'That this House notes the strong public cynicism about the influence of corporate lobbyists on British politics; that individuals and organisations which engage in lobbying activities are able to do so effectively hidden from public scrutiny.'
Surprising then for a friend of mine to receive the attached letter from Norman Baker himself, offering a "small private dinner" with the frontbench Lib Dem transport team. He was told that "tickets for the dinner are extremely limited", and that the party's new transport policy paper would be discussed. This does not appear to be advertised widely, just hand-picked lobbyists from the transport sector. So much for transparency!
But worst of all is the price....a staggering £881.25, (£750 excl VAT). Now, to be fair, it does include a conference pass (which is available elsewhere for just £77), and accommodation (at those prices, lets hope its the main conference hotel but unlikely). But even with that taken into account, the dinner and discussion must be fairly expensive!
Now, no rule has been broken here, but the hypocrisy from Norman Baker is staggering. Here's the full text of the letter he has sent out, only a few weeks after signing an EDM slagging off the very people he's trying to get £750 out of.
“Fast Track Britain”: Building a transport system for the 21st century
Liberal Democrat policy paper, autumn conference 2008
One of the key policy debates at the Liberal Democrat conference this September will be on transport policy. I am writing to offer you a special opportunity to meet the Liberal Democrat transport policy team, and other industry colleagues, to discuss how these proposals could affect business, at a small private dinner on Tuesday 16th September in Bournemouth.
The transport policy paper has just been approved by the party’s Federal Policy Committee, and will be published in June. It will include key proposals on national and local passenger transport, as well as freight issues. The party’s transport team – including myself, parliamentary colleagues and key policy advisers – are keen to discuss these proposals with leading companies in the sector. Tickets for the dinner are extremely limited and will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. The ticket price is £750 +VAT and will include a two-day full registration to the conference – including the debate on the transport paper – accommodation and dinner.
I do hope you will be able to join us at what promises to be a very interesting evening of discussion. The Liberal Democrat conference office will contact you in the next week, but if you would like to register your early interest please email email@example.com. I look forward to seeing you in Bournemouth.
Norman Baker MP
Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
Don't all rush at once. Having heard Nick Clegg and Norman Baker tie themselves up in knots over their unfunded rail policy on the radio a couple of days ago I can't think either of them will have anything worth listening to. Especially for £750.
Just think back to the time when Charlie had to resign. It was a pretty low point for the LibDems. I didn't think that it could have got much worse...
How wrong I was. Thanks Iain.
Strange that this has emerged on the same day on which we learnt that Tory MEPs have been trousering hundreds of thousands of TAXPAYERS' money.
I actually learnt of this this morning, but as you will have seem, I havent posted much since this morning as I have been busy with work.
I have posted on Giles Chichester's activities, which I am guessing is more than LibDem Voice will do on this.
Perhaps you would like to condemn it?
Hi Iain. I post comments on here regularly, and I do try to be fair. In that spirit, I will say that I prefer your blog far & away above LDV. I think that the LibDems would be much better off with a site that is genuinely independent of the party. I wish that there was a LibDem Iain Dale.
Also, I trust you when you say that you got this before the Chichester story broke, and I acknowledge that you did blog on that subject earlier. I want also to underline that I was not accusing you of anything.
That said, I would assert that what some Tory MEPs stand accused of is far worse than this story. That was taxpayers' money.
Keep up the good work, Iain. I am a big fan.
The only thing worse than dinner with Norman Baker is the thought of having to pay for it.
Nightmare Dinner Party scenarios: (I will get the ball rolling): Sarah Teather, Jenny Tonge, Jackie Ballard and Norman Baker.
I think I would rather have dinner with Norman Bates.
Nice work Mr. D. He is fat fraud through and through and our useless local Paper ( it really is dreaful) operate as a fanzine for the twerp.
Time for another letter I think. I am also getting somewhat sick of the BBC treating Cable like a demi god.Time you trained your guns on that self satisfied zero as well.
This is not his first offence
Good spot, Ian. A matter of, ooh, days behind Sam Coates on Red Box . . .
Really Dale, you're no one to talk about two faces.
Get youu're own house in order first eh?
Re transport, a story is going round amongst ex-pats in Asia as follows -
In the UK, porno movies are being filmed at petrol stations, so you can see someone else being fucked at the same time as you are.
People over here who don't have to pay all those taxes, can laugh. You lot cannot.
The Lib Dems are being trained in corruption politics by the EU at Henley Management College.
Many are benefiting from 'Expenses Unlimited', as the tentacles of EU money politics reach deep into our political system, and rot it to the core. Only Cameron is speaking out against it. Clegg is as guilty as any of them, offering no resistance to the slush he hopes to get his slimy little hands on, once he's finished shagging the wives of his colleagues.
And who closed down Tunbridge Wells West?
Where is the rail network now that we need it?
In Tunbridge Wells
You can hear the yell
Of woe-begone bourgeoisie
We all get bitched about,lads
Whoever our vote elects
We know we're up the spout,lads
And that's what England expects.
Trouble is on the way
The big question is why anyone would be interested (to the point of £800) in any LibDem policy, since they ain't going to form a government this century?
Knowing the Libbies, i bet the 'meal' on offer is a 'spit roast'.... I think i'll pass.
Umm i think it was £7.50 Ian.
A Lib Dem with only two faces? Staggering.
Very amusing, but all the parties (including very much the Tories) engage in these expensive "come and meet the [insert your backbench/frontbench team here] soirees" where you "here about and discuss" "policy" "ideas". Everything in inverted commas because most of them are of course complete tripe.
I went on a few in my days as a representative for a major environmental pressure group. They were invariably misinformed, off the point and over-priced. I always advised the body I worked for not to bother sending people to any more, but they felt if they didn't attend they would be seen as losing influence.
However, there is a difference between this and the highly-paid corporate lobbying on behalf of [insert your corrupt foreign dictatorship/mining corporation/arms manufacturer here] that takes place with huge budgets and what is very obviously undue influence. Frequently, small changes to legislation reveal in particular the activism of corporations whose interests don't always, to put it mildly, happen to coincide with the wider public good. I would commend Baker for trying to do something about that, even if there is an element of hypocrisy involved.
Question Time BBC1
I don't suppose Iain or anyone else knows of a web site that keeps the stats on panalist appearances.
Its just the unelected lady from the tiny organisation known as "Liberty" just keeps on popping up.
You just know the BBC loves um.
She's allowed to yap.
Chris Hittchins is constantly interupted.
I'm really struggling to understand your point here Iain. Since when did supporting greater transparency mean opposing raising money? Michael Ashcroft advocates transparency in fundraising; according to your logic that makes him the biggest hypocrite in the known universe.
Why on earth would a lobbyist want to pay so much money to listen to a manifesto that will never be put in practice?
I can understand Lib Dems wanting to listen to it and debate, but there is no business sense in a lobbyist wasting their time talking about, what is effectively, a boring piece of fiction.
I would commend Baker for trying to do something about that, even if there is an element of hypocrisy involved.
Oh would you . Well I would like Norman Baker to do something useful for his constituency which is not posing as a tax payers friend when he is a tax and spend Beveridge Group member who assisted in saving idiot Brown over Lisbon despite promising not to. It might have been nice if during the period when he using Parliamentary facilities to research his infantile book for which he got £50,000 (just from the Mail)if he had concentrated on the concerns of the local people who detest this more important two facedness. Why not pay back the £8000 he spent on that
Local Councillors despair at his appearing for photo ops every time anyone protests about anything in utter disregard of Liberal Policy and with contempt for the intelligence of any adult obliged to suffer his posturing cant
He and his cohorts of semi employed public sector “professionals “ who have all day to acquire additional incomes dominate the local Press work in it and operate bad news blackout for Baker . Its an industry in which the Libs share out sinecures and and goodies and a corruption of democracy at every level
Who would like to take a bet that our Norm sees out his profitable hand wringing as an MEP, not bad for someone whose other career option was the manager of an Our Price Record shop.
"I can't think either of them will have anything worth listening to. Especially for £750."
Somehow I don't think the purpose is for the lobbyists to listen to the party spokesmen but vice versa.
Who the hell would waste £750 on trying to influence LibDem policy? They haven't achieved anything since the 20's, except propping up a terrible Labour government in the 70's. Far better to spend £750 on ... well ... almost anything really.
Norman Baker's name is mud down here in Brighton. The odious little toad tried to delay the planning process for our stadium so long that it would force Brighton and Hove Albion out of business.
He has more "faces" than a Danny Dyer movie and all the personality and charm of an FA executive.
Ugh he's my MP. Still, it gives me some abuse for the omnipresent libdem canvassers in these parts.
I read Baker's book on the killing of David Kelly and found it utterly compelling and terribly well-written and well-researched. Methinks Baker is not quite as minor and unintelligent as some of your more rabid Southern Tory Gentlepersons say above. Could it be that Baker is actually much more useful for them than yet another nondescript Estate Agent/Company Director/Barristor Tory backbench drone would have been?
Anyone who has studied the Kelly background in detail smells a huge rat and Baker has done a profound service; what is really needed is for the incoming Cameron government to launch a proper public enquiry into it, with sworn witnesses and perjury trials for those proven to lie. With Blair, Campbell and Hoon summoned back to answer questions properly, not be allowed to get away with their lies and evasions as they were under the witless early-retireee ministerial drone, Hutton.
This shows the entire hypocrisy of 'Saint' Norman - Lewes locals often seem to believe he can walk on water but here again he shows he is no better than many he criticizes and worse than most MPs. When added to his poor attendance record at Parliament and his poor delivery record for Newhaven and the constituency generally it is time for a change in Lewes as in the country as a whole.
It's time to go Norman!
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