Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/690/12995
Scandal reveals corrupt influence of big business on government
Eventually Liam Fox had to resign as Defence Secretary. He was so careless in allowing his friend Adam Werrity open access to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and its contacts that his credibility was shot to pieces. Together they had been working for Atlantic Bridge, a right wing pro-American lobby group with Margaret Thatcher as their patron.
Cameron has said that the government will now implement its forgotten pledge to set up a code and register of lobbyists. But even government ministers admit privately that the code would not have affected Fox's activities.
Millions of pounds of corporate lobbying and business interests seep through to ministers through a million pores. Any illusion that these right wingers will now cease to influence the government has been dispelled by the revelation that Philip Hammond, Fox's replacement at the MoD, has also received hospitality from Michael Hintze who had been a major donor to Atlantic Bridge.
Fox's resignation also lifted the lid on a wider web of right wing lobby groups, funded by big business and linked to American organisations like the Tea Party, which operate right at the heart of the British government and also involve Fox's more discreet cabinet colleagues.
Werrity, who is facing a fraud investigation by the police, is just one of many lobbyists who criss-cross between big business lobby groups and governments around the world. Government ministers held more than 1,500 meetings with corporate representatives in the first ten months of the government.
According to The Observer, Atlantic Bridge claimed to have built a network of "like-minded people - in politics, business, academia and journalism". Tory cabinet ministers George Osborne, Michael Gove and William Hague have all spent time on the advisory council of Atlantic Bridge so you can bet your bottom dollar their ministerial doors are wide open to their lobbyists.
And what are they lobbying for? For big corporations, for the privatisation of health care and other public services and for arms companies.
Liam Fox himself spoke out at Atlantic Bridge meetings against the "innate pacifism" in western society declaring "we cannot allow that corrosive view to go unchallenged".
Mostly though it was pushing the pro-market neo liberalism of big business. In 2007 Atlantic Bridge signed a special partnership with the neo-con think tank, the American Legislative Council ("to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty") which is funded by oil companies, tobacco companies and the National Rifle Association.
Other lobbying groups it worked with included the Galen Institute, "devoted exclusively to advancing free-market ideas in health policy" and the Heritage Foundation "based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defence".
And Werrity was also funded by shady defence and security companies and lobby groups. Werrity used his connections with Fox to hold meetings with Mahinda Rajapaksa, president of Sri Lanka who is widely held to be responsible for genocidal crimes against civilians in the murderous war against the Tamils.
Fox and Werrity had a very cosy relationship with the regime who paid for a number of trips to the island. Campaigning organisation Tamil Solidarity has condemned Fox for "covering up for the crimes of Rajapaksa's regime".
And like all good big business organisations Atlantic Bridge was adept at avoiding paying tax. Registering as a charity meant that it saved paying approximately £50,000 tax until the Charity Commission decided that Atlantic Bridge must "cease all activities immediately". But Fox and Werrity had prior access to the Charity Commission report and had set up a company, Pargav, which then funded Werrity's activities.
In The Socialist 19 October 2011:
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