In the run up to the 2010 election, David Cameron made a speech about ‘broken politics’ and referred to lobbying as “the next big scandal waiting to happen”. He talked about “the lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisors for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way”. He talked of “cronyism” and “crony capitalism”.
So no-one was surprised when the Government said it would introduce legislation for a statutory register of lobbyists and last year consulted on its plans. But there was widespread surprise when the Government dithered and kicked the Bill into the long grass, choosing not to include it in this year’s Queen’s Speech.
And yesterday we all raised our eyebrows at the Government’s baffling knee-jerk reaction to recent reports of a new cash for access scandal in Westminster, with No 10 briefing that there would now be a Bill in the summer. But what was even more peculiar about this announcement, which was in response to a scandal which didn’t even involve any lobbyists, was that the key point of the Bill now seemed to be to attack the influence and effectiveness of trade unions.