How much do we want to share our democracy with companies? There’s no doubt a place for companies to make stuff and sell it – but should there be a place for them to pay for political parties and influence party policies? Individuals have the right to petition and influence their rulers, but should companies also have it? At the moment, companies do it freely. It is called lobbying.
As David Cameron has said, lobbying “exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money…in some cases MPs are approached more than 100 times a week by lobbyists.” So we might guess that irrespective of any corporate donations to the Conservative Party, David Cameron is probably itching to remove Lynton Crosby from the ranks of party advisers. Just so that there can be no perception that the failure to implement tobacco controls or alcohol limits has anything to do with lobbying.
What about the companies involved? A search of the Philip Morris website for the term ‘lobbying’ returns no results. Do the same thing on BAT’s website and this page turns up. So there are different levels of awareness out there that transparency over lobbying is part of what earns a company its licence to operate.
Perhaps the phrase ‘corporate citizenship’ should not just elicit a warm and fuzzy feeling. As I have argued before, it also has its dangers.