Guido has to laugh at the audacity that some of the more brazen members of the lobbying community have shown in defending the new voluntary register of “political consultants”. As Spinwatch said, this is no more than a “PR stunt from PR experts”.
As the new UK PAC site with public registers went live this week just 251, out of an estimated 14,000 spinners, had voluntarily signed up. A further 1,362 were put on the list automatically by their companies, but where are the big hitters? Search the register for power-lobbyists like Roland Rudd, Tim Bell, Alan Parker or Matthew Freud and you get “Your search did not return any results.” Francis Ingham, spinmeister for the widely discredited PRCA trade body, makes hyperbolic claims for the nascent self-regulator: “It provides a foundation on which to grow self-regulation. It is – though doubtless our detractors will dispute this – a good thing.” It is an abject failure, with an estimated 90% of lobbyists ignoring the register.
Guido is no fan of government regulation of the private sector but the political lobbying industry thwarts democracy and pollutes the body politic to such an extent something has to be done. Guido’s idea is that all politicians and civil servants should be required to transparently publish all details of meetings with lobbyists – Cameron’s government ministers and Downing Street SpAds already have to do this. The idea should be rolled out as a requirement for all those paid by taxpayers and involved in influencing legislation. Obviously this means the question of identifying political lobbyists will have to be addressed.
To avoid any confusion by ministers or civil servants when unknowingly or inadvertently meeting lobbyists socially, taking up tickets to the opera or lunching at Michelin-starred restaurants and the like, registered lobbyists should make themselves easily identifiable. The historically tried and tested solution for just this problem springs to mind. They should be made to wear bells around their necks, like lepers…