Peter Geoghegan

Peter Geoghegan is the editor-in-chief of openDemocracy. His latest book is Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics.

Short Cuts: At NatCon London

Peter Geoghegan, 1 June 2023

Iheardthe National Conservatism Conference before I saw it. Rounding a corner in Westminster last Monday morning, I was met with the high-pitched whine of a cheap amplifier turned up too loud. On the mic, the long-time anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray was ululating ‘Why, why, why, Suella?’ to the tune of Tom Jones’s ‘Delilah’. He finished with a rhyming...

Short Cuts: Libel Tourism

Peter Geoghegan, 16 March 2023

Last May​, I was invited to the Ministry of Justice to take part in a discussion of ‘Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation’ (Slapps): legal cases whose purpose is to harass, intimidate and silence public criticism. I was ushered into a small, airless room with a group of other journalists and civil servants. Nothing would be attributed, we were assured, but our...

Short Cuts: On Greensill

Peter Geoghegan, 6 May 2021

Labour hopes that sleaze is Johnson’s weakness. Internal party polling suggests the scandals are registering with voters, particularly in the ‘Red Wall’ seats. The shadow cabinet office minister, Rachel Reeves, has called for an ethics and integrity commission to guarantee standards in public life (but Cameron made grand promises in opposition too). Greensill has prompted a panic about lobbying, but the real and enduring scandal is the power of money in British politics. Cameron, like Tony Blair and many others, saw nothing wrong in selling his access to the highest bidder. Britain’s political culture appears intensely relaxed about perceptions of cronyism and nepotism. Corporate donations grease the wheels for lucrative public contracts. Honours are dished out to party funders. Last December, Johnson defied the recommendation of the Lords Appointment Commission when he elevated the Tory donor Peter Cruddas to the Lords.

Short Cuts: FOI

Peter Geoghegan, 4 February 2021

Tony Blair​’s long-winded memoir A Journey (2010) is strikingly light on self-recrimination. He regrets ‘with every fibre of my being’ the hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq, but ‘can’t regret the decision to go to war’. George W. Bush was ‘a true idealist’. Even Silvio Berlusconi comes in for praise. Blair did, however, lambast himself...

Cronyism and Clientelism

Peter Geoghegan, 5 November 2020

Within six months of resigning as Brexit secretary, David Davis was earning £3000 an hour as an ‘external adviser’ to JCB – itself a major donor to the Conservative Party. Nick Clegg now works for Facebook. Sajid Javid became an adviser to J.P. Morgan barely six months after leaving Number 11. Theresa May earned more than her annual salary as prime minister from two cancelled speeches she was to give to J.P. Morgan this year. Such stories only serve to feed voters’ growing mistrust of politics. Will politicians be willing to anger Silicon Valley or big banks if the same firms are likely to feather their nests almost as soon as they step away from the cabinet table? Is the implicit message that acquiescence in office will be rewarded with a well-remunerated sinecure? Westminster is intensely relaxed about the perception of impropriety. In Washington, powerful congressional committees investigated some of Donald Trump’s most trusted lieutenants. But British politicians have little to fear beyond reprimands from toothless watchdogs or lurid tabloid headlines.

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