A year after Drapergate, there are signs that, in the world of
politics at least, it is still open season on lobbyists. Not only does
the press delight in running the occasional story on apparent
improprieties, but MPs continue to make enthusiastic use of early day
motions (EDMs) and parliamentary questions to single out lobbying
Over the years, Ian Greer Associates, GJW and others have been
Most recently Lawson Lucas Mendelsohn has been the subject of an EDM,
thus dragging it into an argument between the Amalgamated Engineering
and Electrical Union (AEEU), which is against proportional
representation, and Make Votes Count, which is campaigning to have a
more proportional system adopted in general elections.
EDMs are protected by Parliamentary privilege, which means MPs can make
unsubstantiated claims without fear of being sued. The EDM has been used
to criticise Make Votes Count for employing an agency which is not a
member of a professional body, in this case the Association of
Professional Political Consultants (APPC).
The underlying implication is that there is something underhand in a
political campaigning organisation like Make Votes Count hiring a
lobbying agency to help its cause. In fact, LLM is not lobbying, but
handling media relations for the group, and has always been open about
doing so. We reported the agency’s appointment by Make Votes Count in
April, just as we reported the group’s appointment of Luther Pendragon
to handle media relations during the launch of a report on proportional
representation last year.
More importantly, interest groups which are able to raise the money to
pay for advice and representation are entitled to do so.
This latest incident is damaging not only to LLM, but to the industry as
a whole. MPs are criticising the agency not for any misdemeanour, but
for doing its job, for representing a client. If the mere act of hiring
a lobbying agency can draw public criticism, clients will think twice
about doing so in future.
When LLM launched in May 1997, APPC rules prohibited any agencies from
joining before they had been in business for two years. However, the
rule was changed after last summer’s attacks on the industry to allow
agencies under a year old to join.
An agency does not need to be a member of a professional body to be
aware of and follow professional and ethical standards, but, with the
lobbying industry still vulnerable to attacks from Parliament and the
media, membership can act as a shield.