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What are corporate citizens to do when there's an election?

The answer isn’t to vote – unless of course you are based in the City of London when the number of voters you can appoint for local elections is proportional to the number of your staff.

But there’s a general election coming up, so what can a corporate citizen do?

Businesses have a great interest in the way the country is run, so they care about the results. Some – like media companies – can influence the electorate directly. (This is lobbying more or less hiding in the plain light of day.) But others have two main routes to influence the democratic process: consultations and lobbying. Consultations require arguments to persuade civil servants. While a lot of this goes on behind the scenes, at least there is also an official audit trail of the process.

Lobbying is a lot murkier and includes politicians as targets. This will also be the first UK general election since the Transparency of Lobbying Act became law, almost exactly a year ago. One part of the Act sets up a register of lobbyists. The mechanics of this is very weak – and still out to consultation. The other part limits campaigning within 7 1/2 months of an election, if it could conceivably be seen as influencing an election result. That might seem sensible – but the sting in the tail is that campaigning by all organisations, including charities and unions as well as for-profit companies, is affected.

It will be interesting to see what difference the new Act makes to this year’s election.

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