I WAS looking through some back issues of your newspaper this week, and I came across a published letter in your issue of August 25th, 2016, on the subject of lobbying.
That letter was one of mine, but it was the topic itself rather than the authorship of one particular contribution which I would prefer to emphasize. For lobbying is very much in the news at the present time because of allegations, now being officially investigated, about the activities of a former Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron. The Observer had an extensive journalistic coverage of this by no means new phenomenon.
Lobbying, like advertising, is not intrinsically improper but where it exists a code of conduct is likely to be necessary. There are also issues in preserving propriety for ex-ministers who in their careers will have had access to what for many would be ‘privileged’ restricted information.
David Cameron had been out of the news until very recently but the problems where they exist would not be confined to him. Though as a former Prime Minister, he may find himself more in the firing line.
Our society is divided into the public and the private sector of our economy. It would be normal to have barriers separating the two, and the idea of individuals simultaneously working both for the government and the private sector is in principle usually wrong.
Ministers often take up private employment when they retire from Whitehall, itself controversial, but one very senior civil servant (now deceased) made an ‘excursion’ to the private sector in the City of London for a few years, and then back again to Downing Street. His name, Jeremy Heywood.
This was not illegal and I am not implying any wrong-doing in his temporary career move.
It might even have given him useful experience of private enterprise. I have strayed beyond the boundaries of lobbying as such, but lobbying is one feature found in all countries which if not regulated somewhat may cause problems and occasional adverse public reactions towards individuals who may sometimes appear to be out for their own good primarily.
Michael O’Neill Railway Terrace Penarth
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