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Notes from last night’s @UnlockDemocracy lobbying event in Sheffield

April 13, 2012

Last night there was a very interesting meeting in Sheffield on lobbying, run by Unlock Democracy and various others. I heard about it from the wonderful @stavvers.

The evening introduced me to the wonderful Spinwatch, gave me a new respect for Paul Blomfield MP (Lab), and an opportunity to let of some steam at a Lib Dem.

After the inital speakers spoke, I wanted to make some points. I did (mostly) but also told the Lib Dem that he and his party were the quisling facilitators to an evil empire. This meant that my points were kinda mostly lost in the ‘OMG look at the ranty woman’ reaction.

Here are my points re lobbying:

  1. There was some discussion and some points made in the initial speeches around what organisations should be included in these proposals, and whether charities should be exempt. (There’s also an article about this in today’s Guardian.) I think this is a red herring. There are plenty of reasons to have a definition of lobbying that doesn’t go near whether or not an organisation is a charity. For a start, although we can all see the wisdom of finding out when and how often Big Pharma Inc. has met with the health minister, would it also not be interesting to see how well and effectively your trade union is using it’s funds, and what sort of splash it’s making? (See Dave Prentis, head of my union, who appears to be in it for stomach rubs from George Osborne. Twat.)
  2. The first point that I brought up was one of the ones I made a few posts back about people who are elected to a national position not being able to earn future income. Over the course of the evening this was discussed a bit, and the feeling of the room appeared to be that rigorous regulation of the jobs that senior civil servants and former elected representatives hold, and preventing them from lobbying for 5 years after they leave office, would be a good thing and something to aspire to.
  3. I also raised the point that transparancy around money in lobbying and tax transparance have a nice synergy, and that current public anger could be funnelled (with, or course, willing politicians – any volunteers?) into making big changes in what is demanded from organisations spending money on Westminster, and can feed into the whole tax justice thing as well.
  4. Tony Kennick, a person I don’t know nearly as well as I’d like, was also at the event and was advocating that all data that isn’t covered under the data protection act be published. I kinda like this idea, and it would certainly open things up. On the other hand, there was a lady who was asking for information to be presented in simple formats and to be easy to understand, and if Tony had his way, he and his fellow geeks would have to help out with interpreting this flood of information for those less willing / able to wade through piles of data.

That said, it was very satisfying to let a LD know exactly what I think of what his party has done with my vote.

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