Buying and selling


When I was 17, I gave a floor speech in a Cambridge Union schools debate against the motion ‘this house believes politics is an honourable profession in Britain”. Writing this now makes me feel old, but it couldn’t have been that long ago that this was a serious topic for debate.

My comments centred around the lucrative careers in the “private” sector that politicians enjoy on leaving office. Clearly one of the most lucrative of these is in lobbying, as Tory backbencher Andrew Mackay and, according to some reports, his wife Julie, know all too well. Having been forced to give back all that expenses money, they are apparently so desperate for new revenue streams that they are becoming lobbyists.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with lobbying per se – the right to petition the government is in both the British and American Bills of Rights. The problems arise only in our “mixed-market economy” where politicians have so much control over private companies - enough control that it is becoming increasingly harder for companies to succeed without lobbying governments. As PJ O’Rourke said – “when buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators”. Andrew and Julie Mackay prove the point only too well.