What this scenario has given us, is not an excuse to wrongly vilify Cameron, but a chance to evaluate just how much influence lobbyist groups have.
Lobbying is one of the most vital aspects of our civil democracy, and yet it is one of the most mysterious. We all know it exists, and yet we don’t always understand the extent to which our lives are impacted by it. When David Cameron told the world in 2013 that he would “clean up lobbying” we might have expected a change to the insider lobbying rules, instead, we got a mismatched, ill-thought-out change to how pressure groups can operate in this country. So why has Cameron become the very thing he sought to eradicate, and why are people stating that he has committed an offence?
Lobbying has always been a shady business, and yet it is a heavily regulated apparatus within the legislative process. There are do’s and do not’s and, as long as a body works within the spirit of the rules, there should be no issue. Therefore, we must ask ourselves the question: Why are the media making Cameron out to be a criminal, when he is doing what so many more have already done?
Lobbying allows businesses more direct access to governments and helps elected officials to arrange the many competing priorities of our lives. Typically, Labour is funded by trade unions and some other businesses, and the Conservatives by businesses and individual donors. In the 2019 election, Labour received £5 million of their required funding from trade unions, according to the Commons’ library (UK Parliament, 2020). And there’s no uproar from the recess of Twitter about this because it is perfectly ordinary, even though any trade union or business conglomerate is bound to have their own agenda.
But when Cameron sent numerous texts to his former colleagues, this was outside the norm enough to be deemed worthy of a mass investigation. Every time you send a letter to your local MP, elected mayor, or councillor, you are using some form of connections to gain access to an official. Granted, this is not the same as how David Cameron used political power, but is it wrong not to expect former politicians to use their position at all?
What this scenario has given us, is not an excuse to wrongly vilify Cameron, but merely a chance to evaluate just how much influence lobbyist groups have, and how much sway over elected government they should have. The issue is not entirely with Cameron himself, but with the regulations that enabled this to happen.
When the general public thinks about lobbying, the majority would probably consider outsider groups, those who aim to garner as much attention as possible in order to change a specific government policy of their interest. This is the honest, but often unsuccessful, side of lobbying. Lobbying can also be backroom discussions between an elite few, free drinks, and suggestions of support in exchange for favours. This can all seem quite dishonourable, but I’m not sure how else policymakers are supposed to make decisions, for the benefit of their supporters, that impact business and communities to their satisfaction, when they have no experience regarding these fields and without the necessary consultations from relevant groups.
The issue is not entirely with Cameron himself, but with the regulations that enabled this to happen.
The general public is often blind to this sort of behaviour, perhaps we want to idolize the bastions of our democracy as infallible, or perhaps we just don’t want to know how our system truly works. What has happened with David Cameron, is that a light has been shone on the darker side of politics, the side we do not want to think about, but is ever-present.
Now, we finally see democracy in a truer light; and I would argue there is nothing wrong with it if it is advantageous to you. Politics requires experts and no matter how much we want them to be, politicians are not. David Cameron is merely taking on the role of an expert and we will have to see whether he is found to have broken lobbying codes and, by extension, the law. This is real politics, it always has been. The difference is just that now we have become aware of it.
Tom Schofield is a 19 year old politics student at Durham. He's passionate about debate and politics having been politically active for several years. In terms of political leaning, he describes himself as being right of centre. He also does various volunteer work with local organisations.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica Limited as a company.
Cover Photo Credit: Ben Fisher/GAVI Alliance. Licensed under CC BY 2.0
Article Photo Credit: "David Cameron visits the University of Exeter" by Georgina Coupe is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.