Lifting the lid on Lobbying – Time for Transparency

By Iain Anderson, Executive Chairman

Like many communicators, I found myself gripped by the recent Select Committee appearances by former Prime Minister and former corporate communicator David Cameron.

Minutes after his first appearance in front of the Treasury Select Committee ended, I was live on Times Radio talking to doyen political commentator John Pienaar. 

John asked me the question I’ve regularly had to field from journalists over my entire career as a lobbyist – “Doesn’t this once again show there is something bad about lobbying?”

For years public affairs has been painted as the darkest of arts. The Sunday papers regularly planned and implemented their sting operations on MPs and Peers. It was always great copy every six months or so. The Sunday morning shows would pump up the stories and often a minister might resign to save the PM embarrassment before PMQs. 

Public affairs professionals would then have to make the point there were no lobbyists to be seen. But the media never really wanted to focus on that argument. There was no great copy in being the lobbyists friend.

The latest lobbying scandal really is a scandal. It has involved unregistered lobbying and has shown the 2014 legislation passed by David Cameron’s own government to have utterly failed. 

This time round media outlets – from the Financial Times to the Peston Show – have grasped the concept that there is a difference between good and bad lobbying. That the current legislation around lobbying is a mess. That things need to change. 

This time round those who are lobbying are keener than ever to ensure they have the right governance around their public affairs work.  

This lobbying scandal may have reset perceptions. I hope it also brings about wholesale change.

Iain Anderson

Executive Chairman