Friday, September 25, 2009

Why Do Candidates Work in Public Affairs?

According to The Times this morning, you'd think lobbyists were akin to child molesters. Not surprising really considering the article was written by Tom Baldwin, who, it seems, has returned to these shores from America.

Baldwin thinks it a scandal that 28 - yes, all of 28 - Tory candidates are in some way involved in the world of public affairs and lobbying. Here's the intro to his "story"...
Dozens of Conservative parliamentary candidates are working in the lobbying industry that seeks to influence their party’s leadership.

Dozens? Well, strictly speaking 28 does include more than one dozen. But quite why this should be a front page story is something I will leave to The Times editor to justify. If lobbying were illegal, there might be a point to it, but it isn't. And if any of the 28 were being secretive about their employment, the prominence given to the story might be understandable. But so far as I can see, all those working for consultants declare their employment through the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) and in turn declare who their clients are. And the fact is that many Labour and LibDem PPCs also work in the same line of work.

The implication of the Times article is that candidates should be banned from working in public affairs. And according to Baldwin there is something deeply fishy in the fact that selected candidates do end up in public affairs. He writes...
More than a quarter got their jobs after being selected to fight seats.

So that would be a total of, er, 8. The reason that people do seek work in public affairs after they are selected is that they often find it difficult to find a job where there is an understanding that they need to spend one or two days a week in their constituencies. So when people get selected they often give up a 5 day a week job for a 3-4 day a week job in lobbying as they know that public affairs consultants will understand why they need to do that. There's nothing sinister in it, as long as it is all transparent.

What really gets me, though, is the implication that it is really only Conservatives who do this. Baldwin writes...
Only seven Labour and three Liberal Democrat prospective candidates with realistic hopes of victory have jobs in public affairs or communications.

That is something which is so patently wrong as to defy belief. But of course he doesn't define what "realistic hopes" means. If he looked at the Top 100 Labour, Tory & LibDem marginals he'd get a very different picture. It is probably the case that Baldwin has probably analysed the Top 150 most likely Tory wins, but only looked at a couple of dozen Labour seats and fewer LibDem seats.

Perhaps my readers might like to help identify Labour & LibDem PPCs who work in public affairs, so we can see just how accurate Baldwin's claims are.

61 comments:

unseen said...

Almost all of the Labour and LibDem candidates with 'realistic hopes of victory' are already MPs! The only exceptions are those seats where the incumbent is standing down, and that's not all that many.

Glyn H said...

Is that the dodgy journalist who compromised integrity for New Labour titbits?

True Belle said...

I would really love to know exactly how PPcs fill their time?

No sign of ours, sorry oh, yes quite forgot, it is Breakfast clubs with an ever dwindling business community, and what else oh yes a photo shoot for some charity do.

The country is going to wrack and ruin , and nothing will change, not even when an election is on the cards because the constituencies are now empty of keen minded middle aged bods who are past the stage of delivering bumph through letter boxes - and invisible PPcs who are in their cosy zones, who do not get out of their cars let alone off their backsides to mingle with their pubic.

Anonymous said...

Baldwin is back?

Could this be entirely unrelated to the orchestrated walkout of lefties when Lord Ashcroft bought into PoliticsHome?

Anonymous said...

I'm no Tory, but I think you are absolutley right. What really gets me as well is that this is a so called 'exclusive'. PA firms have been openly announcing that they have employed PPCs on industry sites for months. Also, there has been long running enquiry into all of these issues by PA Select Committe. Which has investigated all these issues far more throughouly than the Times has, and (as far as I'm aware) had no problems with PPCs working for lobbyists. Its all a complete non-story as far I can see.

Scary Biscuits said...

I remember Tom Baldwin's 'story' on Adam Afriyie's selection at Windsor. Tom's account of the final selection meeting (where Adam beat the equally excellent Nic Hurd) read like a Klu Klux Clan gathering, with members 'storming out' over the selection of a black candidate. Tom wasn't there in person but nobody who was there could reconcile his account with their own memory of the event. Actually, some were sad that Nic didn't win but the meeting was friendly and Adam was cheered to the rafters.

The piece was liberally laced with his own opinions and when The Times was questioned how they justified blurring opinion and news, they said it was a 'colour piece' (presumably this is a journalistic term rather than a reference to trying to stir up racial hatred), despite no such thing being allowed by the Press Complaints Commission Code.

And to think the MSM accuses blogs of being low quality!

Guido Fawkes said...

Completely disagree. The lobbyist-politician-media revolving door undermines democracy.

We have a political class that is parasitical on the productive element of society.

I don't blame businesses that feel that they have to hire lobbyists to defend their interests.

Lobbyists are either lying to their clients or to us. If they can make things happen they are the hidden hand in a parliamentary democracy, if they can't they are cheating their clients.

Which is it?

David Chiverton said...

I think your article is spot-on, but a few hundered words too long. "The Times has published someanti-Tory guff written by an unlikeable hack" would have covered it.

Brian said...

Whilst the article in question may be a load of tosh, there is a related issue that deserves serious attention; I refer of course to the fact that so many MPs (of all parties) are so lacking in experience of life outside the Westminster political/media bubble.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe The Times still employs Tom Baldwin. I stopped buying it after I read "Dirty Politics, Dirty Times" by Ashcroft, but I thought things were changing. Obviously not.

Tom Baldwin is a complete **** and he'll get what's coming to him.

Nothing British said...

I wonder how many Times hacks have drifted off to jobs in PR or lobbying. Does that make them bad people?

Rich T said...

Sorry Iain you're wrong and Guido is right. Candidates should be disqualified from standing if they have been either lobbyists or management consultants within five years of seeking election. Their activities are pernicious per se, and we don't need them running the shop (for theirs and their chums benefit). Which party has the most of this odious canker rather misses the point.

Little Red Riding Hood said...

@ Guido "Lobbyists are either lying to their clients or to us."

Typical crass simplification from Guido. I think you have it about right, Iain, on this.

Newmania said...

Its not a Conservative problem especially but it makes me very nervous to sees so many people in Parliament ,not only Lobby-ists, who appear to have nothing to do with the life of their voters and no experience of delivering anything real whatsoever.


We need more people LIKE ME !!!In fact 'me' .

Lord Snooty said...

Guido - you are talking crap, as usual.

Iain - don't like to agree with you too often but I do on this.

Penfold said...

Mmmmm, a point mayhap.

It does seem that those in the political sphere treat it as a career path. Which does of course mean that they are spared the tedium and onerous nature of a proper job, or can enter the public sector as a last resort.
The result of this new employment sector is the increased divorce between the ruled and their rulers, almost a return to the old royalty and droit de seigneur. A sign perhaps of the arrogance surrounding expenses and the way in which our leaders detach themselves from society, the little people, and shamelessly follow party whippped lines, at the expense of true representation of their constituents.

As for Tom the man is irrepressable, but an example of the above, and a total prat.

Anonymous said...

It was far too thin a piece to warrant the front page and two inside pages. Most of the candidates listed seemed to be marketing or PR people, not lobbyists.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Guido on this.
Little Red Riding Hood always was naive.

Anonymous said...

I suspect Douglas Adams would have put people who "work" in "public affairs" on the first spaceship to escape the meteorite impact, along with the estate agents, beauticians and image consultants.

The builders, engineers and technicians would be sad to see them leave but I think the world could struggle on.

Anonymous said...

It may be anti-tory biased.

But the "conflict of interest" and the " politico-media bubble " issues are real

Andrew said...

There were a damn sight more than 28 Labour advisors or ppcs working in public affairs or lobbying in 1996 - it was a bloody revolving door!

Iain - you're absolutely right, it's refreshing to see someone write a defense of candidates, many of whom work absolutely stinking hours to balance work and constituency hours. A bout of realism is long overdue in this debate.

Lord Snooty said...

All these references to 'proper' jobs in the 'real world' make me laugh. How many of us are really doing things that are truly needed? Those who make practically useful things and grow food, those who help and care for others and... that's about it. Everything else is just activity we've created to make capitalism work and entertain ourselves while we close our eyes to the futility and uselessness of the vast majority of human activity in today's world.

Have a good weekend, everybody!

Anonymous said...

Cheer up, Snooty! Next you'll be telling us that what people like Iain and Guido do is pointless and shallow.

Anonymous said...

"According to The Times this morning, you'd think lobbyists were akin to child molesters."

They're much worse than that.

Paul Halsall said...

At least on the Labour side, Iain, there is genuine disquiet at the Uni Labour Club > 3rd/sector and /or publicly policy job > parachuted candidate sequence.

Labour clearly still engages in this; it's no surprise the Tories do as well.

But it's a worry to those of us seeker a broader knowledge and empathy pool for out members a#of Parliament.

[PS: You seem upset just because it's Tories targetted. But you know the same story can be written about other parties. Will you be equally outraged when those stories come out?]

Anonymous said...

anon@3.07

They are not just pointless and shallow, they're also devious, dishonest and destructive. Guido, in particular, is a vile, mendacious little hypocrite. Iain, on the other hand, is more deluded than deliberately nasty.

Cheers!

Paul Halsall said...

Oh God.

I agree with Guido's comments made here.

Anonymous said...

As far as I can make out, the Times's story was in Public Affairs News about three months ago.

norman said...

I disagree with Guido. This no worse than ministers and civil servants after ceased to be ministers and civil servants, taking up jobs in the private sector in the areas in which they had direct responsibilities earlier in the White Hall. Milburn in healthcare industry as a consultant and Hutton reported to have up position in defence industry as a consultant and so on... The Times and Labour ( Halsall for e.g.) supporters seemed to be comfortable about this..

Anonymous said...

Trouble is in at least one of the tory cases they were (still are) working simultaneously for CCHQ and for a Consultancy. yet the implcation given by the Consultancy when they were first appointed (and they actually issued a press release) was that they were full time.

There is surely a conflict of interest in working one day a week at a lobbying consultancy and two days a week at CCHQ and being a PPC.

Even if a redundancy settlement is involved this still seems to be wrong.

jailhouselawyer said...

They are selling out already...

The Dirty Baker's Dozen: Tories in cash for representation scandal

Chris said...

With the Tories it is the hypocrisy of these figures that will rub some people up the wrong way: the Party 'old school' keep banging on about how MPs shouldn't be career politicans and should have experience outside Westminster.

As it turns out, they are just as bad as the other parties on this issue.

Demetrius said...

They may not be child molesters but they are certainly adult molesters in the sense that they are hired intellectual thugs to do the business for their godfathers. What I want in a parliamentarian is a seeker after truth, someone with a moral perspective rather higher than that of a weasel, and the ability to confront power brokers whose only interest is the self.

Judy said...

Tony Blair's readiness to be lobbied by Bernie Ecclestone was the first really damaging thing that happened to him.

If David Cameron has 28 MPs all out to subvert legislation to their paymasters' requirements it will damage him even more.

I can't believe how you can be so insouciant about all this on the grounds that (i) Labour does it even more (ii) it's a bit of mischief making by a journalist we don't like.

Have you forgotten the appalling damage done to John Major's administration by all the stories about Tory lobbyists in the pay of this, that and the other company?

It doesn't matter if David Cameron has a huge post election majority. Repeated corruption and buying of influence stories will ensure he never gets another one.

Norfolk Blogger said...

Iain, does that figure of 28 include those who are less than open about it ?

After all the Tories claimed Chloe Smith worked for a firm of accountants when in fact she was seconded to the Tory Party.

Bird said...

Baldwin, like Philip Webster is a shameless Labour hack, who wrote whatever Alastair Campbell told him to wrie.
So he's back from America?
Oh well, back to The Telegraph.

Anonymous said...

the times has no credability.

it used to be 'the great paper',my 75 year old father,who is a tory,still reads it,but i dont know anybody else.

i fear its days are numbered,with gutter stories like this.

thank goodness for blogs like this,otherwise i would only get news from the odd news bulletin or radio.i dont read uk papers any more.

bergen said...

Sorry but I cannot agree with you.Judy sums up the reasons admirably.

Anonymous said...

iain. may i remind readers of baldwin's pedigree as a labour party lackey and alistair campbell sycophant. read lord ashcoft's book on baldwin in dirty politics dirty times on www.lordashcroft.com

Anonymous said...

It looks like Mr. Baldwin needed something punchy and hard hitting to mark his return to these shores though his article today seems weak and it'll be interesting if it stands up to scrutiny. The article does smack of rabid left-wingness which is no surprise as that is what he was way back in our days at school. Which is a shame as I thought his missives from America were often quite good.

Treeblue

Weygand said...

Has Iain forgotten Dave's new policy to attempt to reach out to people outside the club of "usual suspects"?

It surely stems from the understanding that we need to stop politics being the preserve of a self-selecting social group, if we wish to have a healthy, truly representative system.

Furthermore, the last thing parliament needs is more people accustomed to representing special interest groups and being paid for it - whatever party they belong to.

chablis4me said...

I'm with Guido as well. There is something unsavoury about politicians being paid to 'understand' the needs of wealthy companies just because they can afford to pay them. Why can't they write to their MP (extensively if they like) like every other ordinary Joe citizen instead of buying one to do their bidding?

No doubt MPs will deny that payments made to them will alter their bahaviour in the corridors of power in any way, but anyone who has been on a payroll for a year or two is bound to feel obliged to deliver some favours in order to justify the cheques.

I'm one Tory who feels uncomfortable about this. So much for a fresh break from the past.

Ian Thorpe said...

This could be a mistaken belief that people who work in PR are skilled at persuading other to their point of view. Nothing could be more wrong which is why politicians now enjoy a reputation on a par with Estate Agents and Used Car Salesmen.

Sir Edward Heath said...

Considering there are far more Conservative prospective MPs "with realistic hopes of victory" than Labour and the Lib Dems, I am not surprised there is a difference in these figures. Hee! Hee! Hee!

Anyway, a number of Conservatives have now left the industry. At this rate, by the Election, the Tories shall have the same number as Labour and the Lib Dems have now. For we all appear to be at it.

The point of The Times article was?

Anonymous said...

Smeato doesn't work in public affairs..

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/8274282.stm

All the phrase 'milking it for all it is worth' doesn't begin to do justice to this man's exploitation of a single incident to change his life..

I mean, the guy's a hero. However the British way is to 'Keep Calm and Carry On', not 'Exploit that publicity to the MAX!'...

Just a thought..

Anonymous said...

I'm with the 'we need MPs who know about the real world, as opposed to party hacks and other assorted yes men and women' crowd.

One of the reasons this country is so screwed is that there are hardly any MPs who can relate to the punters out there, and hardly any who have anything approaching intellectual curiosity. Rose-tinted specs perhaps, but compare the current crew to the Seventies and Eighties - OK, they weren't perfect by any means, but they had two advantages over the current mob:

1. Intelligence.
2. Experience - including, crucially, of the reality of war.

Pigs might Fly said...

In a way, the political lobbyists and P.R. people
employed by the political parties and the like are akin to child molesters!
They cannot influence the older generation as we already know and can see their bullshit having lived through several changes of government.
They pursue the politically naive and uneducated, and it has worked. It is the only way to explain the three wins for Tony "B-liar".
Even the sainted Margaret Thatcher went on one term too long and listened to the wrong people during that term.
Perhaps they should realise that Politics should be more for the good of the country, not the good of the individual. There are a few there in Westminster - but only a few.

True Belle said...

Why has this been one of the most bizarre days of your life, Iain?

Anonymous said...

Is it true you're now a ppc?

Peter said...

Iain,

Surely the reason that lobbyists choose to become PPCs has nothing to do with consultancies understanding the need to campaign and a lot more to do with the fact that being a PPC and working as a lobbyist need the same skills - ie politics, media, campaigning. If you want to work in politics work for an MP, then work for an agency or in house, learn the ropes, understand how parliament works and if you have political ambitions run for parliament and do it from the inside.

I'm sure if you worked in most businesses and you decided to run for parliament they'd find a way to accommodate you.

Quietzapple said...

After lots of you people trolling for ANY opposition made so much of the "expenses" or "allowances" which MPs were claiming it beggars description that you imagine that mazoomah from other sources is unremarkable.

It seems that the roles of folk like yourself who live on the proceeds of hanging on to our politics should be regarded as sacrosanct.

The constabulary should have taken closer attention to the really off limits aspects of the expenses/allowances scandal, and they should be paying still closer attention to the corruption arising within loyalties split or likely to become split between the public interest and private & corporate ones.

Time to re-open the book on past corruptions, time for the Tories to pay back their share of the Asil nadir shareholders' stolen cash fpr example.

Quietzapple said...

Oh, and as the guy who suggested to Adams' tape recorder operated by his cousin Geoff at a Staines office that the hairdressers should be on the first spaceship to no-where I concur with the suggestion that the lobbyists should have been pedaling to take it to warp factor zzzzzzzzzzz . .

Guy Herbert said...

If working in public affairs properly extends to working for public bodies, quangos, unions or charities in a role that includes lobbying or other political activity, I'd be surpised if it were even a minority among new Labour candidates.

Paddy Briggs said...

The definition of a PA man/Lobbyist is rather like that of a diplomat - someone sent abroad to lie about their country. A PA man is sent out by his company to lie about them, or to be economical with the truth at least. Cameron did it for years for Carlton. Good training to me Britain's first minister? We shall see...

Old Holborn said...

I notice Peter Tatchell is still trying to make sex with underage choirboys legal

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/sep/24/sex-under-16-underage?commentpage=8&commentposted=1

Anonymous said...

Greg Stone and Darren Sanders, both Lib Dem PPCs, work for Indigo Public Affairs

Chris Paul said...

The only thing that needs doing to check the validity of this rant Iain is to consider the question of how you would have covered the story if it were 28 Labour PPCs in winnables, 7 Tory and who cares about the Lib Dems ... Guido is being consistent but are you?

Won't have to delve too deep into your archives to find a rant about 20% of LP PPCs coming from public affairs or SpAd or westminster assistant background ...

Same question over Question Time invitations. When the LP people you want aren't playing ball this is controlled by centre, when Tory choices queried this is entirely down to the editors.

kris said...

Come to Hackney Labour - they're all in PR too.

You get the same criticism - don't you have any members with real jobs?

Any nurses, teachers small business owners?

Anyone? Bueller?

Anonymous said...

Baldwin writes a form of manipulative and inaccurate journalism that demeans journalism and in fact demeans our democracy. Most people that say "dozens" don't mean 28 ie only just into the plural of dozen. This sets the tone of the whole thing and he has a track record of this sort of manipulation. I personally am not keen on candidates being linked to lobbysists but in truth there are hundreds of Conservative PPCs of which 28 are connected to lobbyists. Also what of the large number of Labour PPCs linked to Unions?

Anonymous said...

Seriously folks how and where do you draw the line. Unions are lobbyists and most of the Labour candidates have links, some very strong links. People say we need more politicians with experience of real life and not parts of the public sectror. So that means we need more business people and manufacturing people. Oh hang that means they have strong links to commercial concerns who they would be favourable to. Okay so how about nice teachers, doctors... oh wait a minute that means they have a vested interest in maintaining the producer mentality in public services. Sorry this piece from Baldwin is complete crap that townshire weekly probably wouldn't put on the front page despite which party it attacked.

Anonymous said...

Cameron said in reply to Kris

' 'Voodoo' Econoomics'

Aand why do you have that that Thug as your moniker - he only purported to play the beautiful game.....