Published in PR Week on 14 January 2016
“By all means set Transparency International’s commandments in stone, but they change nothing.”
The Ten Commandments given to Moses were quite specific. But the vague attempt by Transparency International UK to codify good lobbying practice is underwhelming. It struggles to strike the right balance between companies’ democratic right to lobby and ‘regulating’ them in a purposeful and effective way.
More worrying is Transparency International’s selective targeting. Much is made in its campaign Transparency Matters of ‘Big Pharma’, ‘Big Sugar’ and the like, indiscriminately denouncing all of them for being ‘Big’ – and therefore ‘Bad’. Such a vengeful god. Yet no mention of UK PLC with its annual turnover of £647bn: does ‘Big Government’ lead a blameless life?
By all means set Transparency International’s Commandments in stone, but they change nothing. Cardew Group are not lobbyists, but we help clients develop carefully constructed arguments to persuade fair-minded politicians. What politicians seek are powerful, persuasive ideas, but do businesses get the same access to Government as that enjoyed by the numerous ‘arm’s length’ bodies, NGOs, and ‘charities’ which inhabit Westminster?
Government is effectively lobbying Government. Do taxpayers and voters regard it as transparent that ‘independent’, while at the same time publicly funded, bodies campaign or lobby their paymasters?
Take a little look at Transparency International UK’s Annual Report, and even it must see the contradiction in accepting funds from the EU Commission, not known for its transparency and whose accounts have not been signed off for nearly 20 years; the Joffe Charitable Trust, which says it “supports development in the developing world, primarily in sub Saharan Africa”; and the Transparency International Secretariat in Berlin. The invisible hand of foreign money being spent in Britain to influence our political process is hardly a mark of transparency.
It brings to mind that other well-known biblical reference: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”