Public Affairs: Soap Box - Paul Richards, ex-special adviser to Hazel Blears and Patricia Hewitt

My experience of being lobbied is that professionalism wins over the old pals act every time. Sometimes, the lobbyist could combine the two.

But mostly, if the argument was sound, presented well, by people who understood the role of the special adviser, then it worked better than a meal and a chat with an old mate.

Lobbying companies raced to recruit Labour people from the mid-90s onwards. Over the years, the ones who have succeeded have been the ones who would have made good lobbyists regardless of who was in government.

And the flip side is that respected industry figures with Tory links, such as Charles Lewington, have prospered under a Labour government, simply because they are good at what they do.

The much-valued contacts book has a limited shelf-life. Ministers come and go, along with their advisers. What matters is experience and expertise. That is what the lobbying industry will learn if the Tories win next year.

All those 'chiefs of staff' to Tory shadow ministers who do not get swept into government will be hoovered up by public affairs companies.

But they will soon learn that doing Andrew Lansley's photocopying does not a successful lobbyist make.

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