Andy McSmith: Corridors of power are full of mysterious middle men

The best way to curb rule-breaking by lobbyists is to force them out into the open


It was as difficult to walk through parts of Manchester earlier this month without bumping into a lobbyist as it has been for Liam Fox to visit a foreign capital without meeting up with Adam Werritty. Literally thousands of lobbyists took the trip north for a week's social networking and deal clinching at the Conservative Party conference. There were more of them there than Tory representatives. Their presence went a long way to covering the cost of an expensive week that would otherwise have had to come from Conservative Party funds.

"It's difficult to distinguish between the Conservative Party and the lobbying industry, because the revolving door between the two is so well-oiled," Tamasin Cave, who runs the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, said.

This phenomenon has grown since the election. Before then, whatever the lobbyists' private opinions, power was with the Labour Party and it was around Labour ministers that lobbyists hovered, while David Cameron vouchsafed he would curb their activities once he was in power. Now it is Tories who draw the lobbyists, and Labour that is calling for regulation.

No one is suggesting that it would be possible, or even desirable, to ban lobbying altogether. Businesses are affected by the decisions politicians make and are entitled to call on the services of experts to help them make sure that ministers understand what they are doing.

Where this £2bn-a-year industry becomes a target of suspicion, and a potential source of corruption, is when its practitioners operate in secret, either by pretending that they are motivated by beliefs when in fact there is money involved, or by trying to disguise the fact that they are lobbyists.

Common sense suggest that deceit like this should be illegal, but it is not. Although an uncounted number of politicians have talked about subjecting the industry to regulation, it has not happened. This is not because there has been resistance from the industry. Helen Johnson, who heads the Association of Professional Political Consultants, says that her organisation is in favour of legislation.

From time to time, new rules have come into place when a scandal has blown up around rogue lobbyists, but too often, somebody finds a way around them.

The most effective way to prevent "in-betweeners" from bending the rules would be to force them, by law, to come out from any dark corners where they may be hiding, say who they are and who is paying them to do what. It should not be difficult to get legislation through Parliament. All it needs is the political will. If the Government suddenly finds the will, we can thank Adam Werritty.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power