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Defang insidious and undemocratic paid persuaders

Once again our attention is directed towards the lobbying industry – this time by the National Health Action Party.

cameron lobbying

The recent intervention from the Reform “think tank” was a useful reminder of the tactics used by corporate lobbyists to manipulate the public, media and politicians.

Reform is described as one of the new breed of parliamentary/corporate hybrid lobbygroups, backed by the chief executives of major corporations, with ready access to the corridors of power.

Until all these insidious and undemocratic ‘paid persuaders’ are defanged, they will continue to skew the decisions of government in favour of their corporate paymasters.

spinwatch logoNHAP summarises an excellent article by Tamasin Cave and Andy Rowell of Spinwatch – well worth reading in full – who open: “Typically, they operate behind closed doors, through quiet negotiation with politicians. And the influence they enjoy is constructed very consciously, using a whole array of tactics”.

NHAP lists the key steps (in brief) required to control the agenda taken from the Guardian article by Tamasin Cave and Andy Rowell

Control the ground – Lobbyists succeed by owning the terms of debate, steering conversations away from those they can’t win and on to those they can.

Spin the media – Even if the corporate goal is pure, self-interested profit-making, it will be dressed up to appear synonymous with the wider, national interest.

Engineer a following – Some lobbying firms specialise in mobilising voices from business and academia to give the impression that there is broad support for their message.

Buy in credibility – Corporations are one of the least credible sources of information for the public so they fund seemingly independent people to carry their message for them.

Sponsor a thinktank – Worried that your message will be seen as special pleading? Get a thinktank to say it but make sure they don’t mention their sources of funding.

Consult your critics – Businesses have to be able to predict risk and gain intelligence on potential problems. The army call it reconnaissance; lobbyists call it consultation.

Neutralise the opposition – Find the influential opponents and neutralise their impact by whatever means it takes.

Control the web Flood the web with positive information by creating phoney blogs and press releases and push dissenting content down the search engine rankings.

Get access – Lobbyists need access to politicians. One easy technique is to hire politicians’ friends, in the form of ex-employees or colleagues.

The revolving door The number of people moving through the revolving door between the public and private sector is off the scale and with it comes influence.


Learn more in their latest book: A Quiet Word: Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain, published by The Bodley Head.

As pressure to use Merck and Pfizer statins increases, concern about links between the lobbying industry and government quango intensifies


SHCA headerAs concern about mass-medication with statins is in the news, Theresa draws our attention to an article highlighting the fact that the Specialised Healthcare Alliance (SHCA), a lobbying company working for some of the world’s biggest drugs and medical equipment firms, has written a draft report for NHS England, a government quango.

Senior MPs have suggested that this report, which could help shape future health policy, shows that the medical industry is able to use its “wealth to influence government policy at will”. One has called for a parliamentary debate.

Potential conflicts of interest

sarah wollaston mp mdSarah Wollaston (right), a former GP and member of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, said: “NHS England is increasingly commissioning vast sums of public money and we need to know who is getting invited to sit on what panels and what potential conflicts of interest they might have.”

As Tamasin Cave, of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, added: “(T)he pharmaceuticals industry is a formidable lobbyist with unrivalled access to policy-makers and significant influence.”

The SHCA, established in 2003 to campaign on behalf of people with rare diseases and other complex conditions which require specialised medical care, has a membership of 97 patient-related organisations. It is supported by 13 corporate members. Its costs are paid for by 13 drug companies, all of whom pay £12,000 a year. Secretariat services to SHCA are provided by a lobbying company called JMC Partners, whose clients include blue-chip drugs firms such as Novatis, Astro Zenica, Sanofi and Pfizer. It also represents a number of medical device manufacturers and biotech companies who sell their products to the NHS, including Roche Diagnostics, Cyberonics and Bausch & Lomb.

The author of the article, Patrick Wright, says that the findings raise significant questions about links between the lobbying industry and NHS England – a quango set up to run the NHS under the Government’s health reforms.

Read the article here: