Three scandals. No Bill. Why won’t Cameron clean up lobbying?

The Queen’s Speech provided further evidence of the “omnishambles” which this Tory-led government has become.

No vision, nor purpose and no direction. This is the best way to describe the Queens Speech.

In my own area of responsibility, it was frankly amazing that there was no bill to regulate the lobbying industry.

Of course there is nothing wrong in principle with the idea that politicians and senior officials should be lobbied on behalf of various interests.  Lobbying can be a healthy part of democracy; it can inform debates and highlight urgent issues that face the public. But it is only healthy when it operates with transparency and under regulation, not when it is lurking in the shadows of the corridors of power.

It is essential that it is not done behind closed doors so the public don’t know what’s happening. And it’s important that there is a firm code of conduct to ensure the highest standards.

Without transparency and a code of conduct, David Cameron himself said that lobbying “was the next big scandal waiting to happen”

He was right. And it is his Government which is at the centre of the scandal.  The country has seen repeated scandals around ‘cash for access’; Adam Werrity and Liam Fox; and revelations of contact between his Government and News International; the list goes on.

It was surprising then, to see that a statutory register of lobbyists was not in the Queen’s Speech yesterday. Despite a promise in the Coalition Agreement; despite numerous pledges to clean up politics; and despite the almost weekly revelations about Cameron and his cronies’ ties with the lobbying industry; the truth is the Tory-led government have failed to act.

It is clear that the public are fed up with business-as-usual politics. This is the government of huge public service cuts, a squeeze on ordinary people’s living standards and rising unemployment, and we see a millionaires’ budget, an attack on the NHS and Cameron riding on Rebekah Brooks’ horse. The public’s trust is being destroyed. Making promises to clean up politics and then failing to do so can only contribute massively to public cynicism.

It just shows how completely out of touch the Tory-led government is with ordinary people’s concerns.
This government cannot shy away from the fact that there needs to be a statutory register of lobbyists, with a code of conduct that can be enforced with clear sanctions to those that breach it. A half-way house on lobbying simply will not suffice.

How many more uncomfortable and embarrassing headlines does David Cameron want?

Ed Miliband has been clear about Labour’s position: there needs to be a statutory register, it is the interests of transparency, the interests of fairness and in the interests of the public.

The truth is that lobbying is the big scandal that will happen over and over again, at the government’s expense. Delay, equivocation and obfuscation. These have been the government’s watchwords in relation to this matter.  The Queen’s speech is another lost opportunity.  What have this government got to hide?

This article first appeared in the Huffington Post; read the article here: Three scandals. No Bill. Why won’t Cameron clean up lobbying?


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