Friday, 12 February 2010
Lobbyist and proud of it
It has been an interest week, with David Cameron turning his attention to my industry, when he warned about the dangers of political lobbying and the "far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money". Interesting indeed. Now, I know what I am about to say will be tinged with a touch of "well, she would say that, wouldn't she?" but that doesn't make it less true. So here goes - there is nothing wrong with lobbying per se. Lobbying plays an important and fundamental part in the workings of our democracy. We lobby when we sign a petition, write a letter to our MP, go on a demonstration, or give a local councillor a hard time about rubbish collection times. In my experience the most effective lobbyists are in the voluntary sector. Macmillan Cancer Care, Royal British Legion and Oxfam - all brilliant at it, all know who to speak to and want to say to make their point, getting their funding, change the policy. And no-one objects to it - and nor should they. They are just doing their job. It is the work I do that some would have you believe is inherently wicked. Somehow, helping organisations understand how policy is made and how best to influence it, is being positioned as a bad thing. I don't agree. With so few politicians having experience of the world beyond politics, I see it as essential that organisations, be they PLCs or NGOs, help them understand the implications of their policy thinking. That is why disgraced MPs quitting the Commons following the expenses scandal like Andrew MacKay (a member of Cameron's inner circle) are being employed by political consultancies. Yes, I know there have been one or two cases of bad behaviour in the past - cash for questions being the obvious example - but in the vast majority of cases the work that lobbyists like me do is ethical, open and for the good.