Ministerial promises of a new “register of lobbyists” in the wake of two new political sleaze scandals could be less helpful than they seem because their proposals for reform would not necessarily help clean up Westminster.
The latest reputational calamities involved separate stings: by the BBC and Panorama on Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP, and by the Sunday Times newspaper on a trio of peers in the House of Lords.
In both cases, the politicians agreed to ask questions and set up either groups or events to represent fictional clients, breaching parliamentary rules.
But would a new industry register really give the UK’s political scene a deep clean?
Even those attempting to revive the plan, first drawn up several years ago, admitted this was not the case: “How much difference would it have made? Almost none,” said one aide to Nick Clegg. The deputy prime minister wrote on Monday that the register would, nonetheless, go ahead once the fine details were thrashed out: “It will happen.”
At the very least, if a register had existed, Mr Mercer could have avoided the sting.