The controversial Lobbying Bill, which narrowly passed through the Lords yesterday, is now almost certain to become law. It's a bill about lobbyists, political campaigning regulation but it matters as much to the people I represent in Wigan as it does to the Westminster bubble because it tells a story of why so many people don't believe in politics.
A series of scandals involving Coalition politicians, lobbyists and special advisers has done little to help the public perception that politics is corrupt, the roots of which go back several decades. As participation in politics has declined people have been branded apathetic but every bit of my experience tells me this is not true. People care deeply about their lives, their families and their communities and they want a politics they can believe in. A recent poll in the Guardian Newspaper found people were angry, not apathetic. They want to see change.
The prime minister once seemed to agree with them. Before the General Election he said "sunlight is the best disinfectant". But this month the government's recent publication of the annual Chequers guest list was released a year late after huge pressure, and excluded special advisors, officials, personal guests of the Prime Minister and guests paid by the Conservative Party. The promise is unravelling and with it, eroding what little trust is left in politics.
The Lobbying Bill was supposed to fix all of this but instead it makes it worse. It is bad enough that it does absolutely nothing to clean up lobbing, drawn so narrowly that it deliberately excludes advisors like Lynton Crosby from transparency requirements and excludes an estimated 99% of lobbyists from the lobbyists register. But it is worse that, instead, it targets charities, trade unions and grassroots campaigners subjecting them to requirements that will have chilling effect on their ability to speak out.
It has caused an outcry across the country and it's not hard to see why. When people feel disillusioned with party politics they turn to charities, local campaign groups and single issue campaigns to press for change. The government hasn't just come up with a plan that will let wealthy, powerful interests off the hook - it's also cracking down on an important channel for discontent and a voice we don't hear loudly or frequently enough.
When he was elected leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband said: "politics is basically broken. Its practice, its reputation and its institutions - I'm in it and even I sometimes find it depressing. This generation has a chance and a huge responsibility to change our politics. We must seize it and meet the challenge." That's why Labour called for a universal register of lobbyists and a compulsory code of conduct. We want special advisors and senior civil servants to be subject to transparency requirements and charities to be able to campaign for those they represent.
Without these measures to increase transparency we will not begin to restore trust in politics. People have to trust politics to participate - and unless they do it will be left to a small group of people, who govern for the few and not the many. Britain can do better than that.Suggest a correction