UK government’s real ‘special relationship’ is with Google

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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?

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