This article investigates how corporate lobbyists are taking over the Labour Party.

The Labour Party by supporting the capitalist system and allowing corporations to help dictate their policy direction can be officially described as right wing. Any party that embraces capitalism and corporatism is right wing. Left wing parties seek to free up the individual by focusing on a direction that enables egalitarianism in terms of the political and the economic. The current Labour Party may pay lip service to this but in reality it now has new masters as we discover below.

Labour’s leadership has made deliberate efforts to let down Keir Starmer supporters by abandoning initiatives like his £28 billion “green prosperity investment.” Even Starmer’s backers among commentators are now disheartened by Labour’s dwindling “offer.” However, one group remains eager: corporate lobbyists.

Lobbying firms, serving as strategic agents for corporations seeking political sway, are recruiting even more Labour insiders to bolster their ranks.

Former Sadiq Khan adviser Ben Johnson is a recent example of this trend. In February 2024, Johnson departed from London City Hall to join The Blakeney Group, a lobbying firm. The firm proudly announced the hire to clients under the headline “Labour policy chief joins Blakeney.” Johnson joins other Labour insiders-turned-lobbyists at Blakeney, including former Labour MP Melanie Onn, who serves as “senior counsel,” and Dan Hogan, a former “senior policy adviser” who is now a Blakeney director.

This doesn’t make Blakeney a “Labour” company—Hugo Sutherland, a former aide to Tory MP Angie Bray, manages Blakeney’s “public affairs” division. However, it highlights that lobbyists require Labour insiders to assist their clients with navigating a potential future Labour government. Johnson expressed his excitement about joining the company, stating that after two decades in Labour politics, he was eager to support their clients through this crucial political period. His remarks suggest that instead of a genuine battle over policy between Labour and Tory, there’s merely a political “cycle,” with parties alternating in power. During their turn, party staff capitalise by assisting corporate “clients.”

Blakeney represents Pennon Group, which primarily owns South West Water, a private water company fined millions for illegally dumping sewage into rivers and seas around Devon and Cornwall. Blakeney also represents energy supplier Octopus and property developer St Modwen. Although the ruling party may change, polluting water companies, private energy firms, and property developers maintain their influence through insiders-for-hire, regardless of the political “cycle.”

The Blakeney Group, founded by Gabe Winn, illustrates the deep ties between Labour and corporate lobbyists. Winn, former head of public affairs for Centrica (owner of British Gas), transitioned into politics as “director of external relations for Britain Stronger in Europe,” leading the EU referendum Yes campaign. Despite the campaign’s failure, Winn’s corporate orientation made him a natural fit for lobbying. After the Yes campaign’s humiliating end in 2016, he established Blakeney.

The close relationship between Labour and corporate lobbyists is also evident in the movement of staff in the opposite direction—from lobbying firms into the party. In February, Dan Julian, a former lobbyist for H/Advisers Cicero, became one of Labour’s “regional engagement” managers. Cicero represents entities ranging from the City of London to privatiser Serco.

That same month, Holly Williamson left lobbying firm Field Consulting to work for the Labour Party in “senior visits, events, and fundraising.” Field Consulting is known for representing private rail firms like First Rail, Avanti, and Govia Thameslink.

Under Keir Starmer, Labour appears to prioritise hiring staff adept at “engaging” corporations rather than organising grassroots support. This “political cycle” seems like a closed loop, where parties alternate in power without fundamentally changing, while corporate lobbyists move seamlessly between representing big companies and working for major parties.

Keir Starmer finally terminated his primary economic policy by significantly scaling back his “green prosperity investment” plans, telling ITV News: “We won’t reach the £28 billion envisioned; that figure is effectively shelved.”

Starmer’s awkward language suggests his discomfort with economic issues. Are spending plans often “shelved”? Do they “stand up” when announced?

Starmer blamed his scaled-back plans on the Tory government, claiming it was “going to max out on the government credit card,” thus halting Labour’s plans. He was so fond of the “credit card” analogy that he repeated it twice.

However, there is no actual credit card. Starmer was criticised for using “household economics,” sometimes called “handbag economics,” which reduce a national economy to a simplistic household budget. Labour’s leader is unable to advocate for national investment, confining himself to Tory spending constraints.

In truth, Starmer’s case is even weaker than typical “household economics,” as “financialisation” means households do rely on debt. The household lesson is that it’s sensible to take out a loan to pursue higher education, as this can significantly increase earning potential over time. Many also use credit to invest in home improvements, which can enhance the property’s value and living conditions. While reaching the limit on a credit card might indicate a need to reduce expenses, it could also be an opportunity to consolidate debt at a lower interest rate. Labour’s leaders are so apprehensive about justifying investment that they overlook fundamental insights from everyday financial practices, which does not bode well for this Labour government.

And all the while the Labour Party like nearly every other party ignore Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which would give governments much more freedom to improve society.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is an economic framework that challenges traditional views on government finance and fiscal policy. It asserts that countries that issue their own currency, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan, cannot run out of money in the same way businesses or households can, because they have the ability to create more currency as needed. This capability allows these sovereign nations to finance large-scale government spending independently of taxes or borrowing from the public, thus enabling them to pursue ambitious social and economic goals.

According to MMT, the primary constraint on government spending is inflation, not the deficit itself. Excessive spending can lead to inflation if the demand created by such spending exceeds the economy’s productive capacity. Therefore, the focus of fiscal policy should be on controlling inflation through appropriate adjustments in taxes and government spending rather than on balancing the budget. MMT argues that government deficits are not inherently harmful and can be beneficial if they lead to increased public investment and employment. In this view, government debt in a sovereign currency is fundamentally different from household debt and should not be perceived as a burden that needs to be repaid in the same terms.

Taxes, under MMT, are not primarily used to fund government spending but serve other critical functions. They help manage inflation by reducing disposable income, redistribute wealth, and influence behavior. This perspective shifts the emphasis from taxation as a means of revenue to its role in regulating economic activity and promoting social equity.

A notable policy proposal from MMT is the job guarantee program. This program would ensure that anyone willing and able to work can find a job at a living wage, providing a buffer against unemployment and stabilising the economy. By prioritizing full employment and economic stability over fiscal austerity, MMT advocates for a reorientation of government policy to focus on balancing the economy rather than the budget.

Perhaps the reason why such a progressive economic model is ignored is because the corporate lobbyists are not keen. And if they are not keen it appears the governments they hold in the palms of their hands are not keen either.


Morning Star

Dorset Eye

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