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Sun 5 December 2021

Exclusive polling commissioned by Byline Times suggests that people are concerned about the corruption of politics by private sector interests

A majority of people think that the current Government is corrupt, while only 16% disagree with the statement, according to exclusive polling by Omnisis commissioned by Byline Times.

Omnisis polled a representative sample of the population from 4 to 5 November and found that 58% of respondents believe that Boris Johnson’s administration is corrupt. 27% of people asked strongly agreed that the Government is corrupt, 31% agreed, 26% neither agreed nor disagreed, 13% disagreed and only 3% strongly disagreed.

Of those who voted for the Conservatives in the 2019 General Election, 37% of those surveyed said they believe that the Government is corrupt, while 32% disagreed.

Respondents were polled in a week when the Government and the Conservative Party have been embroiled in controversy over former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson, who was found guilty of attempting to lobby on behalf of two private companies that paid him more than £100,000 a year.

79% of voters polled by Omnisis said that MPs should not be allowed to have second jobs with private companies while working in Parliament. Byline Times revealed that the 59 Conservative MPs who led the charge to defend Paterson – against a 30 day suspension from Parliament recommended by the parliamentary standards commissioner as a result of his “egregious” lobbying – cumulatively earn more than £1 million a year from second jobs.

This belief is consistent throughout the political spectrum, with 79% of 2019 Conservative voters polled, 80% of Labour voters, and 82% of Liberal Democrats all agreeing that MPs should be prevented from having second jobs.

Following a U-turn by the Government, Paterson resigned as an MP. An overwhelming 93% of people polled by Omnisis said that an MP should immediately resign if found guilty of lobbying the Government on behalf of a private company, breaking parliamentary rules. Once again, this conviction was consistent among supporters of all political parties.

The Paterson affair is the latest in a long line of scandals related to the cross-pollination of the public and private sectors.

Byline Times has shown that at least £3 billion in COVID-related contracts have been awarded to firms owned by Conservative donors and associates, while a number of deals for personal protective equipment were given to firms without much experience of doing the job. There have also been long-standing concerns about the infiltration of the private sector into the work of the NHS.

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This polling suggests that these stories have made an impact on the public – with 78% of those surveyed saying that they are worried about the influence of private companies on Government policies. Only 16% said that they are not worried about corporate influence, while 5% said they were unsure. These concerns also seemed to increase with age: 69% of 18 to 24-year-olds polled said they were worried about the influence of private firms on Government policies, compared to 83% of those aged over 65.

Private sector influence is even a prominent concern among Conservative voters – with 77% of 2019 supporters polled expressing their worry about the distortion of the public realm by corporate interests.

As Byline Times’ Westminster Correspondent Adam Bienkov wrote yesterday, the Paterson affair corresponds with a trend perpetuated by Johnson’s Government – eroding democratic norms and standards of accountability, in order to act with populist impunity.

Indeed, the Omnisis polling suggests that 55% of people believe that democracy is getting weaker under Boris Johnson’s leadership. Only 17% think that it is getting stronger, and 29% are unsure.

Even among 2019 Conservative voters, 40% said they thought that democracy is weakening under Johnson, while 24% said they believe it is getting stronger. Some 46% of people who voted Leave in the 2016 EU Referendum also maintained that democracy is getting weaker, versus just 21% who said that it is getting stronger.

A link to the full methodology and tables can be found here

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