This work has been overdue for a long time. In the United States, a lot of information about financial (and other) lobbyists is made publicly available by law. In the United Kingdom, whose City of London financial centre is comparable in size to that of the United States, there are few such requirements.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has now done some hard digging some of this information into the open at last, and uncovered a trove of often scary information about the political might of the UK financial sector. The Guardian summarises it:
The British financial services industry spent £92m last year lobbying politicians and regulators in an “economic war of attrition” that has secured a string of policy victories.
The UK’s Business Secretary Vince Cable made a crucial point, in an otherwise rather timid statement. The financial sector, he said, is not just ‘disproportionately influential’ but also ‘too easily assumed to represent the national interest.’ Readers of Treasure Islands, with its stories of people in tax havens such as Jersey being called ‘traitors’ for opposing the financial sector, would be more than familiar with this appraisal.
In a couple of months or so I will be publishing some detailed research of my own, addressing all these issues – and a host of others.
Today’s report is a profoundly important new study which will be a reference point for many people in the years to come. It comes in several parts:
Headline article: The £93m City lobby machine
Get the data: The Bureau’s financial lobby database
How the Bureau calculated the size of the finance lobby
Streets paved with gold: The council that works for banks. An in-depth look into the City of London Corporation.
The articles also link to earlier TBIJ reports, highlighting facts that hedge funds, financiers and private equity firms contributed more than a quarter of all donations to the Conservative party in the past year
Insurance lobby weakens pension plan for low paid
Opinion: The finance lobby faces its biggest challenge
My personal opinion is that — with its own similarly sized financial centre diluted in a far larger population — the United States has a far greater chance of rolling back the power of Big Finance than Britain has. Which, given the sheer influence that Wall Street exerts over both political parties, illustrates the scale of the challenge that Britain faces if it is to rebalance its economy.