Public Affairs: Soap Box - Peter Bingle, chairman, Bell Pottinger Public Affairs

The public affairs industry is facing a challenging time.

We are under attack for not being transparent. At the same time, those of us who are the most transparent and honest about what we do come in for the most criticism. It is therefore time to stop apologising for what we do and go on to the front foot.

The reality, of course, is that most ministers and special advisers understand only too well how important we are in ensuring that government makes the right decisions. That is why they are happy to meet our clients.

Not only do we ensure that our clients are able to talk directly to ministers, but we also help shadow ministers to hold the executive to account by ensuring that they are fully briefed.

Our clients employ tens of thousands of people and contribute billions to the Treasury. Their commercial success is of crucial importance to the British economy. We are a force for good.

The debate about the statutory register provides us with an opportunity to redefine who we are and what we do.

We have to admit that mistakes have been made. The UK Public Affairs Council should be wound up. Going forward, the leading figures within the industry need to take charge.

For all of the various industry associations, too many MPs and journalists still have no idea what we do. That is our fault and we must rectify the situation immediately.

We must make new friends. The media cannot be relied upon to be accurate, let alone supportive.

The lure of a story will always beat any supposed loyalty to the industry. I understand that.

Our case is strong. We have nothing to worry about from Paul Flynn MP or his friends. If we act professionally and communicate our case well, we will win the day. I am genuinely confident.

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