How much are politicians swayed by lobbyists?

It’s a question that has vexed me for years. Whilst I have no issue with organisations lobbying politicians, when those politicians receive additional funds, it all starts to get murky quite quickly.

The defence of the current position is that MPs have to declare their interests, and therefore everything is above board. They will act and vote from a transparent position.

I challenge this.

Suppose an MP receives financial support from a currency brokerage. That MP could make extravagant remarks in the House about, say, a trade relationship which causes sterling to surge or plummet. This volatility is of great benefit to the currency trader, and does not directly benefit the MP, who merely receives an ongoing monthly revenue stream. There are of course many other potential scenarios, so I’m not pointing specific accusations here.

With this continued nagging doubt, I investigated the latest register of MP’s interests. It’s available online, but in a very difficult format, with much of the data being buried in textual narrative. After a lot of leg-work, I distilled it down to the graph below, which requires explanation:

I extracted the value of interests from the descriptions; in some cases this was easily stated as £X per year, or a one-off payment of £Y. In other cases the figure was a monthly revenue, which was then multiplied up to provide an annual figure. Sometimes the figures were difficult to interpret, so I have made my best assessment – and the point here is that the analysis needs to be peer reviewed (I am human and prone to error).

The chart shows all MPs who received interests of more than £100,000 a year (in addition to their salary). These sources may have been to fight campaigns, or they may have been charitable donations passed on in due course – each case needs assessment.

So what does this tell us?

Well perhaps it’s no surprise that Boris Johnson is the PM. It’s perhaps also not surprising that we (currently) have a Conservative Government.

If you have any other thoughts about this, please comment or get in touch – it’s time we had some proper discussion on these issues.