Sleaze poll finds overwhelming public demand for action on lobbying and cronyism

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Sleaze poll finds overwhelming public demand for action on lobbying and cronyism

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Overwhelming majorities of voters believe that action is needed to prevent cronyism in public contracts and limit the access of lobbyists to government ministers and officials, according to a new poll.

And the survey for The Independent found that 86 per cent of voters believe that politicians who lie should lose office.

Some 73 per cent of those questioned said more should be done to prevent contracts going to political cronies and 69 per cent said better controls to limit lobbying were needed, while 86 per cent said politicians should be more accountable for their actions.

Meanwhile 62 per cent of those questioned said MPs’ £81,932 annual salary is “too high and should be reduced”, with 27 per cent saying it was about the right level and just 3 per cent thinking MPs should be paid more.

The research was conducted by pollsters Find Out Now in the wake of revelations over David Cameron’s text message lobbying of ministers on behalf of failed finance firm Greensill, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s attempt to get Boris Johnson to intervene in a planned takeover of Newcastle United and the prime minister’s WhatsApp promise to James Dyson that he would “fix” the tycoon’s tax problems.

Seven inquiries have been launched into the Greensill affair and Labour is demanding a parliamentary “sleaze” probe into Boris Johnson’s contacts with business figures, while reports suggest that Downing Street officials expressed concern at how many people have the prime minister’s mobile phone number.

Elections expert Martin Baxter of Electoral Calculus said that the strength of public feeling on the issue could be a problem for Mr Johnson’s government, as the numbers recorded were “nearly off the scale”.

Concern was registered across the political spectrum, with Conservative supporters almost as likely as voters for opposition parties to say action is needed on cronyism and lobbying – although Tories were less likely to say they felt strongly about the issue.

The level of disquiet about issues of sleaze was reflected in the very low numbers of voters expressing content with the current situation.

Just 2 per cent said enough was already being done to prevent cronyism and 9 per cent were neutral on the issue, while 4 per cent said there was no need to tighten controls on lobbying, with 13 per cent neutral.

Only 4 per cent said they did not think that politicians should lose office if they lie and 5 per cent said there was no need for them to be held more accountable for their action.

Find Out Now chief executive Chris Holbrook said: “The lobbying issue has clearly touched a nerve with the general public. 

“Our research suggests it could become a serious issue at forthcoming elections.”

And Mr Baxter said the polling showed that the public “are very concerned about MPs’ standards and think that they are unaccountable, overpaid, and at risk from cronies and lobbyists”.

He warned: “The strength of public feeling could be a problem for the government, since some of poll numbers are nearly off the scale.”

The polling suggested that older people feel more strongly about cronyism and accountability of MPs, while the young and less well-paid were more likely to feel Westminster salaries are too high.

• Find Out Now polled a representative sample of 2,000 British adults online on 21 April. Find Out Now is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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