills have risen by a massive 64 per cent, compared with an increase of just 28 per cent in average earnings. In the last three years alone, average earnings have fallen by 7 per cent while water bills have continued to rise remorselessly. There is no competition in the water industry and the only potential constraint is the industry regulator, but he has chosen to succumb to corporate lobbying in allowing water bills to continue to shoot upwards to feed fancy executive bonuses and big dividend handouts.”

The last sentence tellingly brings us back to the huge profits taken by executives. It seems that a few things are going on:

1. The privatisation of the national utilities – water, electricity, gas (and, some would say, telecommunications) – has failed in its stated aims, which were to democratise capitalism by making it possible for everybody to be a shareholder, to keep bills low, and to end government subsidies for these organisations. Instead, shares have been drawn into the hands of a very few rich investors, bills have risen far beyond wages, and government subsidies have either increased massively (rail) or companies have used the tax system to avoid paying the amount due on their profits (Thames Water and its ‘super sewer’).

2. Company bosses, keen to drive up their share prices in order to create larger dividends for their shareholders and higher salaries for themselves, have successfully held wages down in order to achieve this. As ‘neilcon’ pointed out, lower wages mean less spending on National Insurance, meaning that keeping the employee payout down by pennies per person leads to many pounds in increased revenue.

3. The government is unwilling to do anything about this because it wants to keep wages depressed as much as possible. This is the reason it has cracked down so hard on benefit payments – not because of fraud (which is minimal) but in order to create an urgent need among the unemployed to find work, and terror in those who have jobs that they could be replaced if they complain about the increasingly meagre pittance on which they are being told to survive.

There are many subtle sub-consequences as well. You may wish to raise some of them in the ‘comments’ column.

What’s the answer?

This may come as a surprise, but the best place to start might be with the private utility companies. An ultimatum to put their houses in order and charge a reasonable amount, rather than extorting money out of a captive clientele, might produce results – especially if the alternative is re-nationalisation.

This might take the pressure off the smaller private companies by actually reducing the amount calculated as the living wage; with lower utility bills, the amount of money needed for a working person’s survival will also drop.

If the government and the utility companies got their sums right, this could mean the need to subsidise working people’s pay would be wiped out, meaning a large saving on the tax bill. Feed this through to working people in the form of a tax cut and, again, smaller private companies would benefit (along with everybody else, of course). An alternative of using the money to help pay off the deficit would be unhelpful – we need more, and healthier, businesses in this country, employing more people. Get that sorted and the deficit will come down in any case.

On a completely different tack, what about Landlord Subsidy (otherwise known as Housing Benefit)? Why not put a cap on rents, thereby ensuring that the government is not subsidising the rapidly-increasing pace of (some) landlords’ greed?

Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen under the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government – and it seems the Parliamentary Labour Party is to keen to become the Plastic Tory Party to take a stand; it will be up to its backbenchers and the party’s grassroots members to force a policy change.

At the end of the day, wages might still have to rise, due to matters unforeseen in this article.

But a plan that acknowledges the mistakes of the past and aims to redress the shocking way that the supply of money has overbalanced to favour a tiny minority – to the detriment of the vast majority – would constitute the first steps on the way to a nation that can not only provide Archbishop Sentamu’s living wage, but also help our struggling small businesses.

(The first Vox Political collection, Strong Words and Hard Times, is now available and may be ordered from this website)