Until 1832 only male owners of property worth at least 40 shillings were entitled to vote. This ensured that political power remained in the hands of the wealthy.
It wasn’t until 1928, after a series of social and political reforms, that the right to vote was extended to every adult living in the United Kingdom. (1)
We enjoy the legacy of those reforms today. But our elected representatives appear unable to protect government from the influence of big business.
This is a problem.
Corporate influence in policy-making, a political system overrun by lobbyists and the revolving door between politics and industry are all aspects of this problem. (2)
What can we do?
It can’t promise to restore faith in our political system, but shareholder activism is an effective tactic for holding companies to account on a range of issues. (3)
& here’s an even more heretical idea –
What if corporations were obliged to hold public elections for their board members and executives..?
(2) George Monbiot has written about the problem –
Tamasin Cave and Andy Rowell investigate the issue of lobbying in their book ‘A Quiet Word; Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain’ – an overview here – http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/12/lobbying-10-ways-corprations-influence-government
Some groups seeking to address the problem are –
(3) I went on a training with Share Action in their offices near London Bridge last week. It was a great introduction. Shareholder activism has proven a successful tactic on a range of issues including amongst others fair pay, excessive executive pay, corporate tax avoidance and compelling industry to recognise the environmental impact of its operations. Perhaps ultimately this last area needs a new form of accounting where the environmental cost of a companies’ activities is factored into their expenditures and profits. Does anyone know anyone who’s campaigning for this / has written about this? For more details about the range of Share Action’s campaigning see http://shareaction.org/campaigns