For those readers unfamiliar with Gobby, the BBC have helpfully profiled their attack dog here.
For those readers unfamiliar with Gobby, the BBC have helpfully profiled their attack dog here.
Tobacco was top of the agenda at PMQs today, with Ed Miliband puffing away about the Prime Minister’s indirect connections to Phillip Morris International via Lynton Crosby. But what of his own Marlboro Man? When Ed’s Political Relations Manager left his desk in the Leader of the Opposition’s Office, where did he go? Phillip Morris International, obviously. James Barge is now the tobacco giant’s Corporate Affairs Manager. When was was the Labour leader last lobbied by his former aide?
See also: Labour Ministers Opposed Plain Packaging
Victory for Guido’s campaign against passholder lobbyists as 80 people who work for APPGs have their parliamentary passes taken away from them. Last year Guido revealed Patrick Mercer, then Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Security, received almost £10,000 from a private security firm, sponsoring their MD’s pass for his troubles.
Now the House of Commons Commission has decided that “APPG staff passes should be withdrawn with effect from July 18 and that this category of pass should not be used in future”. Bad news for lobbyists…
Cornered about his old campaign manager, Boris recounted Lynton Crosby’s advice to stop talking about airports earlier:
In an interview about airports, naturally.
Guido welcomes Labour’s new tough stance on lobbying after thirteen years of prostituting in government. They have outlined amendments to be put down to this week’s lobbying bill, amendments which include a change to ensure all professional lobbyists working in the UK will be required to declare their full list of clients and an approximate value of their lobbying activity. In an obvious dig at Crosby they will also demand that “anyone doing a senior job for the government of the day – whether in-house or a contractor, formally for the party or directly by the government – who is a professional lobbyist must be declared.” New appointments to government would also be scrutinised in a similar way to how senior officials or ministers leaving to take up posts in related areas have new their jobs put before a Cabinet Office committee. Solid stuff, but does this go far enough? Not at all.
Labour’s back-of-a-fag-packet announcement today does not take into account successful lobbyists that pay money directly to government figures. Surely, government MPs should for obvious conflicts of interest reasons have to resign from any union that financially supports them, and not accept money from them directly or indirectly to their constituency parties, whilst in government? Labour’s John Trickett said this morning:
“Labour is determined to stand up to vested interests and we will push amendments to the government’s lobbying bill that will once and for all clean up this aspect of politics.”
Except where their union paymasters are involved?
Labour are trying to make a big issue out of the government formally dropping plain packaging, as if this was all Lynton Crosby’s doing. The policy was not actually in the Queen’s Speech so this announcement was hardly a surprise. The fact is it is hard to find a major lobbying firm that is not, or was not retained by Big Tobacco at some point over the last 30 years.
It is not as if when Labour was in government ministers showed any more enthusiasm for the plain packaging idea:
Alan Johnson, Secretary of State Health, 16 December 2008:
“I have to say, however, that despite the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is quite right about the huge response in favour of plain packaging, there is no evidence base that it actually reduces the number of young children smoking. We want to keep that under review, and when there is an evidence base for it, it could well be another important measure to meet our goal, which is to reduce the number of young people smoking.”
Gillian Merron, Public Health Minister, 25 June 2009:
“No studies have been undertaken to show that plain packaging of tobacco would cut smoking uptake among young people or enable those who want to quit to do so. Given the impact that plain packaging would have on intellectual property rights, we would undoubtedly need strong and convincing evidence of the benefits to health, as well as its workability, before this could be promoted and accepted at an international level – especially as no country in the world has introduced plain packaging.”
Andy Burnham, Secretary of State Health, November 2009:
“No studies have shown that introducing plain packaging of tobacco products would cut the number of young people smoking, or enable people who want to quit, to do so. Given the impact that plain packaging would have on intellectual property rights, we would need strong and convincing evidence showing the health benefits of this policy before it would be acceptable at an international level.”
Exactly the same lines spun by the current government yesterday,,,
Rather than suspending them as reported by Sky last night, Bercow has merely ordered the 83 APPG parliamentary passes to be checked by MPs:
“There are currently 83 parliamentary passes that have been issued specifically to staff of APPGs (around 0.6% of the total number of passes). The Speaker has instructed the Serjeant at Arms to ask Members who have sponsored these parliamentary passes to confirm that they have been properly requested and allocated, as required by the rules governing APPGs. In the interim, no new passes in this category will be issued. The Serjeant at Arms has also been asked, as a matter of urgency, to consider with the Administration Committee whether it is necessary or appropriate for this category of passes to exist at all. The Commission also intends that, more generally, applications for passes for Members’ staff should seek more information than at present about the purposes for which a pass is required.”
New rules would be bad news for a few interesting names on this list…
Labour hand-wringers protest that unions cannot be seen in the same light as lobbyists as they don’t have a comparable capacity to influence changes the law. This is patently untrue. Wind back to 2011 and Guido revealed how the GMB union flagrantly bought votes from Sadiq Khan’s Shadow Justice team. Minutes from a Shadow Justice meeting at the time note that Labour MPs let the GMB decide which way they voted:
The leaked minutes also showed how GMB sponsored Labour MPs tabled amendments at the behest of the union. If the Tories did the same with, say, Goldman Sachs, there would rightly be uproar.
Several Labour MPs employ trade union lobbyists, subsidised with taxpayer money, sponsoring them for parliamentary passes and having them work on party business. Ian Mearns has Lisa Johnson, Tom Greatrex employs Catherine Godsell and Natascha Engel employs Heidi Benzing, all Political Officers at the GMB. For Unite, Jon Cruddas employs Nick Parrott, Mark Tami has Hannah Blythyn, Ronnie Campbell employs Stephen Turner and Jim Sheridan employs Stephen Hart. David Hamilton employs James McGowan, a ‘parliamentary consultant’ at the ASLEF trade union.
Taxpayer-subsidised trade union lobbyists employed by Labour MPs wear union lanyards around their necks as they enjoy unfettered access to the corridors of power. It is no wonder Ed Miliband voted against a lobbyist register in 2006. Labour have sold their votes, their amendments and their staff to trade union lobbyists pure and simple…
Guido made a modest proposal to lightly regulate lobbyists back in 2011. Here is the outline of Guido’s policy reform:
Guido is no fan of government regulation of the private sector however the political lobbying industry thwarts democracy and pollutes the body politic to such an extent something has to be done. Guido’s policy idea is that all politicians and civil servants should be required to transparently publish all details of meetings with lobbyists – government ministers and Downing Street SpAds already have to do this. The idea should be rolled out as a requirement for all those paid by taxpayers and involved in influencing legislation. Obviously this means the question of identifying political lobbyists will have to be addressed.
To avoid any confusion by ministers or civil servants when unknowingly or inadvertently meeting lobbyists socially, taking up tickets to the opera or lunching at Michelin-starred restaurants and the like, registered lobbyists should make themselves easily identifiable. The historically tried and tested solution for just this problem springs to mind. They should be made to wear bells around their necks, like lepers…
Andrew Rawnsley really went for the lobbying industry in his Observer column yesterday. “Too many MPs are wrapped in the tentacles of the lobbyists” he warned, laying into “the murky world of lobbying”, describing it as an “industry that too often distorts and subverts democratic decision-making” and gagging at “the pungent smell given off by the whole business”.
He must have held his nose when he picked up the Public Affairs News award for Political Journalist of the Year from Warwick Smith of Citigate Public Affairs back in 2006…
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Jeremy Paxman explained the internet to Newsnight viewers last night:
“as we all know one of the main roles of the internet is to facilitate masturbation”.