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

Share

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

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
 

Never underestimate the power of the National Trust

Boyd Tonkin
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss