Lobbyists: a non-scandal waiting to happen

In the second of our posts on lessons for MPs from Niall Ferguson’s study of Henry Kissinger, we wanted to highlight the historical – and current – importance of political back channels. Through the ‘60s and ‘70s Kissinger saw these in use during the Vietnam and Cold Wars. In the UK today, the more parochial, less dramatic, version of ‘back channels’ is the role lobbyists play in briefing politicians and Civil Servants. Far from being the scourge of democracy, corporate lobbyists allow candid messages to be delivered and provide essential information and expertise to an over-burdened and uninformed political class. Indeed, the UK’s Lobbying Registrar not only illustrates politicians’ misplaced attempts to “clean up” Westminster (instances of corruption featured bent MPs and journalists – not a lobbyist in sight), but also their self-denying ordinance on information that is critical to forming good laws.

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