As Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute put it in his e-mail to all subscribers this morning:
Journalists trapped parliamentarians in a cash-for-influence sting. So now we're going to have a clampdown on lobbying. (Although no lobbyists were involved. Now you know how laws are made in this country.)Quite so. This was not an example of our courageous boys and girls of the press investigating the wrong doings of our legislators but a case of said hacks and hackettes setting up a sting operation or, if you prefer, being agents provocateurs. Naturally, those being provoked by the agents should not yield to temptation but the whole story has more than a whiff of fishiness.
The government has been wanting to regulate lobbyists for some time though nobody has yet been able to demonstrate that any sort of a register or regulatory body would make the system more honest or acceptable.
The Adam Smith Institute blog summed matters up:
We have seen the result in the United States. Think-tanks carry on as before, but they have to set up a separate 'lobbyist' body comprising any of their personnel who have frequent discussions with folk on Capitol Hill. The effect is to politicise think-tanks and put a wall between their independent policy experts and the politicians. An issue comes up, a think-tank expert has important things to say, but cannot say them directly to the policymakers.But it does give an opening to yet more bureaucratic meddling with the political process.
The government has experienced certain difficulties in passing legislation that would create new rules through Parliament. Now, if you please, we have a synthetically manufactured scandal that does not involve lobbyists but is being presented, very conveniently for the government, as an excellent reason for passing new legislation. The timing raises some questions.