My former boss,Sir John Major, rather put the cat amongst the pigeons at the Leveson Inquiry this morning, when he revealed for the first time Rupert Murdoch’s blatant blackmail attempt to change Conservative Party policy on Europe.
I worked for John Major at the time, but I was completely unaware, being a civil servant private secretary, of this attempt to change party policy. While feeling rather proud of Sir John for resisting the blackmail, I am mystified that Rupert Murdoch even thought it worth asking. I would hope that absolutely ANY government would reject such a crass attempt to subvert democracy. Ironically Labour, to whom Murdoch switched his support, were even more pro-Europe than a Major-led Conservative Party.
At a lower level of influence, it is clear that organisations can blackmail governments. While in public service myself, I encountered a number of such cases. Typically, it would consist of a company threatening to desert the UK unless a more generous tax or grant regime were introduced. Personally I’m rather sanguine about this. I would expect commercial organisations to seek out the best long term deals for any investment they choose to make.
What is however clear to me that all such “threats” are made by “lobbyists”. Any statutory register of lobbyists that misses such lobbyists off is clearly flawed in my mind. Rupert Murdoch is clearly one of the most powerful lobbyists on the planet.
If the government come up with a version of the statutory register that doesn’t require Rupert Murdoch to sign up, it will clearly be a nonsense.