David Cameron’s election promise to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists has been thrown into new doubt by the revelation that only two Conservative MPs have pledged their support.
About fifteen per cent of all new Tory MPs elected on May 6th come straight from lobbying backgrounds. Nineteen of the 143 newly-elected Conservative MPs worked as lobbyists, including close allies of David Cameron. George Eustice, formerly associate director at Portland PR and Cameron’s former spokesman, is the newly elected MP for Camborne and Redruth.
His colleague at Portland, Charlotte Leslie, took Bristol North West.
Also among the crop of lobbyists turned MPs are Priti Patel, former director at Weber Shandwick and MP for Witham; Damien Collins, who came from Lexington Communications to take Folkestone and Hythe; Penny Mordaunt, former associate at Hanover and MP for Portsmouth North; Robin Walker, former partner at Finsbury and MP for Worcester and Oliver Colville who ran his own PR company specializing in regeneration and is now MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport.
There are no new Liberal Democrat MPs with lobbying backgrounds.
David Miller, a spokesman for Spinwatch, anti-spin campaigning group, said: “When people move between being lobbyists to being MPs and ministers, there is a potential conflict of interest. There’s a cooling off period when they leave – but that’s not statutory. There should be a cooling off period beforehand as well.
“Given that Cameron was in PR and Clegg was a professional lobbyist, the question is whether businesses have special access as the result of those relationships?”
Concerns over the ‘revolving door’ recently hit the Tories with former Tory MP Julie Kirkbride landing a lobbying job with Tetra Strategy days after being forced to quit the Commons following the expenses scandal.
Last year her former MP husband Andrew Mackay, who was also embroiled in the expenses scandal, landed a six-figure salary as ‘international consultant’ to the lobbying giant Burston-Marsteller.