Lobbying Portal

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Welcome to the Lobbying Portal on Powerbase - your guide to networks of power and deceptive PR

Our Lobbying Portal aims to shine a light on the activities of the thousands of lobbyists-for-hire that operate in the UK, Brussels and, to some extent, Washington. It provides an A-Z of lobbying consultancies and individual lobbyists, detailing specific examples of their work - including deceptive lobbying campaigns - and the so called 'revolving door' between politics and the lobbying industry. For industry-specific lobbying, visit the relevant Powerbase portals (from the homepage or tag cloud).

For an overview of the history of debates about the regulation of lobbying, see our popular Lobbying regulation - chronology.

To take a tour of some of the major lobbying firms, industry lobbying groups and think tanks that surround Parliament in central London, visit the Westminster Lobbying Map

Powerbase has a policy of strict referencing and is overseen by a managing editor and a sysop and several associate portal editors. The editor of the Lobbying Portal is Tamasin Cave tamasin.cave AT Powerbase.info.


September 2014, Tamasin Cave, Lynton Crosby DID lobby the government on tobacco policy, Spinwatch, 8 September 2014

March 2014 Tamasin Cave and Andy Rowell, Your guide to corporate lobbying, published on Spinwatch and in the Guardian

2014 See our popular Chronology on lobbying regulation in the UK, Scotland and the European Union from the 1920s onwards

June 2013 Tackling lobbying - the test for government, Spinwatch,

What is Lobbying?

Lobbying is any activity that seeks to influence government and public policy. Lobbying falls under a sub-sector of the Public Relations industry known as Public Affairs. A public affairs campaign will encompass a range of activities, of which forming relationships with politicians and government officials is just one. For example, a campaign may involve commissioning reports from think tanks, scientists or academics, which support a particular position. It may also involve using the media to influence public opinion to put pressure on politicians to act.

Successful lobbying depends greatly on people with political experience and those with contacts inside government. As such, there is a great deal of movement between the lobbying industry and the political class. Many professional lobbyists are former politicians or political staff who are employed because they understand the political process and enjoy access to their former colleagues on the inside.

The UK lobbying industry was worth around £1.9 billion in 2009, having doubled in size since the early nineties. People involved in the profession today range from consultant lobbyists, many of whom are employed by large PR firms, law firms or management consultancies, to in-house corporate lobbyists, business associations like the CBI, trade unions, NGOs, and think tanks.

What is wrong with the lobbying industry?

Unbalanced in favour of business: In a functioning democracy, everyone has the right to lobby – to present their case to government and Parliament in the hope of influencing their decisions. However, at the moment, most lobbying is done by or on behalf of commercial interests. This has led to concerns of an imbalance between the access and influence of commercial interests and other, less well funded groups.

Commercial interests lobby politicians and officials for a number of reasons. They may want to build reputation among decision-makers; secure public funding or win government contracts; or push for, amend or halt legislation and regulation in the interests of their business.

The estimated pay-off for such lobbying activity, based on figures from the US, is 1:100. For every $1 spent on lobbying activity, a business can expect a typical return of $100.

Opaque, unregulated, and unaccountable: Unlike in the US, which has disclosure rules for lobbyists in the form of a register, the industry in the UK is almost entirely unregulated, unaccountable, and operates largely out of sight. At the moment there is no way for politicians and the public to know who is lobbying whom, which areas of public life they are trying to influence, and how much money is being spent in the process.

Instead, lobbyists in the UK operate under a system of self-regulation, operated by three industry bodies: The Association of Professional Political Consultants (for public affairs consultancies), The Public Relations Consultants Association (for PR firms with a lobbying arm), and The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (for in-house PR people and lobbyists).

This system of self-regulation was condemned in a 2009 Parliamentary report into lobbying. The inquiry by the Public Administration Select Committee found it risked being “little better than the Emperor’s new clothes”. The cross-party Committee of MPs recommended instead that the UK government introduce a mandatory register of lobbying activity "to bring greater transparency to the dealings between Whitehall decision makers and outside interests."


Twenty-pound-notes.jpg This article is part of the Lobbying Portal, a sunlight project from Spinwatch.

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See Also

Changes to Lobbying pages on Powerbase

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