Recent research into MPs elected in the 2005 General Election found that only a minority (29%) of our current Westminster MPs have had any previous experience of working in business before entering parliament. This is not to say that our elected representatives are not qualified to legislate on areas where they have no direct experience, but rather underlines why it is so important that business and other organisations and individuals take part in the democratic process. Effective political communications can provide a bridge in the democratic process so that parliamentarians, ministers, civil servants and regulators are aware of issues that are necessary for them to make decisions and enact policy having taken due consideration of the views of all those involved.
It should also be recognised that lobbying, or more accurately the practice of political communications is a two-way street, in fact MPs, MSPs, AMs and officials are hungry for this information in order to gain credibility for their policies or for their own scrutiny of proposed legislation. Government, political parties, policy makers, regulators and other related organisations directly benefit from the lobbying activities of businesses charities and NGOs through the development of partnerships which aid the development of this process. Often the biggest political mistakes made by Government happen when they have not adequately accounted for the views of their key stakeholders.
The development and widening of the policy process to encompass wider stakeholders by the Government since 1997 has been extensive, making this landscape much more difficult to navigate and understand where decisions are being made. The structure of the policy making process in the UK has become increasingly fragmented largely as a consequence of devolution as well as a growth in the number of executive agencies, independent regulators and non-departmental public bodies. Hundreds of consultations are published each year and the Government has also increased pre-legislative scrutiny in order to consult the public, business and other stakeholders before legislation is published. This is symptomatic of modern government in the United Kingdom and requires substantial effort and input from all stakeholders so that they can meaningfully take part in the policy making process and ensure a positive impact.
Lobbying can take many forms. Primarily you might want to affect policy or legislative change or simply wish raise your profile and generate political understanding for your interests. A successful political communications campaign will always rest on the credibility of an organisation’s cause and the effectiveness of their message. At the end of the day, lobbying or making your voice heard, is a necessary and essential part of the democratic process.