View from City Road: Not saints, but not devils either

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The Independent Online
Political lobbyists are in danger of becoming synonymous with sleaze. Here's the case for the defence. Until recent exposes there were always MPs prepared to accept cash for questions and no doubt there were always unscrupulous lobbyists prepared to offer it. But on the whole the business of political lobbying has been a force for good. We all complain about rotten legislation written and passed by people who understand not a jot about the subject. In recent years, lobbyists have contributed to a much more informed debate and sometimes have enlightened some truly appalling Acts of Parliament whose original form would have had dire and largely unforeseen consequences for business.

Lobbyists have also contributed to the process of more open government. Gone are the days when a construction company could hope to secure a contract because its chairman had been at Cambridge with the relevant minister or official. The better informed, more competitive environment that lobbyists have helped to create has been a powerful barrier to the sort of cosy little corrupt deals that used to go on.

Professional lobbyists are far from being saints, but unless you hold the view that it is fundamentally wrong for business to try to get its message across, or to try to gain access to the sort of information that might help to secure government work, then they are on the whole to be encouraged, not vilified.