Monday, October 17, 2011

Controversial Lobbyist at the Heart of Downing Street

In those heady days of spring 2010 Nick Clegg told the ITV leadership debate that he wanted “something I’ve supported all my adult political life, which is a complete clean-up from top to toe of politics.” This included an end to murky lobbying and he subsequently convinced the Conservative coalition negotiators of the need for a compulsory register of lobbyists. So it is odd then that the lobbyist Olly Grender has gone to spin for Nick Clegg out of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office. Grender is in Downing Street covering the maternity leave of Clegg’s gatekeeper Lena Pietsch, which means she will be back on the outside practising the dark arts very soon….

After spinning for the Liberal Democrats in the run up to the 1997 election, Grender turned to the dark-side of lobbying at Neal Lawson and Jonathan Mendelsohn’s scandal ridden and now defunct LLM Communications, which became notorious for their level of access to the Blair government. Eventually she moved on to PLMR – Political Lobbying and Media Relations. Leaving the quack green energy companies represented by the firm aside,  the organisation boasts that they represent Frankenstein doctors  like PLMR client Reneuron who experiment with stem-cells taken from new-born children, and pro-puppy-torturing and mouse-probing animal research organisations like UAR. PLMR also spin for the Brazilian Beef food processing industry, which George Monbiot accuses of “deforestation, slavery and murder”. Classy stuff…

Given the unfettered access that Grender now has and that her appointment is only temporary, what measures have been taken in Downing Street to make sure that her firm’s clients, who until very recently were paying her to represent them, do not have undue influence? The Cabinet Office can instigate a cooling off period after officials leave the government before they can jump through the revolving door. Will this “two years in the cooler” apply to Grender and her corporate lobbying career? With Nick Clegg leading the charge against the spinmeisters, what has he done to get his own house in order?

Exclusive: Ed Blocking Twigg’s PAd Choice

Guido’s eyes and ears in Norman Shaw South report that there is a bit of a ding-dong going on between newly appointment Education shadow Stephen Twigg and the leadership. Twigg, who has reversed Labour’s policy against free-schools, is trying to have fellow Blairite and Lambeth councillor Alex Bigham installed as his, short-money funded, “Senior” Political Advisor. Guido called Alex who confirmed he has not yet been appointed and he couldn’t get off the phone quick enough. Sources point to some comments made during the leadership campaign about Ed, as well as some unease about having another Blairite “right-winger” in the team. Guido would recommended Ed develops a thicker skin…

UPDATE: Bigham denies the rift and expects to be appointed soon. Sensible…

Miliband Voted Against Lobbyist Register in 2006

Ever the opportunist, Ed constantly tries to be the first out of the blocks in a crisis, so that he can harp on that the Prime Minister is following his example. It’s a useful tactic to mask the real weaknesses of his day-to-day leadership. Well today the tactic is being used with the state register of lobbyists. Except he is going to come unstuck, again…

Ed is expected to take to the airwaves this afternoon with the line tested by Shadow Cabinet Office minister Gareth Thomas, who told the BBC at the weekend:

“David Cameron has still not introduced the compulsory register of lobbyists he promised. The government should bring forward as a matter of urgency plans for a compulsory register of lobbyists with records being kept of meetings between lobbyists and ministers.”

But has Ed and his top team always been in favour of such a register? If so, why did he, along with Balls, Cooper and Gareth Thomas vote against a LibDem bill that would have brought in the register in 2006? Woops…

Via @JasonJHunter. The full list of who voted against the bill is here

The Mail on Sunday paints the scene of how government really works:

“George Osborne was sitting in the garden of the British Ambassador’s residence in Paris talking G20 tactics – while drinking tea and munching on some jumbo chocolate buttons he had bought on the flight there – when he was informed of rumours on Twitter that the Defence Secretary was about to go.”

Pred-Ed: Miliband’s Shady Dinner with Lobbyists and Predators

Given that this is the week that shady chats and hand shakes in private rooms will be coming under extra scrutiny, Guido thought he would give Ed a gentle reminder of his promise to publish a list of attendees at a suspiciously “private and off the record” dinner held for him at the home of lobbyist-spinmeister Roland Rudd last week:

Ed has turned to the corporate lobbyist to boost his severely dented, if ever existent, reputation in the business world. Roland’s known clients include Murdoch, the Daily Mail, not so environmentally sensitive miners like Rio Tinto and African Barrick Gold. Rudd’s client list includes Boots and easyJet, owned by predatory asset stripping private equity companies, the most aggressive takeover group in the world KKR – the original “Barbarians at the Gate” - investment banks like Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered, UK taxpayer bailed out banks like Royal Bank of Scotland and Greece’s bankrupt Alpha Bank. Glencore the rogue commodities trading operation run out of Switzerland retains Rudd.

Labour’s current favourite targets the big energy companies like ENI, Shell, EON and Centrica could have been sat round the table with Ed. Embarrassingly UK Uncut favourites Vodafone may have passed the port to Ed and given Rudd represents Wonga, which the Labour Party’s Stella Creasey campaigns against, there will be extortionate interest if they were there. Rudd represents hedge fund operators DE Shaw and the London Stock Exchange, currently home to the unwashed 0.99% in occupation. With all these “predators” at his fingertips, which ones did Rudd choose to give Ed “some straight advice”?  No wonder Ed is reluctant to admit who he had dinner with…

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View


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