The recent controversy surrounding Liam Fox and his assistant Adam Werrity has brought the spotlight back onto lobbyists and the role they play in the democratic process. For many, the mere mention of lobbying causes an apoplectic rage (you know who you are Mr Guido Fawkes!), and it is true to say that when discussing public affairs and lobbying with people outside the industry, their first response if often to ask how much we pay MPs.
Yet, this misconception is not only damaging to the public affairs industry but to the broader public perception of British democracy. Lobbying is, and always has been, a part of the democratic process. Even more, it is an essential means of ensuring that our politicians and officials make informed, evidence-based decisions. However, it is clear that the current system is too opaque and leaves room for abuse by unscrupulous operators.
Much has been made in the media of the industry’s supposedly vehement opposition to the introduction of a statutory register of lobbyists, but in actual fact the industry as a whole is supportive of the proposal, as long as it does not prevent a level-playing field and is properly regulated.
At Keene, we are proud of our ethical credentials and have operated within a stringent code of conduct for the 25 years we have been in business. That is why we have joined the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), who publish a register of their members, outlining each consultant and each client.
We believe that effective lobbying should not be about who you know, but how effective you can be in delivering an argument. Encouraging greater transparency in the industry will only help to improve this process and demonstrate to the public that lobbying is not something to be feared, but is actually open to all. As a result, we look forward to working with the APPC to help the Government develop an effective register for the industry as a whole.