Corruption in the UK, USA, European Parliament …

Bribe me by all means, but it won’t make any difference

To a degree that I find downright insulting, I have never been the object of any attempt at bribery or corruption. In the course of a five-year political career, I have been offered not so much as the sniff of a directorship; no one has come close to suggesting that I might like to fly my family to the World Cup or a shopping trip to Dubai.

Mohamed Fayed has never sent me a hamper. As I look around at the items I have been sent in the post, I see a device for squeezing slugs, a pot of mustard and a baseball cap from Liverpool. And that is about it. It is a scandal. In a way that I find positively hurtful, big business seems to think it can rub along without me. I do not appear to figure on the flow-charts of influence.

OK, I was once invited for a day’s clay pigeon shooting by the tobacco lobby, and I once overheard my secretary being offered some tickets for Wimbledon; but on neither occasion was I able to go.

I am all set, in principle, to go to Glyndebourne, or Ascot, or wherever it is that these corporate types take you for a good Lafite-fuelled corporate schmoozing. The next time someone has tickets for the rugby, I say, count me in! – provided it is understood that as an exercise in buying “influence” any such invitation to me is a complete and utter waste of time.

It is not just that I am sea-green incorruptible, though of course I am. The real trouble is that I would have to declare every detail of any such gift or freebie in the Register of Members’ Interests, and having publicly declared my embarrassment, I would then feel morally obliged to be either studiously neutral or indeed positively nasty towards whatever cause had shown me kindness.

I am sure that most MPs feel the same; and I am sure that is why Britain is so pathetically un-corrupt in comparison with so many other countries. I do not mean that we are perfect: far from it. We still have an extraordinary honours system, by which you can buy a peerage by giving money to political parties, and it is obviously possible to buy influence. One thinks of Bernie Ecclestone, or Paul Drayson, who not only secured a peerage but also an important contract for his firm, PowderJect.

We certainly have a thriving lobbying industry, and a booming trade in corporate hospitality, expected to be worth more than £1 billion this year. This weekend, across Britain, hundreds of thousands of pheasants will thud lifeless to the earth, then to be shovelled into Katyn-style graves, and all in the name of corporate entertainment.

When the new Wembley stadium is complete, it is expected to receive a million spectators a year, of whom 150,000 will be there as corporate guests. But most of the time, in my experience, the victims of the British lobbying industry are not the British electorate, nor the British taxpayer, nor even British government officials. The real dupes, by and large, are the clients, the superstitious dolts in corporate Britain, who believe the lobbyist witch doctors and their tales of “influence”. To better understand this sort of business people,  this page has a face reading course you will not like to miss.

I mention all this partly because of the amazing case of Jack Abramoff, of Washington, the man who appeared in our papers yesterday in a belted mac and a Capone-like trilby. Mr Abramoff is one of Washington’s leading lobbyists, and among his crimes is ripping off a group of Red Indians (as I am probably no longer allowed to call them) and using the cash to fly himself and some of his Republican buddies for a golfing freebie at St Andrews, Scotland.

It was a classic piece of lobbyist’s hocus-pocus. The Native Americans needed him to represent their gambling interests, and Mr Abramoff was happy to oblige. In fact, he became known as “Casino Jack” for his skill in persuading Native Americans that he was indispensable to their cause, and prising millions from their reservations. It now turns out to have been a con. Mr Abramoff grossly overcharged them, and he must now pay the money back.

Washington is convulsed with anxiety/glee about the links between Mr Abramoff and other senior Republicans, and whether any of his bungs got as far as the White House; but that is not the point. The point is that he was not only suborning the politicians; he was deceiving the business interests he represented.

Businessmen long for certainty; they long to know what the decision-makers are thinking, so that they can plan ahead. They yearn to be in the loop, to have the drop on things. It is the genius of the lobbyists and the consultants to understand this need, and to satisfy it in the most imaginative way.

The reality is that government decisions are often taken in a way that is shambolically unpredictable, but the lobbyist pretends otherwise. He whispers that he can get his client an introduction to so-and-so. He produces organograms of power. He rustles up members of the governing party, or civil servants, or journalists, and persuades them to come to watch the football or the rugby. And nine times out of 10, since this is England, the freebie-takers will do absolutely nothing to requite the favour they have received; but the lobbyist knows that doesn’t really matter. The client sees the beaming, drunken faces of these important folk; the client is satisfied, and the client believes just about anything the lobbyist tells him.

It is vital, for instance, to make much of “access” to committees in Parliament, or the European Parliament – and that is why there is this hoo-hah about whether or not the Tories should belong to the European People’s Party Group in Strasbourg. You may think it mattered not a damn whether the Tories were in or out of this assembly of mainly federalist parties; and you would be right. The problem is that the lobbyists have persuaded their clients that they are very lucky to have “access” to this EPP group; and if the Tories pull out, the lobbyists will cease to be able to make that particular bogus claim.

That is causing ructions. Would the Tory MEPs lose any real influence, as opposed to the fictitious influence imputed to them by the lobbyists? I doubt it. So many of the lobbyists’ claims turn out to be fraudulent; and that is why Britain is less corrupt than you might think.

37 thoughts on “Corruption in the UK, USA, European Parliament …”

  1. If you’re ever in North Herts, Boris, I’ll take you down the Beehive for a pint.

    Trouble is, I can’t think of anything to lobby you about when we’re there.

  2. A prize, a prize I say for the web site reader that sends the most embarrassing gift to Boris which is then listed in the register of interests when it’s next published 🙂

    Now, where can I get an inflatable sheep? Or perhaps a subscription to Private Eye ….

  3. For those who are interested the register is on-line; but there is nothing scandelous in Boris’s entry, although it is hard to see any payment for “have I got news for you”. Is he doing it for the love and attention? 🙂

  4. Fascinating thought Barry!

    All we seem to get is piles of requests for books, photos, signed With Compliments slips…. nothing too outrageous at all so far

  5. Barry – he didn’t do a HIGNFY show between Jan 05 and the time the register went to print in Sept 05. It will be in the subsequent Register I can assure you.

  6. So his appearance fee per show is more than £500? Goodness me, I need to switch jobs.

    So gentle readers, should we club together, get something embarassing for £500.01 and see if we can’t get listed?

  7. I will happily contribute towards the embarassing gift! How much are inflatable sheep, anyway, and where would one get one?

  8. I just happen to have an inflatable sheep in stock…and it’s only £500.99.

    Don’t know if I want to let it go – maybe i should be charging more….


  9. I thought that a soupcon of corruption was a necessary addition to ones CV in order to reach the dizzy heights in certain international institutions.

    Psi: It might help if you had a picture of the sheep you mentioned. If a cooked sprout can fetch in excess of £ 1500.00 on E-bay ;how much more for a good looking Welsh inflatable sheep?

  10. Ooh! this is fun. I’ll contribute too.

    Psimon: have you a pic of said inflatable? Can you display it online? If not, maybe you could email it to one of the bloggers here (even me) and we can put it on show for potential subscribers.

    I’ll throw in a few quid for the sheep, if someone can suggest a reasonable amount pps.

    Sorry, that’s per person sharing. I meant pp, naturally. Or unnaturally. Whatever.

    Did I say ‘Happy New Year everyone’? Consider it said.

  11. 500.99 pounds seems somewhat extortionate for merely one inflatable sheep. For that I would expect at least a small flock…

  12. Er hum! Watch it you bloggers – h-h-h-h o l d your horses ….

    I wonder what might induce Boris to accept said inflatable sheep or any other hopelessly useless gift….

    We have to maintain the higest of standards in the Boris Johnson Office and mustn’t be seen to compromise this in any way, shape or form. We must therefore divert thoughts away from this avalanche of inflated animals etc….ASAP …

    **anyone with angelic thoughts come forward**

    (ps my job depends on it chums)

  13. Melissa, I was gutted to see that Boris left my present to him out of the roll call – my slim volume had no mention at all. BUT….I am willing to auction a xmas present to me for the noble cause – it’s a little book entitled ‘MEN! by women’ and contains a quote for Boris I think:

    I refuse to consign the whole male sex to the nursery. I insist on believing that some men are my equals.

    Or one for Hitch?:

    A husband is the bloke that sticks with you through the troubles you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t married him in the first place.

    On second thoughts I’d quite like to keep it but check out Wendy Copes poetry at Boring

    I especially like ‘Being Boring’ and ‘Men and their boring arguments’

  14. **anyone with angelic thoughts come forward**

    Luke 2:8-20
    “… And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”

    Mea culpa.

  15. “A husband is the bloke that sticks with you through the troubles you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t married him in the first place”

    That’s a good one, Jaq. I’ll be quoting that!

  16. Thank God Boris is married – think of the devastation he could cause if I offered to bribe him with my body and he looked me up and down and went ‘mnahhh’ 🙁

  17. Wiil ” Sterling Work” be a thing of the past, if the Pro-European factions get their wicked way?

  18. I’m afraid I’m not too up on the Pro-European stance regarding the preservation of rare breeds of British farm animal but as the Rare Breeds Survival Trust are a charity that receives no government funding at all, at least it can’t be withdrawn.

  19. Looks like we’re back to sheep then. Can we adopt one and call it Boris? Set up an online webcam maybe?

  20. Mac, it will have to be ‘Euro work’ won’t it? and in for a penny in for a pound would be in for a ..?.. in for a Euro

    It just makes no sense at all

  21. Melissa,

    Probably makes no cents either. And they had to use Americanisms in the naming of the European curruncy because?

  22. Brava!You got it in one Melissa.
    Jaq: Instead of an ‘online’ camera ,perhaps an ‘ovine’ camera would be more fitting .

  23. Boris! You’re entry is very thought provoking. First time I’ve been on your site. Plan to visit again.
    enjoying the photos emensely.

  24. Thalia, at the risk of being booed off the stage: (You did ask the question!)
    “And they had to use Americanisms in the naming of the European currency because? ”

    The answer is, they did not!
    Joachimst(h)aler, was the name of a silver coin first struck in 1519 under the direction of the count of Schlick, (who owned a silver mine in The Joachim Valley, in Bohemia).
    These Thaler coins were current in Germany from the 16th century onward, with various spelling distortions,such as daler, dalar, daalder, and tallero: from this , the early Americans named their coinage US Dollars. ( A clue perhaps)?

    Likewise, the cent, (Latin, centum), is a coin worth one hundredth of certain monetary units: for example Guilders or Lira . In America, on the other hand, the cent is often referred to as a penny. They took nothing from the Americans, which they at the time didn’t adopt from Europe. It was , one might say, Lend Lease in reverse. Even the word Nickel, (not that it will be used in the context of the Euro), is an adaptation of the German name for the Devil, and ‘dime’ is from the Latin , via French, for a tenth. (What a pedantic old fool)! There, I’ve said it for you.

  25. Yayy Mac!

    [just my two cents — I’m in the Eurozone so I can now use American slang. I’m so privileged]

    I could set up a webcam but don’t have a sheep. A neighbour has an Olde Englishe Sheepdoge. Would that do? Mnahhh …

  26. You might let us take a peep at your Leprachaun, or is he, ( why are they always HE? How DO they reproduce), still busy making those shoes for the reindeer?
    (Order early for Christmas).

  27. Oh dear, Mac, that’s a hard one. He hibernates from Solstice to Solstice. But I can show you his latest design for the trotters.

    Reproduction is explained in hieroglyphics on the inner walls at Newgrange. So far indecipherable.

  28. I wonder if ‘boggling’ is Leprachaunish for reproduction :my mind certainly boggles at the intricacy of it all.

    Surely,’to hibernate’ means to sleep through the winter.If he makes reindeer hoof slip-ons, does he cobble in his sleep?

  29. Dear Macarnie,

    OK I totally surrender, I didn’t know all that, I am wildly impressed. I probably should have guessed the latin derivative though but for some reason I irrevocably associate cents with American movies set in the 50’s involving trilby hats, large automobiles and people getting shot a lot.

  30. Thalia: it’s just that I have a vested ‘interest’ in money, in fact it’s my only income.( kidding), but only just.

  31. Bloody spammers.


    “Surely,’to hibernate’ means to sleep through the winter.If he makes reindeer hoof slip-ons, does he cobble in his sleep?”


    Main Entry: hi·ber·nate

    Etymology: Latin hibernatus, past participle of hibernare to pass the winter, from hibernus of winter; akin to Latin hiems winter, Greek cheimOn

    1 : to pass the winter in a torpid or resting state

    2 : to be or become inactive or dormant

    (I don’t really believe he’s dormant, though. Where do all those mushrooms come from? And the capers I leave under the garden shed are always gone in the morning.)

  32. Nora !
    You should know better than to caper in the shed.
    It’s a question of the morning after the night before. surely?

  33. I’m not capering anywhere today, I can tell you.

    Back to blogging anon, when these damned side-effects clear up. (New medication with 102 possible side-effects — I exaggerate — and one very debatable benefit. Some big pharma is no doubt doing well on it.)

    See you later!

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