Lobbying scandals: All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again.
Author: Zoe Stavri
Published on Oct 16, 2012
You could almost set your watch by it. A lobbying scandal breaks. The rest of the press pick up on it, and everyone’s furious. Maybe there’ll be resignations, or maybe just calls for resignations, but either way, those involved will say they were exaggerating their level of influence and they didn’t mean what they said. And the government will promise that something like that will never happen again.
And they keep their promises. It’s never the same lobbying scandal twice. The next time, it’ll be something slightly different: different departments, different people, different types of influence being applied.
At its core, it’s all the same: disproportionate influence over government coming from those who can afford to meet the right contacts, and only some of it ever comes to light: the parts where someone said something to an undercover journalist, or said something too much over emails subject to public scrutiny. As for the rest of it, we’re in the dark.
We now know that former military chiefs have been boasting about their level of access to ministers and promising to help defence companies secure contracts. In a few months’ time, we’ll probably be hearing about another industry and another department. It could be happening anywhere, without our knowledge.
A necessary step in stopping these scandals from breaking repeatedly is transparency. We need a robust, statutory public register of lobbyists so we can scrutinise who is meeting whom. We have the right to know about access as a matter of course, rather than waiting for the odd glimpse when someone gets caught.
Will you help us open up lobbying and help prevent scandals like this from happening in the future? We’ve organised a few simple actions.