Farm-Gate : Spelman’s Agri-Business, Bio-Tech Lobbying Past

On the campaign trail David Cameron said

“It is the next big scandal waiting to happen. It’s an issue that crosses party lines and has tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money.”

This week Cameron appointed Caroline Spelman to be the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  Obviously he feels that nanny-gate is all water under the bridge. Spelman’s long history in agricultural politics and lobbying somehow makes her an ideal candidate for the job in his judgment.

Spelman spent her days before becoming an MP in the agri-business, with a lobbying focus mainly on sugar beet, one of  the most heavily subsidised crops in Europe. She was the Sugar Beet Commodity Secretary for the NFU in the early eighties before becoming  Deputy Director of the International Confederation of European Beet Growers. Seemingly well connected in the field, Caroline and her husband Mark went on to set up “Spelman, Cormack & Associates” in 1989 as a food and bio-technology lobbying company.

For over ten years the new Secretary of State, along with her husband, lobbied the very department she now runs. Caroline resigned as a director less than a year ago and conveniently transferred her share of the company to her husband.  The company address was also changed from her constituency home, for which Spelman claimed around £40,000 on expenses for cleaning and bills, to their million pound London flat. According to the company accounts last year, no rent was paid on this “office” subsidised by the taxpayers.

Mark Spelman, who was also a Tory candidate (unsuccessful), uses both his name and his wife’s maiden name (Cormack) on his firm’s letterhead – that won’t hinder business.  After all, the Minister who is now the number one target to be lobbied has her name on the company letterhead. Caroline Spelman lobbied for the industry and is now in charge of negotiating quotas, subsidies and price tariffs with the EU Agricultural Council. Her “family firm”  deals with bio-tech clients that the Secretary of State is now responsible for regulating in the GM foods sector.   As a result of anti-competitive EU regulations and industry lobbying British consumers are forced to pay prices for sugar which are massively inflated in comparison to the rest of the world. Did Cameron know that she was so recently a shareholder in a  lobbying firm focused on Defra before he appointed her to the position?  Because the whole thing taints politics and shows the far-too-cosy relationship between lobbyists, government, business and money…

+ + + Stephen Timms MP Stabbed + + +

Labour’s former Financial Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Timms has been airlifted to hospital after being stabbed in his East Ham constituency.

A young woman has been arrested.

Developing…

Friday Caption Contest (Home From Home Edition)

Baldemort For Leader?

Despite being painfully follicularly challenged, Liam Byrne is a strong media performer and had a solid election campaign. Unlike Balls, for example, he was loyal to the leadership, but managed to keep some distance. Despite being seen as part of the Brown camp, he was conspicuously absent from the last hurrah photos The Guardian took on Tuesday night.

Byrne signals no desire to run, but we’ve all heard that before. He’s very much a long odds outsider in the betting, however his article this morning certainly reads like pitch. It reflects heavily what went wrong, yet ends with an optimistic view on how the Labour Party could rebuild under a strong, new style of leadership:

“The new leader’s second test is not policy – it is organisation. In Birmingham we did well fending off a Tory attack. Gisela Stuart’s extraordinary triumph in Edgbaston will be one of the great memories of election night. In my own seat we managed to put up the Labour majority.

This country is immeasurably fairer and stronger for Gordon Brown’s extraordinary political life. Our tribute must be to learn lessons fast, and get back out there and win again.”

The whole thing is littered with references to his own successes and new ideas…

Quote of the Day

Liam Byrne writes

“…support for Labour has fallen off a cliff. In 2005, 43% of C2s were Labour. Now Mori says it’s down to just 23%. This loss cost us seats.”

Government of White Male Liberals

To accomodate the ethnically pure LibDems there are no black or asian MPs* in the government at all. There are more MPs called “David” in the government than women and former members of the Oxford Union debating society totally dominate the government.  Guido imagines Cameroon loyalists like Adam Afriye and Shailesh Vara are feeling a little used and discarded this morning…

*Warsi is in the Lords and has an unelected jobette. Not a reflection on her, just a fact.



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Quote of the Day

Andy Burnham, an MP at Westminster since 2001:

“I’m not a Westminster politician. Never have been.”

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