Cabinet Office searches for lobbying tsar who can ‘command respect’
It is not clear whether Alison White will reapply for the job.
A new registrar of consultant lobbyists could be appointed in the summer after the Cabinet Office started advertising this week for the £420 per day job.
The move comes four years after former Royal Mail commercial director Alison White took up the post, which is primarily responsible for managing the UK lobbying register.
A source at the Office for the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists said that the fixed term post had to be advertised every four years. It is not known whether White will reapply for the role and sources at ORCL were unable to say whether she wanted to stay in the job.
Upon her appointment in 2014, White immediately told MPs she was a "tough cookie" who would not be bullied by lobbyists. She also said she would not be advising the Government to revisit the lobbying register, even if it proved unworkable.
Since then she has issued penalty notices to lobbying firms including MWW Communications, PHA Media and Rohde Public Policy. She has also praised the public affairs industry for approaching the register in a “professional manner” and said that lobbyists “try their hardest to comply properly and in a timely fashion”.
But White frustrated agency figures by declaring in 2016 that it was “entirely appropriate” for some law firms offering public affairs services to stay off the government's lobbying register. One angry agency chief said in response: "We knew the registrar was pointless, but now we know they’re toothless too. Lawyers are lobbying left-right-and-centre and yet they are unable to find any evidence of it. They’re clearly not looking very hard."
At the end of last year, White claimed a PAN Stakeholder Award for Understatement of the Year after telling an ‘annual stakeholder event’ at the Radisson Blu Edwardian: "I’m well aware of the doubts about the effectiveness of the register."
The job advertisement posted by the Cabinet Office calls for someone with an ability to engage with and understand the workings and regulation of the private sector and industry, and an ability to gain respect and establish credibility within the consultant lobbying industry, Government, Parliament and the public.
It states: “This is a high profile and sensitive role and the successful candidate will need to be able to command the respect of the public, Parliament, the industry and other stakeholders.”
Public affairs sources suggested that this time around the job could go to a veteran of the public affairs world. “I imagine some industry players will have a punt,” said one insider with knowledge of the process. However, anyone who has been a minister or has “carried on the business of consultant lobbying” in the last five years is ineligible.
The registrar of consultant lobbyists is paid £420 per day for 30-40 days per annum. The deadline for applications closes on 18 June with final interviews to be held in early July.