Legend in his own lunchtime Peter Bingle must be bitterly regretting sending this most unfortunate tweet – among many – on election day. Good luck to any client the flamboyant Tory PR man now registers he is lobbying the Government on behalf of, as this must count as the Gerald Ratner moment of the campaign. Not sure that many Tory MPs will will be keen to be seen with the lobbyist who tried so hard to trash their saviour!
When Stephen Dorrell stood down as chairman of the Health select committee back in June, Guido wondered:
“Why would [he] not want to keep the coveted post, as well as the extra pay, for [his] last year in the Commons? Nothing to do, Guido is sure, with the fact that anti-corruption Cabinet Office rules state that politicians have to spend a year ‘cooling off’ before they a can go to work in the lucrative private sector in an area they have acquired expert knowledge in through their position in public office. Any six-figure consultancy contracts and directorships they take up after the election would more than compensate them for their temporary short-term loss this year. A coincidence, no doubt.”
Sure as night follows day, Dorrell today announced he will be quitting parliament at the election to take a job as a health consultant with KPMG. Giving him time for a nice summer holiday before his cooling off period expires and he can start putting all that experience to good use. Kerching!
Back in September Michael Fallon hired defence lobbyist Bill Clare to spin for him as his special adviser. The right-winger worked for Michael Howard before joining Liam Fox’s abortive bid for the Tory leadership, ending up on the side of the angels at arms manufacturers General Dynamics, eventually going on to spin for the London First group. A job that he appears to have kept for longer than he strictly should…
An email has emerged that shows Clare’s old lobbying organisation claiming to have kept the newbie SpAd on their roster while he worked at the Ministry of Defence:
From: Gavin Hayes
Sent: 02 October 2014 15:25
Subject: Bill Clare
This it to let you all know that as of Monday 22 September Bill has started an exciting new role working as an adviser to Michael Fallen MP the Defence Secretary at the MOD.
Bill will continue to provide advice and support for the Let Britain Fly campaign over the next couple of weeks by phone and email but will no longer be coming into the office.
I would like to personally thank Bill for all his fantastic work on the Let Britain Fly campaign over the last year and for all the support he has given us.
We wish Bill all the very best of luck and success in his new job.
Campaign Director, Aviation
At a time when the MoD were bombing ISIS, why was Clare apparently combining SpAd-ing with being a business lobbyist? Curiously, London First also “work with government and police organisations in helping their respective cyber units”.
Cyber Units like the one recently set up by the Ministry of Defence.
Guido does wonder if this unusual arrangement was cleared with the MoD permanent secretary and the Cabinet Office, and whether the conflict of interest was declared?
UPDATE: Statement from Bill Clare:
My last working day for Let Britain Fly was Monday 22nd September – as they have now confirmed – at which point I closed down my company in accordance with my agreement with the Cabinet Office. I began work with the MOD on Thursday 25th September. The email you’ve been “leaked” is not accurate – so your story isn’t either – a point I understand Let Britain Fly has been in touch to make and to confirm the dates above.
Guido has received no such communication from Let Britain Fly…
There were lamentations across Westminster when the once great lunch spot Shepherd’s shut down last year after going down the pan. Well, it’s back! With caveats. Public Affairs News reports Tory spin merchant Lionel Zetter has bought the lease and the name, saying “I want to resurrect Shepherds and take it back to its best: superb food, great service, an elegant ambience and a discreet environment”. It used to be lobbyists just picking up the tab, now they’ve picked up the whole damn building…
The Times and Mail are on the case of Andy Burnham’s health lobbyist aide Kevin Lee over his tax arrangements, a story Guido broke over two years ago. Readers will remember how back in 2011 this blog revealed how Lee was being paid as Burnham’s spinner not on a normal PAYE contract, but through his company, Lee Communications. Since Labour advisers are paid for by taxpayer-funded ‘Short Money’, this seems particularly creative. And the murkiness doesn’t end there.
When Burnham was Health Secretary, Lee Communications raked in hundreds of thousands of pounds in NHS cash, which is somewhat ironic given Burnham’s apocalyptic warnings about the Tories privatising the health service. Lee also splashed himself all over the internet boasting about his connections with Burnham and his expertise in public affairs. He was a health lobbyist with NHS clients.
As if Burnham employing Lee’s company and giving him a parliamentary pass permitting a health lobbyist access to parliament was not suspicious enough, Lee also “loaned” £20,000 to Burnham’s failed leadership campaign. Burnham has never managed to explain why he gave a lobbyist donor unfettered access to the parliamentary estate. As for that £20,000 loan, did Burnham ever pay it back? Let’s see if he can clear it up once and for all two years on…
“Hanover Communications has secured the services of Liberal Democrat politician Julia Goldsworthy,” reports PR Week. The former LibDem MP turned Treasury SpAd for Danny Alexander was last heard from heralding her campaign to win back her old Cornish seat. Which is clearly not taking up all of her time.
Well at least she is off the taxpayer dime for the first time since 2005…
“We are standing up for good jobs in Britain, not Ed Miliband’s supper club cronies” says Tory MP Henry Smith after Guido revealed Ed Miliband received thousands of pounds in donations from an AstraZeneza board member. “Ed Miliband should declare his interests before he starts political meddling” Smith continues. Which reminds Guido of a certain dinner we have still never had answers about…
Back in 2011 Ed promised 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 “Rat” Rudd:
Rudd’s Finsbury represent AstraZeneca and it’s no secret that he spins for Ed on less official terms. A spokesman for the firm would only confirm Guido that “Astrazenca have an ongoing dialogue with the Labour Party”. So was there anyone from the pharma giants at that infamous dinner, and when did they last sit down with Ed?
UPDATE: A Labour spokesman stonewalls:
“The on-going bid for AstraZeneca by Pfizer raises serious questions about a key sector of our economy. It is absurd to suggest that Labour is raising this vitally important issue for any other reason than to represent and reflect the concerns of the tens of thousands of people who could be affected by any takeover.”
They don’t want to answer the questions…
Readers will be well aware of Labour’s hypocrisy when it comes to gambling – last year alone two-faced Chuka bashed bookies before taking their cash, Tristram Hunt did exactly the same thing and Stephen Timms also went each way. Now one of the Eagles is going all in, hiring a gambling lobbyist as her new Political Adviser.
Ex-Blair press secretary Michael Stephenson previously worked for Miliband’s bargain basement strategist Bruce Hawker‘s lobbying firm, where he used his connections to lobby the Labour government on plans for 16 super-casinos across Britain. A former Co-op general secretary, his sound judgement and experience at keeping on top of the finances no doubt made him the stand out candidate to be Maria Eagle’s new political adviser. In other news Maria’s sister Angela is laying it on thick attacking the government’s Lobbying Act for “letting vested interests off the hook”…
Ssssh no one mention lobbying reform! Clegg has replaced his not-up-to-the-job Comms Director with Edelman’s public affairs managing director Stephen Lotinga. It’s a bit of a slap to Edelman considering the spin-merchant had only been there for a few weeks after signing from those paragons of virtue Bell Pottinger.[…]
Tory MP Charles Hendry has been a busy coining it since he was sacked as Energy minister, landing a £48,000 windfall from wind energy giants Forewind and hobnobbing with Hanover lobbyists and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. On top of that, Hendry has now bagged another outside job as a consultant at oil giants Vitol.[…]
Lobbyists and spinmeisters who coined it on the back of Viktor Yanukovych’s authoritarian Ukrainian regime are getting jumpy. Meet James Wilson, a leading light at city spin shop FIPRA (Finsbury International Policy & Regulatory Advisers) who looks after firm’s Ukrainian clients.[…]
As regular readers will remember, disgraced former Labour Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has resurfaced as a lobbyist. Given that he was found guilty of electoral fraud after attempting to stir up racial tensions in his constituency, Guido would advise any potential clients of Wellington Street Partners to hold on to their money. […]
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson is rather cross with Guido over the suggestion he was drinking with lobbyists late into the night on Wednesday in the Intercontinental Hotel bar while large swathes of the country were still underwater. […]
Despite party rules stating that he is not meant to be overtly campaigning, Tim Yeo is fighting hard for his political survival in Suffolk. The trougher even sent members Christmas cards for the first time in a decade and has become uncharacteristically active in his previously neglected seat.[…]
Guido can reveal that Steve Richards, the Indy’s political pundit and sometime TV talking head, has taken up a role with the public affairs lobbying firm Hanover Communications. When Guido spoke to Steve he was a little sheepish and seemed unsure of his role, he said he would be providing political advice to the firm.[…]