Consider this equation. Add together:
-Zero real lobbyists
-One Tory MP
-One Ulster Unionist Peer
-Two Labour Peers
-Two media stings
What do you get? A 'lobbying scandal' apparently.
The craziness of the last few days has been remarkable. The media pose as lobbyists. A gaggle of MPs appear to break Parliament's own rules. They do so on camera.
And the result? Politicians call for the urgent regulation of lobbyists. Lobbyists. Not politicians -lobbyists.
Now I could just say that politicians are stupid. That they cannot see the utter lack of logic in their arguments. But I don't believe so many of them can be *that* stupid. What they are doing is rather clever, albeit they are following a path well-trodden. They are engaging in the old skill of distraction. The problem lies at their doorstep, and they are trying to move it elsewhere. Introducing a register of lobbyists sounds dynamic, and is relatively straight-forward. Changing a culture of greed in Westminster much harder.
But be in no doubt -this scandal is about the standards of Parliamentarians and nobody else.
Professional lobbyists subscribe to either the PRCA or APPC code of conduct. They declare their colleagues and they declare their clients. They do that four times a year. They can't employ Parliamentarians. They can't hold passes. If they help establish an APPG, they have to declare it. They make a virtue of all of these things, and they operate very much in plain view, not in the shadows.
The same kind of transparency cannot be said of a good number of Parliamentarians. They employ their children and their spouses. They hand out passes to friends and contacts. As the last few days have shown, they frequently ignore their own pesky rules on how they should behave, most particularly about money.
I'm pretty clear which group of people is more in need of an urgent bit of Cleggite reform.