The dark art of corporate lobbying

For businesses looking to stay on the right side of regulation, hiring a lobbyist has fast become essential. But does that make it right?

by Stefan Stern

The central lobby at the Palace of Westminster, designed by Charles Barry in the 1840s, is a daunting stone octagon structure with large arched windows. It is decorated with gilt flourishes, imposing statues and all the august paraphernalia of a grand imperial parliament. Even today there are times, standing there, that you can feel as though you are at the centre of the world.

Members of Parliament are representatives of the people, and it is only right that citizens can gain access to this central lobby to meet MPs and their advisers at any time. The lighting is not great, but any encounter there is more or less transparent. You can see what is going on.

If this were all that lobbying amounted to – it is, after all, from this grand lobby that we get the term – there would be little to worry about. But a sizeable industry has grown up under the umbrella label that remains a mystery both to business leaders and concerned observers.

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