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Summary:

Britain’s Conservative government has once again demonstrated its close links with Google. Is it a simple infatuation with power, or a potential minefield?

EricSchmidtIFA

The British government is currently embroiled in a cash-for-access scandal after it emerged that rich business tycoons were promised access to Prime Minister David Cameron in exchange for large donations.

But there’s at least one company that doesn’t need to worry about stumping up cash to cosy up to the nation’s leaders.

Over the last few years, Google has a built up a multitude of ties and links to the British government and senior political leaders, and as a result it seems to hold significant sway over the Cameron cabinet.

And on Thursday that twist on the famous “special relationship” was underscored again when Britain’s treasury chief was wheeled out for the official opening of Campus London, the Silicon Valley company’s new startup workspace in London.

Campus is an interesting — and unusual — move for Google: a co-working hub aimed at supporting small, local web businesses and entrepreneurs.

But the fact that Chancellor George Osborne, the man in charge of Britain’s purse strings, was happy to turn up and cut the ribbon shows a lot about the connections between the two groups. In fact, Osborne even went so far as to co-sign a puffy opinion piece about Google and Britain’s technology industry with Eric Schmidt in today’s Financial Times.

The piece itself is not really worth reading — especially since it repeats the canard that London’s digital business community has swollen from 200 companies to more than 700 in just a couple of years — but it is just the latest evidence of the extensive relationship between Britain’s ruling politicians and the Californian company.

Let’s just look at some of the links here:

That’s just a little smidgen of it. At its root, Cameron seems to be enamored with Google’s disruptive approach to business — particularly the rhetoric of change and innovation that has surrounded it over the past decade (even if the company is increasingly looking like a bully, not a bright star.)

His obsession with Google’s influence may not be anything more than an infatuation, which is not unusual: Tony Blair had a similarly doe-eyed relationship with Bill Gates and Microsoft.

But at what point is Google’s relationship with the government too close for comfort?

  1. Huh?

    And if Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, or Facebook had opened a new research centre, or innovation hub, or any other large investment in East London, you don’t think that the Chancellor or Prime Minister would have attended that as well?

    What a load of Google-bashing drivel. If you’re going to publish a bunch of anecdotal “evidence” (oh yeah, like the fact that the PM said the NHS should be more like Google – well, that just PROVES it, doesn’t it, because the NHS is just brilliant right now…) the least you could have done was at least provided some comparative data for the other tech giants. Wait – didn’t Cameron have a videoconference with Zuckerberg at election time?? Sound the alarm! another “special” relationship alert! Utter rubbish!

    Om, you should be ashamed to have let such an article be published on your site.

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    1. “What a load of Google-bashing drivel”

      What a fact-free comment.

      Google is getting UK law changed to suit itself – even Microsoft couldn’t pull off that stunt. Try looking up Linda and Rachel Whetstone and educating yourself.

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  2. Another propaganda from Google’s competitor puppet GigaOm.

    How about reporting how Micro$oft pays european parliament to smear Google?
    http://falkvinge.net/2012/03/02/how-microsoft-pays-big-money-to-smear-google-audaciously/

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    1. You want us to believe a man who calls himself “Hawk Wings”?

      Gimme a break. His name is Rick Augustsson.

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  3. Really starting to believe GigaOM is paid propaganda machine by Microsoft. This article is malicious at best. Your just like Rupert Murdoch News Corp tabloid spreading unfounded gossip.

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  4. Bobbie Johnson Friday, March 30, 2012

    Thanks all, despite your rather harsh words: glad at least you’re asking questions about why I’d write this.

    And I’ll tell you the reason I am skeptical of Google’s relationship with the British government: because close relationships between any political administration and a large business (particularly a large foreign business which avoids putting much money into the economy) can be very dangerous.

    For example, Microsoft’s relationship with the last British government was incredibly close and extremely costly. The vast sums spent on the NHS NPFIT project were largely done because Blair was enamored of Bill Gates who convinced him that it would be a great thing to do. That ended up being a complete failure, obvious from the beginning, and an expensive mistake.

    So I really believe that the Cameron government’s closeness to Google is a significant problem that has the possibility of causing real damage.

    And if you think other technology companies have the same sway over cabinet-level thinking, you haven’t spoken to the people who make decisions or watched what the politicians are actually saying and doing.

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  5. transmodernbeat Monday, April 2, 2012

    Might this relate to UK planning an internet surveillance law?

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