Editorial: Lobbying’s flaws exposed yet again

Gradually, the iniquities of the largely unseen mechanisms by which the private sector seeks to influence government policy are being revealed

Share

David Cameron was wrong when he said, three years ago, that after MPs’ expenses, “the next big scandal waiting to happen” was lobbying.

Since then we have had phone hacking, Leveson and a convulsion in the newspaper industry that is still playing out. But the Prime  Minister was perhaps wrong only in his chronology. There can be no doubt that lobbying – or, at least, some aspects of it – are, indeed, scandalous. And gradually, inexorably, the iniquities of the largely unseen mechanisms by which the private sector seeks to influence government policy are being exposed.

In December 2011, The Independent revealed how the communications firm Bell Pottinger was willing to represent countries with appalling human rights records. Then the Public Relations Consultants Association, which represents hundreds of PR agencies and individuals, pulled out of the body formed to “promote and uphold effective self-regulation” of the industry on the grounds that it was incapable of producing an effective register. Now, we have the resignation of the Tory MP and parliamentary whip Patrick Mercer, amid allegations that he broke Westminster’s rules on lobbying.

Once again, as with our sting on Bell Pottinger, it has taken undercover reporting to reveal the flaws in the system. Mr Mercer is understood to have been covertly recorded by reporters from the BBC’s Panorama posing as lobbyists who allegedly paid him to put the case on behalf of Fiji, which faces accusations of human rights abuses.

In April, Mr Mercer organised an Early Day Motion which appeared to back the Fijian regime, despite its being accused of subverting the rule of law, rounding up and arresting political opponents and disregarding the constitution. It is claimed that he failed to declare to parliamentary authorities part of the fee he was paid (although he has apparently subsequently done so).

The full extent of the allegations against Mr Mercer and his defence is not yet clear. But what is certain is that self-regulation is not enough. Only a statutory register of lobbyists will do. For all his warm words, Mr Cameron has so far refused to back the plan. He must do so now.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + TBA: Randstad Education Reading: Geography Teacher neede...

***Sports Graduate***

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: This role has arisen due to inc...

Business StudiesTeacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Bu...

***Are you a Support Worker? or a Youth Worker? ***

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The RoleDue to demand we are cu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Scientists believe the discovery could lead to new treatments for loss of memory function caused by ageing and other factors  

We need a completely new approach to caring for older people

Carol Jagger
 

Daily catch-up: out of time, polling and immigration and old words

John Rentoul
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past