The Big Question: Can a public affairs person seeking election give unbiased advice? - Out of a list of almost 700 prospective candidates who intend to stand for Parliament in the next general election, there is a substantial proportion from the UK&rsqu

MICHAEL BURRELL

MICHAEL BURRELL



APPC



’Absolutely. Many of the most effective consultants are actively engaged

in party politics and some seek election to the Commons. Their

understanding of how their party operates can bring a useful added

dimension to the advice they are able to give to clients, but they also

know that objectivity is a vital quality. You can’t be an MP and a

lobbyist at the same time, but you can certainly be a lobbyist and a

would-be MP. Certainly two of my best former Westminster Strategy

colleagues, John Bercow and James Gray are now effective opposition MPs,

but were excellent, unbiased consultants.’





ED VAIZEY



Consolidated Communications



’As a Tory, I wondered how I would react to a Labour Government. Mostly,

the issue doesn’t arise, as I deal mainly with officials. Sometimes I

feel almost guilty when I support some of the Government’s policies,

which I do because I have seen their merits from my clients’

perspective.One has to be most careful when a client opposes something

the Government is doing. It’s important not to let your party loyalty

encourage you to be over-critical. I hope my legal training and time as

a barrister help me to remain impartial. After all, if Cherie can take

cases on their merits, so can I.’





FRED SILVESTER



Advocacy



’It shouldn’t be a problem. If a client’s objectives clash with a

candidate’s manifesto, he or she shouldn’t be working on the account

anyway. But as far as general political advice is concerned, all

candidates are schizophrenic!



One side of their head tells them they can’t lose; they charge about the

election with unlimited enthusiasm. Their public statements cannot be

relied on for accurate guidance on the political outcome. In the other

side of their head, they keep a clear assessment of the political

reality.



In private, the candidate will readily admit what he or she would deny

in public. If a candidate does not keep this assessment up to scratch he

or she should not be a very good politician - and will not be a good

lobbyist.’





PHILIP AYLETT



Neill Committee Press Secretary



’If you’re a public affairs professional standing as a candidate for a

political party, as long as people know what you’re about and what

you’re doing for them, it can work. The Neill Committee’s dealings are

purely with public life and this question is a matter really of

professional ethics. As in public life, if the interest is known then

the advice can be seen for what it is, and taken accordingly. It won’t

necessarily be an unbiased view - there are very few unbiased views

anyway - but as long as people know what the situation is, then that can

be taken into account.



Even a view that is not unbiased can make a contribution, can be useful,

as long as there is transparency.’



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