Lobbyists are paid to influence government decisions.

Their job is to shape the decisions of politicians and public officials: to mould government policy, delay or water down laws and regulations, and secure government contracts worth billions of pounds.

There are some 4000 people working in the UK's £2billion influence industry.

Most of them lobby for corporate interests. Lobbying by corporations is always a tactical investment. Whether facing down a threat to profits from regulation, or pushing for market opportunities from public sector contracts, lobbying has become another way of making money. This explains why the corporate sector dominates the influence industry, and why business interests can sometimes drown out the views of less well funded groups.

Lobbyists are political insiders. The industry is full of former politicians, ex-government advisers, and political aides. In other words people with access to decision-makers. Knowing people in government does not equate to having influence with government. But without access, influence is, if not impossible, then limited. You can only cook up deals once you are in the kitchen (the rest of us, incidentally, only ever see front of house).

Lobbyists also provide a raft of other services, including public relations. They use the media to push their case with politicians and people it with an array of seemingly independent 'third party messengers'. These are used to add credibility to a company's self-interested position. Lobbyists also work extremely hard to own the terms of any public debate, steering conversations away from those they can’t win and on to those they can. If a public discussion on a company’s environmental impact is unwelcome, lobbyists might instead push to frame any debate around the hypothetical economic benefits of their ambitions. Once this fabricated and narrowly-framed conversation becomes dominant, dissenting voices will appear marginal and irrelevant. Lobbyists also know how to avoid being in the news, remembering that policy-making by quiet negotiation is when they are most effective.

For more on what lobbyists do and how they operate, see: The truth about lobbying: 10 ways big business controls government.