James Hawkins

By James Hawkins

It’s almost a cliché of good public affairs practice that to successfully lobby government you shouldn’t just highlight problems, but present workable solutions.

Better yet, if you can demonstrate broad-based support for your solutions, you stand a good chance of getting them over the line. At least that’s what should normally happen. But at the moment there’s a problem: both Government and Parliament are totally distracted and in deadlock.


Political instability is the current watchword of British politics, and the irony of the UK’s Brexit-induced volatility is that it mirrors the state of politics on the Continent – albeit for very different reasons. Spain looks to be on the verge of its fourth general election in five years; Germany’s grand coalition government is beset with seemingly permanent tension; French President Macron continues to face the challenge of the gilet jaunes protests; and the left-right populist coalition governing Italy looks to be hell-bent on a serious political clash with the European Commission over the Italian budget.


More often than not, policy issues that need addressing in one country are similar across borders. Lobbying success in one jurisdiction can be a springboard for success in another. But when political deadlock prevents policy dialogue, corporate lobbying needs to be both pragmatic and dogged to make headway.

The same approach will be applicable in different countries, even where political traditions differ. Here are five principles to follow to achieve successful lobbying outcomes:


1. Present solutions and make them easy to understand – the old public affairs ‘cliché rules still apply.


2. Demonstrate the tangible benefits of your solutions – politicians want to show that they can get things done and if your plan can be shown to beadvantageous it will gain support.


3. You need to do the heavy lifting – there may be little bandwidth amongst politicians to focus on other issues; it’s up to you to sustain the interest and momentum in your issues


4. Remove suggestions that are overtly political contentious – you can’t risk your issue becoming a proxy in the wider political impasse.


5. Remove any political baggage and build a broadest cross-party coalition – you need to build overwhelming support, sufficient support is not enough


In the eye of the storm, with politics across different countries currently upended, policy still directly affects the ways business operates. While it is certainly harder to engage politicians and achieve policy change in such circumstances, it is not impossible.


Political deadlock limits the way stakeholder enegagement normally works. Instead, companies have to adapt and be more pragmatic in the way they go about achieving lobbying success.


The alternative is seeing your issues caught in the political morass, and that doesn’t offer a solution to anyone.