EXCLUSIVE: Quarter of voters say former ministers shouldn’t be lobbying for private firms

Around 27% believe former prime ministers should not be allowed to lobby government on behalf of private firms after they have left office.

A quarter of those surveyed believe former ministers should never be allowed to lobby government on behalf of private firms, LFF can reveal.

An exclusive poll conducted by Savanta ComRes of over 2,000 people, also found that 27% believe former prime ministers should not be allowed to lobby government on behalf of private firms after they have left office. 

The findings come in the wake of the Greensill lobbying scandal involving former prime minister David Cameron and the manner in which he lobbied ministers and officials on behalf of the now collapsed finance firm.

Only 8% of those asked, believe that former ministers should be allowed to lobby on behalf of private companies immediately after they have left their post with only 4% believing any ban should last longer than 5 years. 

Opinions vary greatly by age, with only 9% of 25-34 year olds believing former ministers should never be allowed to lobby government on behalf of private firms, compared to 40% of those aged 65 and over who think the same. However, a total of 22% answered don’t know when it came to what length of time, if any, was appropriate before former ministers could lobby on behalf of private firms.

There were also notable differences of opinion by region, with 31% of those from the North-East saying former ministers should never be allowed to lobby government on behalf of private firms, with only 19% of people in London having the same opinion and 18% in the West Midlands.

Among those intending to vote Labour, 31% of people say there should be a total ban on ministers lobbying government on behalf of private companies after they had left office, while for those backing the  Conservatives the figure stood at 28%, with only 15% of Liberal Democrats of the same opinion. Among those intending to vote SNP, the figure stands at 46%.

On the specific issue of whether former prime ministers should be allowed to lobby government on behalf of private companies, opinion once again differed significantly by age, with 6% of 18-24 year olds saying they should never be allowed. By contrast, among those aged 65 years and older, 41% support a total ban. 

Among those who intended to vote Conservative, 29% of people said former prime ministers should never be allowed to lobby government on behalf of private firms. The figure rose to 34% among those who intended to vote Labour and 45% for those who were backing the SNP.

Twice the number of people asked (6%) thought that prime ministers should be allowed to lobby government three years after leaving office than they did for those who think the limit should be after four years (3%). 

Those surveyed were also asked their thoughts on whether former civil servants should be allowed to lobby government on behalf of private firms. A significant proportion of people answered don’t know (23%), compared to 21% of people who thought that they should never be allowed to do so. Only 9% of those asked thought that civil servants should be allowed to lobby government as soon as they left their jobs.

Opinion once again varied by age, with only 4% of those aged 18-24 saying that former civil servants should never be able to lobby government on behalf of private firms compared to 37% of those aged 65 and over. 

The proportion of those intending to vote Conservative who backed a total ban on lobbying by former civil servants was higher (26%) compare to those who intended to back the Labour party (24%) or Liberal Democrats (16%).

The Institute for Government said it was clear that the current rules around lobbying were not far-reaching enough.

A spokesperson told LFF: “Recent events have shown that the current rules around former ministers lobbying government are not enough to maintain public trust, and need to be strengthened and properly enforced.

“Senior former ministers, like David Cameron, should not be able to lobby government on behalf of private interests for at least five years after they leave government.”

The question for the poll asked was: “How long after each of the following has left their post do you think is reasonable before they are allowed to lobby government on behalf of private firms?”. The same question was asked of prime ministers, government ministers and civil servants.

Polling by Savanta ComRes for Left Foot Forward. Fieldwork Conducted 14th – 16th May 2021. Poll of 2131 people ages 18+ in Britain.

Basit Mahmood is co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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