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Profession politics: rule by lobby group?

By Mal Fletcher - posted Tuesday, 23 July 2013


A minor political furore has erupted here in Britain over the relationship between Prime Minister David Cameron and his Australian election strategist Lynton Crosby.

Mr Crosby built his reputation as an election guru on the back of three successive victories for the Howard government. These were followed by a win for London's flamboyant mayor Boris Johnson.

Now, though, Crosby's association with the British Conservatives is being seen as a potential own goal on their part.

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The coalition government, of which they are the leading party, recently backed down on proposed legislation that would have required plain packaging for tobacco products.

At the same time, it emerged that Mr Crosby's lobbying company advises Philip Morris Ltd, the world's largest tobacco company, on how to argue against such moves.

The Australian government was the first in the world to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products. However, it maintains that it is too early to tell exactly how many lives will be saved as a result. This, it says, may take another three or more years.

British ministers have unexpectedly starting using this as a pretext for waiting. The media and press, however, suspect hidden agendas. They are raising again the vexed question of whether politicos are too close to lobbyists.

In Britain and, I think, Australia this is the age of professional politics. MPs are often groomed for office almost from the time they leave university - if not before. As fresh young graduates, many take up jobs as researchers with political parties or policy groups, or as dogs-bodies working for older MPs.

Few of today's top-level MPs have any appreciable professional experience outside the world of politics. In the UK, some senior politicians have hardly ventured beyond the bubble of Westminster itself, except perhaps to run for election.

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Arguably, this gives rise to political careers that are just that - carefully mapped-out strategies for a life-long pursuit of power or, at the very least, a comfortable life of relative privilege, with some good works thrown in.

This may sound entirely too cynical and it may be just that - if we're considering the largely anonymous journeymen MPs who simply get on with the job at hand, doing their best for their electorates.

For the real power players, though, such a description is often apt.

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About the Author

Mal Fletcher is a media social futurist and commentator, keynote speaker, author, business leadership consultant and broadcaster currently based in London. He holds joint Australian and British citizenship.

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