For a public affairs consultant, a key part of the job is advising clients on how the political terrain might shift over the coming months and years.
But how good are the cream of the lobbying crop at gazing in to their crystal balls?
In 2008, I persuaded ten top lobbyists to call the outcome of the mayoral election. Seven of the ten predicted that Ken Livingstone would win. Just three backed Boris. Step forward Bell Pottinger Public Affairs chair Peter Bingle, Hanover Communications MD Charles Lewington and DLA Piper director Eben Black.
In early 2009 the same bunch of lobbyists bravely agreed to put their necks on the line again by calling the date and outcome of the general election. This time, three of the ten predicted an election would take place in the summer of 2009.
According to one senior lobbyist: ‘2009 will be the year of the next election and I now believe that the month will be April or May…. History tells us that Prime Ministers who hang on until the bitter end tend to lose and lose badly.’
Another agency boss confidently stated: ‘I think Gordon and his advisers are rapidly coming round to the view that the earlier the election is held the better.’
The remaining seven plumped for a 2010 contest. But only one lobbyist backed Boris AND predicted a 2010 election.
With summer now over and an election now almost certain to take place in 2010, congrats to Eben Black, who followed up his accurate mayoral call by predicting an election in April 2010 and a Tory victory.
Is Eben the Mystic Meg of lobbying? The sharp-witted former political hack may not be home and dry yet, but it’s looking pretty good for him…