PROFILE: Warwick Smith, APPC - Modest diplomat at helm of association - Citigate Public Affairs MD seeks APPC pride in a grown-up lobbying world

Pride is an emotion familiar to Warwick Smith. From a personal perspective, the Citigate Public Affairs MD and chairman-elect of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), expresses his pride in becoming father to a baby girl almost a year ago - 17 years after the birth of his first child.

Professionally, under his chairmanship of the lobby industry's self-regulatory body, he hopes to encourage its members to take greater pride in what they do.

'US lobbyists take great pride in the work they carry out,' he says.

'We should have that same pride here. Lobbying is a crucial service. It plays an important part in the political process and makes a big contribution.'

But don't expect razzmatazz and loud how-d'you-dos when Smith takes over the APPC chair, as planned, at the start of May. A career spanning 16 years in the civil service is hardly likely to illicit a sing-song from the rooftops. And given Smith's smooth, mild manner, he would much prefer it that lobbyists express their pride freely but modestly. 'I use the American model as an example,' he says.

Smith joined the civil service at the Department of the Environment in 1973 after graduating with a degree in Botany and Zoology. In 1980 he was made a Parliamentary secretary to the Tory sports and planning minister, Sir Ian McFarlane. Ten years later, in search of a career change, he accepted a senior account director role at what was then Westminster Communications.

After Citigate's buyout and the structural changes that followed, he was appointed MD of Citigate Westminster.

One of Smith's appointments was former Tory minister and London mayoral candidate Steve Norris, who left the agency last week.

Norris says: 'Warwick is a shrewd person who knows the Government and PA system inside out. He's also a big company man. He'll add value to the APPC. He's quiet, not flashy. He can read a situation very well and get 99 out of 100 decisions spot on.'

Smith believes commercial lobbyists enjoy a better reputation now than they did ten years ago.

'There's no call to skulk in the shadows, as perhaps they once did,' he says. 'Lobbyists play an essential role, bridging the communications lines between client and parliamentarians. There is now greater recognition of this.'

In taking up the APPC chairmanship unopposed, he has cemented his place in the hierarchy of the commercial lobbying fraternity. Interested parties should not expect any sweeping changes under his chairmanship, Smith reveals: 'But it won't just be steady as she goes.'

He is keen to maintain ethics among members and the APPC's role as self-regulatory policeman of the lobbying community.

Smith notes the APPC's recent involvement in a consultation process with the Scottish Parliament over its plans to regulate lobbying. Tough new laws forcing commercial lobbyists to disclose sensitive details about clients - including fees - were threatened.

Pressure from the APPC and other lobbying associations forced a climbdown.

A standing committee now backs self-regulation via a code of conduct that is expected to emerge north of the border.

'I will ensure appropriate standards are maintained,' says Smith. 'There should be less aggression and more endorsement by the enquiry process whenever required.'

Smith also believes that the lobbying system has 'grown up' in recent times and is better understood. 'Lobbyists translate the actions of the client to the Government,' he says. 'This is essential business in the daily life of Parliament.' He feels the Government is more media-sensitive than when he was a civil servant.

'The roles of the civil service and lobbying have been redefined under New Labour,' Smith says. 'Lobbying in the 1980s, under Thatcher, was still seen as a mysterious art and civil servants were used to exchanging advice direct with ministers. New Labour is still redefining the roles. This has lead to some upheaval as people get used to the changes.'

The APPC is set to be involved in more regulatory issues in the coming months, as Parliament and ministers attempt to better define the role of special advisers, perhaps even through a civil service act.

Years of diplomatic patience in his civil service days have undoubtedly contributed to Smith's air of measured calm. He is proud of his claim that he had only one sleepless night for professional reasons. It was while working for McFarlane when the minister was on a visit to the US.

Ever the diplomat, however, he refuses to reveal what kept him awake.

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