Learning about lobbyists

An old boy returning to the School to speak at QE’s thriving Politics Society discussed the controversial world of lobbying.

Matthew Jaffa (OE 1992–1999) is the London Senior Development Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and outlined his organisation’s recent successful lobbying campaign over the revaluation of business rates.

The FSB believed the business rates were far too high for small and medium-sized businesses, and were consequently making them less competitive than larger businesses. However, under the revaluation announced in September 2016 following the FSB campaign, smaller firms will now pay no business rates whatsoever, and a new category has been introduced for medium-sized companies in order to differentiate between them and larger firms.

Yet Matthew (pictured below with Head of Politics, Liam Hargadon), whose visit was arranged and hosted by Year 12 pupil Rehaan Bapoo, believes there is far too much dishonesty within lobbying. He discussed the need for greater transparency among those attempting to influence Government policy-making. There can be moral dilemmas for people in the lobbying industry, he acknowledged, citing the example of those approached to lobby on behalf of tobacco companies.

""He also gave the pupils insights into the various techniques and methods used by lobbyists, ranging from the straightforward – writing letters to, or telephoning, ministers and prominent MPs – to arranging meetings with such politicians and also lobbying through securing media coverage.

Asked about the possible effect of Brexit on small and medium-sized businesses, Matthew responded that leaving the European Union will have a will have a significant impact, particularly on the ability of firms to access talent and trade with other countries..

Matthew, who read Economics at Birmingham after leaving QE, suggested that pupils interested in Economics or business – especially those starting up a business of their own – should work closely with organisations such as the FSB. They could then secure benefits including lower insurance fees and legal cover.

He gave the boys advice on how to enter both the world of lobbying and the Civil Service, as well as giving a few practical tips on progressing as a professional: he stressed the importance of keeping a well-maintained LinkedIn page.