Tory 24-hour u-u-turn on lobbying transparency

Conservative spin-doctors have got in touch to “clarify” that shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt had not actually said he supported a ban on secret lobbying.

Our guest writer is Johnny Chatterton of 38 Degrees

For a few minutes yesterday it appeared we had secured a major step forward towards lobbying transparency. During the 38 Degrees/Guardian debate we heard shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt reveal that the Conservative Party backs new rules to ban secret lobbying.

However, shortly after the debate ended, Conservative spin-doctors got in touch to “clarify” that Hunt had not actually said he supported a ban on secret lobbying – a mandatory register of lobbying interests. This was surprising since Hunt had been pretty clear, stating:

We have said there needs to be statutory register of interest so that everyone knows precisely what lobbying companies are doing and who they lobbying on behalf [of].”

When challenged later in the call he confirmed:

“Yes, we back a statutory code.”

Which was pretty unambiguous – but apparently it does not signal a change in policy. The Conservatives told the Financial Times that they were sticking to their plans to allow lobbyists to “self regulate” – a plan that is very popular with lobbyists but which our friends at Spinwatch describe a “woefully inadequate”.

The FT seems to agree that these plans are weak, concluding that:

“Britain’s lobbyists can breathe easy.”

The Conservatives have made no secret that they are targeting Guardian readers in this election. Earlier this month David Cameron urged Guardian readers to “overcome any prejudices you may have” about the party and vote Conservative.

Cleaning up politics is an issue millions care about. In the last few months alone thousands of 38 Degrees members have joined our campaign for lobbying transparency. If the Conservatives really want to win votes they need to stop using weasel words to avoid confronting important issues.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.