The man behind the influential Guido Fawkes blog has spoken out about his new crusade to bring lobbying out in the open.
'What I would like to see is much more above-the-counter lobbying,' Paul Staines told PRWeek. 'There is a legitimate role for lobbying, but I don't want it to be over coffee and cigars after a meal. I want it to be up-front and out in the open - like a political campaign.'
Staines became notorious for bringing down Downing Street media handler Damian McBride in 'smeargate' last year, after he obtained a series of damaging emails McBride had sent.
More recently, Staines announced his 'new campaign over the coming years' would be to highlight 'the fat cats of spin and their hidden hand in politics'. His announcement has raised eyebrows across the industry as lobbyists await his next move.
Staines said his primary targets were PR agency bosses Matthew Freud of Freud Communications, Alan Parker of Brunswick and Roland Rudd of Finsbury.
'These guys are right in with David Cameron,' he claimed. 'People are coming to me with information and I'm building up a picture of who, what, where.'
Staines said he was also keeping a close eye on lobbying consultancies that have been building up their Tory connections.
Lobbyists privately dismissed Staines' efforts but were reluctant to go on record. One agency boss said Staines did not understand lobbying, while the Association for Professional Political Correspondents declined to comment. An APPC source said: 'I can't see the point of giving any credibility to these comments.'
Staines' focus on lobbyists comes as the Conservatives continue to stress their commitment to injecting more transparency into lobbying.
In recent weeks, shadow ministers Grant Shapps and Nick Hurd have both written to PRWeek to insist that a Tory government would not be deflected from implementing manifesto commitments, and that using taxpayers' money to lobby government would not be permitted.
The well-known lobbyist and former CIPR president Lionel Zetter said: 'The Tories have been using the letters page of PRWeek to send the clear message to lobbyists that it will not be "business as usual" if they win the next general election.'
Zetter added: 'It is certainly not the case that a Tory government would seek to ban lobbying. It would, however, ensure that the industry became more transparent ... If the government changes, the rules of the game will also change.'