Editorial: Lobbyists are in a no-win situation

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 firms.

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

firms.



Over the years, Ian Greer Associates, GJW and others have been

mentioned.



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.



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