Harsh words for Smith as new lobby minister

  • @oliver_wright

Chloe Smith, the Conservative minister who shot to public prominence for her disastrous attempt to defend George Osborne's petrol duty U-turn on Newsnight, has been appointed minister responsible for lobbying.

She was moved from the Treasury to the Cabinet Office in the recent reshuffle, and yesterday it was announced that she will be taking responsibility for overseeing the Government's preparation of a statutory lobbying register.

But one of the main groups representing Britain's lobbyists got off to an uneasy start with the new minister yesterday after it included unflattering remarks about her in a press release responding to her appointment.

The PRCA, the professional body that represents UK PR consultancies, sent a statement to journalists calling on Chloe Smith to "listen and engage" with the industry over Government plans for a statutory register of lobbyists.

But in a sentence unlikely to be included in any "good PR" manual, it added: "Smith has joined the Cabinet Office from the Treasury, where she was best known for her poor performance when interviewed by Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman".

While undeniably true, the indelicate statement raised eyebrows. It was later withdrawn but not before it was picked up and publicised by the Guido Fawkes political gossip website.

Ms Smith was considered something of a rising government star until being savaged by Jeremy Paxman for her inability to expain the Chancellor's sudden decision to drop the planned 3p rise in May – at the height of the "omnishambles" fall-out from the Budget.

Under the Government's present plans only external consultants – not in-house lobbyists – would have to sign up to the register. Bodies such as the PRCA want all lobbyists included.