Professional Lobbying is the best way for businesses to engage with Brexit, says CIPR
The revelations in a joint investigation by Channel 4 Dispatches and The Sunday Times, that former and current members of the House of Commons appear willing to trade inside knowledge of Government, shows the reputational risk to companies of not working with professional political consultants.
Three politicians were secretly filmed by undercover journalists offering to advise a fake Chinese company on the Brexit negotiations. Commenting in the Times coverage, Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the committee on standards in public life, said the behaviour of the politicians fell below the standards of “selflessness”, in which “holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.” He said it was “unacceptable” that former ministers appeared to be acting for private gain rather than the interests of the population on such a crucial issue as Brexit.
This investigation highlights that these individuals have a conflict between their public role and their private interests. People in public life must abide by the Nolan principles and this is not compatible with providing lobbying services such as those requested in this investigation. That is why public affairs professionals, regulated by a code of conduct, are an essential element of a healthy democracy.
British business needs to engage with Brexit and they should be encouraged to do so. Our research at the end of 2017 highlighted that too few clients or organisations are getting to grips with Brexit, and only a third of organisations appear to be actively engaging government on the subject.
Political intelligence and effective channels of communication with Government are critical assets if British business is to meet the biggest challenge we face as a country. Professional lobbyists provide a fast and effective means of understanding the deep issues that face our economy by leaving the EU and because they are bound by a code of conduct, they significantly reduce the risks of political engagement for organisations who seek a role in shaping public policy. Conflicts of interest are a barrier to providing professional political consultation.