Thriller or Filler? The Art of Political Persuasion

This month's book review features a manual on lobbying by Lionel Zetter.

By Lionel Zetter

Published by Harriman House
 
Lionel Zetter’s manual on lobbying, now in its third edition, offers a rare insider’s perspective. Unlike much of the nonsense that gets written by the industry’s critics, Zetter’s book informs readers how lobbying works – both when it is effective, and when campaigners "moan and criticise".

The book’s advice is ideal for new practitioners, but it also contains useful nuggets for those with long CVs. For example, it discusses how to decide which rank of civil servant to approach. It ­explains how to respond to various "ploys" used by bureaucrats to prevent external influence on policy making. It covers party conferences strongly – emphasising the need to avoid getting too drunk and the need for proper follow-ups. And it talks about the ethics of the ­industry, arguing that with professional body oversight, lobbying "undoubtedly" helps politicians make better laws.

Zetter has incorporated insights from frontline figures in public affairs and politics. Simon McVicker at the freelancer trade body IPSE is quoted explaining how to get civil servants to make fact-finding visits to businesses. Sheridan Westlake, a Cabinet minister’s special adviser, talks about the importance of dealing with an MP’s staff.

The author says public affairs work involves "constant crisis management, with potentially huge ­rewards for getting it right and major consequences for getting it wrong". As such, doing a good job involves a great deal of knowledge, which makes this comprehensive book worthy of every lobbyist’s bookshelf.
 
Reviewed by Alex Singleton, associate director, The Whitehouse Consultancy

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