Lobbying is an essential part of a healthy democracy. It is what we all do when we contact our elected representatives or sign a petition to let them know we care about an issue. However, professional lobbying – an industry worth £2 billion in the UK – can subvert democracy by giving those with the greatest resources undue influence and privileged access to politicians.
The problem is, at the moment, most of this is done in secret. We can’t make an informed decision about what is or isn’t appropriate. We need to bring lobbying out of the shadows.
The simplest way of achieving this transparency is with a comprehensive register of lobbyists. It must cover all paid lobbyists and give us meaningful information on what lobbyists are up to, including who is being lobbied, what policies they are lobbying on, the names of the lobbyists and whether they have held public office in the last 5 years.
A good faith estimate of what it being spent on lobbying would also show scale, disparities and trends in lobbying. Even lobbyists estimate that the government register only captures about 1% of lobbying activity.
The perception that money can buy access and influence corrodes trust in our politics.
We need to know who are pulling the strings if we are to hold our elected politicians to account.
Alex Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy