Friday, 7 June 2013

When 'good' lobbying becomes 'bad'

IT HAS been interesting to think about lobbying in the past 24 hours, watching Panorama last night and seeing what Patrick Mercer allegedly got up to was rather embarrassing.

But then you take a look at the front of the Pershore Observer this week and my story about Harriett Baldwin, Pershore's MP, who has become one of the first MPs to declare all her meetings with so-called 'lobbyists'.

For me that shows that lobbying is not only good but essential to our democracy, it's how its done which is the toxic problem.

Banning it altogether means nothing will ever get done and our MPs will sit in a bubble in Westminster and not know what is going on in the real world.

But paying for access or questions to be asked in our Parliament though is wrong, our MPs are accountable to all, not to just those with the deepest pockets.

If I own a business in Bromsgrove and can see my firm growing hugely despite 'red-tape' restrictions, why shouldn't I contact my MP to see if he/she can raise the matter?

But I would do that by inviting him/her to my business or asking to see them at a surgery, not by offering them a fee to be a consultant!

If my MP then ignores me or looks like he/she can't be bothered, well then come election day perhaps my cross goes elsewhere.

MPs have to learn that the more honest they are, the better the electorate will think of them. I can;t speak for the people of Newark and how they feel about Mr Mercer, I don't know the area.

But as a journalist covering the Pershore area, I can only applaud Mrs Baldwin for actions, she has got nothing to hide and as she says 'sunlight is the best disinfectant'.

I'd rather a busy MP who did meet groups to learn more about their work and any potential benefit for the local area than one whose sole purpose was to further themselves solely.

This is not a scandal about lobbying, this is a scandal on how a necessary process like lobbying can be abused for personal gain.

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