Labour will ask candidates to declare lobbyist meetings

The Labour Party will encourage its parliamentary candidates to divulge details of their meetings with lobbyists, under plans being finalised by leader Ed Miliband.

Ed Miliband: with Chuka Umunna MP
Ed Miliband: with Chuka Umunna MP

The move is part of a wider grassroots drive to get local Labour parties more engaged with their communities. Candidates will be asked to be more transparent with voters by posting certain information on their websites.

A Labour source said this would include meetings with lobbyists, as well as all expenses and full voting records: ‘It’s just one way of bridging the disconnect between politicians and the people.’

Other moves include setting candidates targets for the number of doors they must knock on over a certain period.

Some public affairs chiefs were sceptical of the lobbying edict. Cicero director Iain Anderson said: ‘The key point about any reforms is to make sure they are proportionate. I don’t know if this idea fits into that category.’

Westminster Advisers MD Dominic Church said: ‘These moves by the Labour Party are a step in the right direction. We lobbyists, armed with the right arguments and having confidence in our clients, should have nothing to hide. 

‘But the requirements should be introduced without creating too much paperwork for hardworking PPCs or lobbyists. 

'Otherwise we risk discouraging democratic dialogue between politicians and interest groups, which is a vital basis to our democracy.’

Others questioned how Labour candidates working as full-time public affairs professionals would be affected by the edict.

In the 2010 general election, Labour candidates included TLG co-founder Nick Bent, Connect Communications consultant Andrew Pakes and ABTA head of public affairs Luke Pollard.

The plans will also raise eyebrows in the parliamentary party, as many Labour MPs come from lobbying backgrounds, including Miliband’s parliamentary private secretary Michael Dugher and highly-rated backbencher Stella Creasy.

Dugher is a former head of public affairs at IT contractor EDS, while Creasy was head of public affairs for the Scout Association until her election as MP for Walthamstow in the 2010 election.

A Labour spokesman declined to comment on the plans, which are part of Miliband’s Refounding Labour initiative. As part of the initiative, Miliband also wants to rewrite Labour’s constitution to put the principles of community organising at its heart. More details are expected to be unveiled at the Labour conference later this month.

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