Pat Murtagh: We should say no to tyrants' cash

Good lobbying is not all about contacts. It is about building a solid case

Share
Related Topics

We all have the right to lobby our lawmakers in a democracy. And there is nothing intrinsically improper in asking a professional to prepare arguments and help you navigate the legislative or government process. There are benefits for both sides and indeed sometimes, for the taxpayer. Politicians are not experts, after all, and often need to be alerted to pitfalls and flaws in draft policy. Busy MPs and civil servants generally prefer information in short pithy form, delivered at a time when it can be most useful to their deliberations on a particular issue.

Not all lobbyists are greedy and unscrupulous, but the good ones are now, unfortunately, tarnished by the kind of alleged conduct exposed by the "Uzbekgate tapes". Lobbying can and should be done perfectly ethically but it relies on both the sound judgement of the practitioner – refusing to represent torturers, tyrants or those who justify child labour would seem elementary – and on the integrity of those who occupy positions of power. Crucially, MPs and ministers have a duty to evaluate the information they receive and to apply caution about giving privileged or fast-track access to favoured individuals.

Effective lobbying does not, in any case – contrary to what the Bell Pottinger transcripts would suggest – require tawdry bragging about who you know. The belief that it does is why so many firms hire ex-government staffers and former MPs. But this is naive. Rather, it is about building a case on solid evidence that stands on its own merits, and conveying that case to the right people (who are not necessarily the most senior) at the right time. In the past two years, I have for example, advised expert clinicians seeking to promote in parliament the unfashionable but important case for improved services for continence sufferers. I can tell you that exorbitant sums do not change hands in this kind of small-scale legitimate business.

Good lobbysists should welcome more transparency. A mandatory register would help shine light in dark recesses and might make people think twice about offering or accepting excessive hospitality. But would this alone dissuade those offered obscene amounts to burnish the brands of rogue regimes? My fear is it could also create a bureaucracy impeding or even excluding smaller practitioners or one-off interest groups, while doing little to curtail the big abuses.

Meanwhile, is it right that former cabinet ministers, senior civil servants or special advisers can legally emerge through the revolving door into jobs in the private sector in the very policy areas they influenced in government? Tighter controls, such as a minimum five-year gap between public office and a role in selling advice, where a conflict of interest is obvious, might be an even more effective reform.

The writer is director of PM Political Ltd

Related links
* Lobbyists - full related links

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
* thebureauinvestigates.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
More From
Pat Murtagh
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in August  

Ferguson: The sad truth is that Michael Brown was killed because he was a black man

Bonnie Greer
A protestor poses for a  

Ferguson verdict: This isn't a 'tragedy'. This is part of a long-running genocide of black men in America

Otamere Guobadia
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital