Just taking a quick break from writing up this week’s ITQ committee lookahead — I know, I know; it’s been ages — but I wanted to point y’all at this little item that I dashed off for our regular Need To Know feature earlier this morning. Go read it — I’ll wait. Anyway, while writing it up, it occurred to me that it, in some cases, it may be just a teensy bit — I dunno, is ‘unseemly’ the word? — for Conservative staffers to be lobbying lobbyists for work, no matter how discreetly, while still gainfully and exemptedly employed in a ministerial office.
Now, before hitting the reply button to descend upon the comment thread en masse, armed with that classic, if slightly cliched anticipated defence that “The Liberals Did It Too, Only Worse!”, I’d just like remind everyone that I have been a card carrying Accountability Act sceptic since before it even came into force, at least as far as the five year ban on lobbying after leaving government, which really is overkill, in my opinion. As such, I’m definitely willing to entertain arguments as to why this sort of thing may be entirely appropriate. But at the moment, there’s just something that doesn’t sit right about the prospect of senior aides and staffers playing footsy with potential future employers at the very same time that they’re supposed to give objective advice to their bosses – ministerial and otherwise – on how the government should respond to any lobby campaigns that those potential future employers may be mounting on behalf of their clients.
Maybe I’ve just been spending too much time listening to tales from the good old days of the late 80s/early 90s, but it seems to me that one of the unintended consequences of tightening up the rules as far as what staffers can do after leaving office – voluntarily, or by act of the electoral gods – was to put even more pressure on them to set up an FAA-sanctioned escape plan well before they’re actually planning to leave. But I’m fully willing to admit I may be overreacting. Thoughts?