Let me take you on a little journey into an imagined political future. Here's George Osborne sitting down after delivering his sixth Budget to resounding cheers from the Government benches and furious jeers from Her Majesty's Opposition. The Prime Minister pats his Chancellor on the back, mulls over when exactly to go to the Palace, and allows himself a smile. It had been a long, hard five-year journey, but now all the pieces were in place.
The economy had been growing for 17 consecutive quarters, inflation was now under control and unemployment figures had at long last begun to fall.
Yes, the public finances weren't exactly where ministers had hoped they'd be, and there had been the little local difficulty of the US Dollar crisis of 2013. But the good old Pound Sterling had come through, and British exports were soaring, on the back of a Deutschmark-led European Economic Area recovery.
The Deputy Prime Minister also allows himself a wry smile. After the low point of May 2011, with the drubbing in the Scottish, Welsh, and local elections, and the resounding No vote in the AV referendum, the public had developed a grudging respect for Nick Clegg. The 'Clegg Rebate' of the 2013 Budget had seen 3.2 million people removed from income tax altogether, and no one paying any tax at all on the first £10,000 of their income.
Ed Miliband and Ed Balls aren't smiling. The Conservatives' aggressive advertising campaign had been hitting home: 'Labour's Tax and Debt Bombshell'. It may not have been that original, but it was working. And now the Chancellor had cut income tax for 98 per cent of the working population, and increased the state pension by eight per cent in real terms, trumping Balls' shadow Budget pledge the week before of a five per cent increase.
But no party leader is quite sure what the election will bring - the British public being a fickle lot, as demonstrated by the election of Nigel Farage as the first UKIP MP in a shock by-election result the previous summer.
And anyway, surely only a fool would make political predictions...
Because effective public affairs is not about predicting the future. It's about shaping it, and helping clients make the future work for their business. That means mobilising issues and people in support of delivering your goals. After all, how better to help make the future than by tying the very success of political decision-makers to the success of your clients?
Telling the powers-that-be that a regulation would be a bad idea, and that we have the evidence to show it will cause job losses in this constituency and constrain growth in that sector; and why a policy might seem like a good idea, but don't you realise it will stymie hi-tech manufacturing in the green economy; and, sorry, but you wouldn't listen, so we spoke to your opposition counterpart, and you're listening now ... funny that!
As Aisling Burnard says in the excellent opening feature, making your political argument an economic argument reaps rewards. The Government needs to stimulate economic growth and that, in turn, requires private sector job creation. Positioning clients' needs as part of that narrative and demonstrating what their business or organisation can do to help achieve those objectives will secure results.
But here's the rub. It has to be true. Gone are the days when a cavalier - or simply uncorroborated - claim can be made. Whitehall wants hard evidence and facts. Politicians demand it as a matter of course. And you'd better be prepared, or the door will slam shut in your face. And rightly so.
VIEWS IN BRIEF
If you had 15 minutes with Cameron or Clegg, who would you choose?
Nick Clegg. After the the AV vote, he has a high degree of short-term political capital. David Cameron is likely to give more leeway to keep his partner onside.
Which bodies have emerged best from the public sector cuts debate?
The Treasury. The scale of the fiscal consolidation required has meant that it has had to take a central role in the difficult decisions across Government.
How has public affairs changed since the advent of the coalition?
It has meant greater uncertainty for clients, and greater opportunities to get the outcome they want - or to prevent others from getting what they want.