The Importance of Ethical Lobbying

PB Account Director Melissa Barnett writes…


Melissa BarnettSince I joined PB Consulting several lobbying scandals have broken, from undercover stings to reports of MPs taking cash for access, however these scandals have rarely involved public affairs companies who are signed up to ORCL and the APPC’s (The Association of Professional Political Consultants) Code of Conduct.One off examples of a company accepting money under a guarantee that they ‘know the right people’, or of Parliamentarians bragging about what they can do for a ‘large donation’, often give lobbying a bad name.

All too often assumptions are made around ‘lobbyists’ and the fact that if you are one, you must be bribing parliamentarians, and it can be a struggle to explain the importance and relevance of your job.

Having worked in public affairs for a number of years I have drawn my own conclusions, as my Managing Director succinctly puts it, “if it wasn’t for lobbyists the Government would only be listening to civil servants and the Daily Mail, and who would want that?” As far as I can see lobbying is an essential part of a democratic system, and those that think otherwise often fail to understand what lobbyists actually do.

What has become clear is the importance of ethical lobbying, and making sure the meaning of this is clear. PB Consulting is a member of the APPC and the PRCA, our Managing Director sits on the Management Committee of the APPC whilst I set on the Young Consultants Committee (YCC) for the APPC, which I think helps demonstrate our commitment to transparent lobbying.

So, what does this mean? Firstly it means we follow the APPC’s Code of Conduct. We ensure all staff members go to training in this, and maintain public declarations of various clients and lobbying activity via three separate registers. The public affairs industry, on the whole, is committed to ensuring a transparent and open lobbying environment. There are of course those individuals, or individual agencies, who do not sign up to these measures and continue to lobby through the back door and this is where more issues arise and where the focus should be.

Ethical lobbying is a priority for the public affairs industry. Public affairs professionals do an important role and we need to be proud of what we do and encourage others to join us. As a member of the YCC I am proud to play my part in promoting the work the APPC does around ethical lobbying, and our work in creating a community of young consultants who are engaged with each other and keen to promote what they do, whilst playing an integral part in ensuring that the value of ethical lobbying and the public affairs industry is recognised.