Leading article: Only a register of lobbyists will do

 

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The Augean stables will not clean themselves. That David Cameron's former director of policy has taken a job at the lobbying company Portland, apparently without the proper clearances, is just the latest evidence that the rules supposedly governing the revolving door between the political establishment and the lucrative world of lobbying are simply not working.

When it comes to the £2bn lobbying industry, the Government should not need telling. Just before the election, David Cameron was warning with much righteous ire that the "far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money" would be "the next big scandal waiting to happen". Neither was his a lone voice. There was sufficient common ground with the Liberal Democrats that the commitment to reform was even included in the Coalition Agreement.

And what has become of all these warm words? Not much. Even the resignation of the Defence Secretary Liam Fox over his links with the lobbyist Adam Werritty has not spurred the Government into action. Indeed, it took an investigation by this newspaper, last month, to reveal the full extent to which friendship, influence and public relations have merged in Britain's political culture and put the issue back on the political radar.

The reports made uncomfortable reading. The spectacle of former politicians and political advisers peddling access to their erstwhile colleagues at unrecorded social events, of lobbyists happily agreeing to burnish the reputations of some of the world's grimmest regimes, of so-called "dark arts" to manipulate information on the internet, have finally pushed the issue straight to the top of the Government's agenda.

Much-delayed reform proposals are finally due later this month. There can be no more excuses. The Government must introduce a mandatory register of lobbyists, a statutory code of conduct, and a legal requirement for politicians to register all meetings with lobbyists, wherever they might take place. Anything less will allow the erosion of integrity threatening British politics to continue unchecked.

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