In a bid to quell the public anger at the close links between politicians and News International David Cameron ordered all Cabinet ministers, including himself, to publish a list of all meetings with members of the media held since the General Election. Ed Miliband was quick to follow suit with his own list. The lists were not very flattering; particularly to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary who met regularly with Rupert Murdoch himself, yet this was the end of the initial storm and public interest was waning but this was a really important moment. We now will know every time a senior politician meets with the media.
Knowing this information makes politics more transparent, we can see the desperate attempts to woo powerful newspaper owners and make the connections between these meetings and subsequent policy announcements. We should be encouraged that this Government have decided to build upon and improve Freedom of Information legislation - Government is opening up like never before. This is a great thing for democracy but lists of media meetings should be only another step towards the kind of genuinely transparent government that the Wikileaks generation demands and that true democracy deserves.
Firstly such rules should be widened to cover all MPs, secondly the list of meetings should not be stopped at media barons and senior editors. Powerful interests beyond the control of the common man lobby our leading members of Government on a daily basis, often with disastrous results, most notably – the banking sector who demanded de-regulation prior to the banking collapse of ’08. MPs should have to publicly list meetings with everyone apart from members of the public – that means business owners, environmental groups, trade union leaders, farmers’ groups, parents’ groups, students’ unions all of whom will try to influence our MPs. Not all of this activity is bad of course but it should be made public so that voters can see who their MP and their government are meeting with before taking decisions that effect the lives of their constituents and the nation.
This simple step would be far more effective in cleaning up politics than the oft-called for list of lobbying firms, indeed it might even be more effective than introducing a more proportional voting system – though I’m not going to stop calling for that.