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Corporate and Financial Dominance in Britain’s Democracy

Corporate and Financial Dominance in Britain’s Democracy

"In this compelling and unmissable analysis, David Beetham has expertly outlined how and why democracy is subservient to corporate power, and finance, in the UK" – Will Straw, founding editor of left Foot Forward and Associate Director, IPPR.

"Democratic Audit and David Beetham must be congratulated. And we the readers must be challenged. From parliament to the trade unions, countervailing powers have failed. Yet the corporate oligarchy depends on us as consumers, citizens and employees. Beetham's rigorous analysis requires us to think more creatively about how together we can use that power to remake democracy" - Hilary Wainwright, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam and co-editor of Red Pepper.

“The political use of corporate power, particularly but not solely by the financial sector, has become the biggest threat to democracy in the developed world. It is rarely discussed as such because few people in public life have the courage to face its implications. In this magnificent paper, David Beetham has laid bare the extent of this threat in a way that simply cannot be ignored” – Prof. Colin Crouch, University of Warwick, author of 'The Strange Non-death of Neoliberalism’ (Polity, 2011).

Democratic Audit is today publishing what we regard as a highly significant paper on the role of corporate and financial interests in British democracy. The paper, Unelected Oligarchy: Corporate and Financial Dominance in Britain’s Democracy, has been written by Professor David Beetham, an Associate Director of Democratic Audit.  

Professor Beetham’s paper, produced as part ofour wide-ranging audit of Britain’s democracy, explores the extent to which there is validity in the widely-held perception that the financial crisis of 2007-8 and its aftermath have shown that the UK government works largely for the benefit of the corporate and financial sectors rather than of ordinary citizens and taxpayers.

The paper first traces the historical changes since the 1980s – ideological, economic, fiscal and operational – which have led to the increasing dependency of government on the private sector. It then identifies the different channels through which corporate and financial elites have inserted themselves into the heart of government over successive administrations, and how they continue to exercise a predominant influence over it. Key examples of such mechanisms considered in the paper are the financing of political parties, think tanks and lobbying organisations, membership of advisory bodies, 'revolving doors’ and joint partnerships with government.

We trust that this paper, which combines a rigorous evidential base with a principled analysis of what makes a system of government democratic, will be of interest to anyone concerned with the current condition of Britain’s democracy.

Download a PDF of Unelected Oligarchy: Corporate and Financial Dominance in Britain’s Democracy.

We also have a limited number of print copies available, at a cost of £5 each, plus postage and packing. If you would like a print copy, please contact David Ellis via email:

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