Could be tougher all round…
Could be tougher all round…
As Guido revealed yesterday union lobbyists are on course to be added to statutory register of spinmeisters. Cue faux outrage. Speaking to the Standard’s Craig Woodhouse, Bob Crow has thrown his toys out of the pram before he’s even read the proposals:
“The idea that trade unions, representing millions of workers up and down the country, should be bracketed in with the chancers and shmoozers from the shadowy world of political lobbying is a gross insult to men and women fighting for a fair deal in the workplace. This is just another blatant ConDem attack on the trade union movement and shows complete and utter contempt for the role we play in protecting working people from the savagery of casino capitalism.”
What are you paid £145,000 a year for then Bob?
Jack Dromey, aka Mrs Harman, aka Unites’ man on the inside, will be forced to issue an apology to the House for failing to declare he was still in the pay of the union when he became an MP. While many Labour MPs benefit from union cash, such a formal arrangement was enough for John Lyon to gently toss an abridged version of the book at Dromey’s feet. Imagine if it had been any other form of lobbyist giving secret payments of £57,000 to an MP…
UPDATE: John Lyons said the matter was serious but has given leniency due to Dromey being “a new an inexperienced MP”. He’s been political operator for decades. He knew what he was doing…
The much awaited government consultation paper on the statutory registration of lobbyists will be released on Friday morning. Even if it recommends putting cowbells on these spinmeisters, it wouldn’t stop them…
Guido hears that there will be one section of it that Labour MPs will find particularly uncomfortable. The consultation will include scrutiny of the relationship between politicians and trade unionists, with an eye to making political union officials and liaison officers sign the register. Apparently Canada will be used as a model, unions were forced to register there.
Given the amount of money floating between the unions and Labour, as well as their presumption that they will be consulted before any big decision made by the party, the move seems like a no-brainer. Unions lobby for their vested interests and pay to play. Just take a look at the recent Cash for Votes scandal that saw countless Labour MPs take cheques in election season and do their paymaster’s legislating for the rest of the parliament. Given that millions of taxpayer pounds are channelled to the unions every year, we should know who is being paid to meet the politicians who hand out the cash.
It seems Ed Balls’ most loyal Twitter fan can’t get used to life on the outside, Ellie Gellard used to Tweet relentlessly for Ed Balls when he was running for leader. Having left his entourage to go work for Tetra Strategy, the Twitter foghorn formerly known as BevaniteEllie is now “Head of Digital” for the shady spinmeisters.
And look what a difference it has made to their Twitter feed:
Ed M welcoming Cameron's move (following his) onto attacking "crony capitalism"… says if this becomes battle ground "bring it on"—
Tetra Strategy (@TetraStrategy) January 10, 2012
Tory HQ (unsurprisingly) insist Cameron was correct while Labour HQ send Lord Adonis out to attempt to clarify his 2009 decision. Politics!—
Tetra Strategy (@TetraStrategy) January 11, 2012
Gove now rowing back (!) on suggestions he called for publicly funded Royal yacht.—
Tetra Strategy (@TetraStrategy) January 17, 2012
Compare that to the more neutral offerings put out before she arrived. Though Tetra was set up by former Labour figures, they have been trying to ingratiate themselves with Tories, most notably with their hiring of the disgraced expenses cheat Julie Kirkbride.
Someone better tell the new kid though…
Despite an on camera promise in October, Ed Miliband has failed to release the list of businessmen and lobbyists he dined with at a secret “off the record” supper organised by Roland Rudd the shady spinmeister. His agency Finsbury has a whole host of “predators” as clients, including at the online loan sharks Wonga.
There is growing concern in Labour circles that Ed is not putting his full weight behind Stella Creasy’s ill thought out campaign to outlaw these companies, that she claims, target the vulnerable. Ed has given the campaign the nod, but Guido hears that there is disappointment that it has remained a backbench attack. Some were expecting it to be referenced in Tuesday’s speech. Is Ed pulling his punches because of his behind-the-scenes relationship with Roland Rudd? Proper lefty blogger Carl Packman certainly thinks so. Guido will go further: Did this meeting of “independently minded senior business leaders”, aka Rudd’s clients, include anyone from, or representing, Wonga? We’re still waiting for Ed to keep his promise to let us know who he supped Rudd’s champagne with…
Gus O’Donnell tells businessmen not to waste money on lobbyists…
“People can exaggerate the impact of lobbyists, and the people who do that – surprise, surprise – are lobbyists, because they want to sell their wares. I’ve never felt that they’ve been that effective. If you’re a businessman and you want to get your message across, you can do it pretty openly.”
We have in the past covered the lobbying world’s attempts at self-regulation. The most ardent opponent of a statutory register was Francis Ingham of the widely discredited PRCA trade body, he was instrumental in getting rival lobbying and spin trade bodies CIPR and APPC to join up under the UK Public Affairs Council banner to voluntarily produce a joint register of lobbyists. Guido suggested it might be simpler to just require lobbyists to wear leper’s bells.
Ingham has now performed a volte-face and come down on the side of a statutory register. His email to Elizabeth France, the first and probably last Chairman of the UK Public Affairs Council landed in Guido’s inbox this morning:
From: Francis Ingham
Date: Fri, 9 Dec 2011 10:44:04
As it happens Liz, I was about to email you the text below. Happy to talk if you’d like:
It is with regret that I write to inform you that we are resigning with immediate effect from UKPAC.
I understand that this will be unwelcome news, and I apologize for that fact.
My Board has concluded that a statutory register is the correct public policy choice for the Government to make. It has also concluded that on the basis of UKPAC’s performance over the past year, UKPAC simply is not a credible body to hold that register.
We have come to this conclusion with regret and after considerable debate. The continued inability of UKPAC to deliver a timely, comprehensive and accurate register is an embarrassment to the whole industry. Having founded UKPAC alongside the CIPR and APPC, and having spent a considerable amount of time and money supporting it, we regret the fact that it has failed, but we are clear that this failure is manifest and irreversible.
We have today written to the Cabinet Office, making them aware of this decision, and urging them swiftly to introduce a statutory register, held by an independent body, to run in parallel with the Codes of Conduct that exist already within the industry. We will also this morning be notifying the press, and sending them a copy of this formal note of resignation.
I should like to thank you for the effort you have put into UKPAC over the past year, and personally wish you well in the future.
Self-regulation looks dead. They brought it on themselves…
Details are sketchy and Guido is on the way to the pub, but he understands that Burnham, the loans and the ongoing mystery around the contracting of Lee Communications by the Labour Party has been reported by a Member to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner John Lyons tonight. These are the questions that Labour spinners have refused to answer all day:
1. Where was the job of Andy Burnham’s Political Adviser advertised and what are the exact specifications of the role?
2. How many people were interviewed for it?
3. Why was the job given to Mr Lee?
4. Was the somewhat awkward situation of the loans to the Burnham campaign discussed before he was employed?
5. What assurances were sought regarding Mr Lee’s private interests in the NHS? Is there anything in writing about him not lobbying while on the job?
6. How much is Mr Lee paid and is the job paid out of Short Money?
7. Why is Mr Lee’s company, Lee Communications Ltd, contracted by the Labour Party rather than Mr Lee being employed directly by the Party as is the norm with the other PAds?
The longer they don’t answer, the longer it looks like they cannot. C’mon Bob don’t make us angry…
While Bell Pottinger lick their wounds, there’s more to Guido’s scoop yesterday about the Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, the health lobbyist and a mysterious £21,000 “loan” to his leadership election. Burnham has made the lobbyist his political adviser in murky circumstances. Guido had a wee chat this morning with Burnham’s people, who claim the loan from Kevin Lee to Andy Burnham was paid back in full in February. Nobody told the Electoral Commission this, but Guido is willing to take them at their word. For now…
You have to wonder what a former Labour Party staffer, who, as North West Coordinator, would not have been on more than £35-40,000, was doing lending Andy Burnham £20,000, when he had been until very recently a Minister of the Crown earning well over £120,000. Odd…
Labour told the Sun on the record: “Kevin Lee is not a health lobbyist”. Which is odd given that his website has quotes like:
“Kevin worked with NHS Southwark to design and deliver our biggest ever consultation. Developing a strategy for primary and community care for the next 10 years, we wanted to make sure we understood the priorities and concerns of a real cross section of the community. Kevin’s knowledge and understanding of both research and the NHS was invaluable and contributed significantly to very successful exercise.” - Jonathan McShane, Head of Communications, NHS Southwark”
Sounds like a health lobbyist to Guido…
Lee Communications apparently doesn’t have any health clients at the moment. But, again, we are asked to take Burnham’s staffer’s word on that. Who would dare suggest that a lobbyist would big themselves up to make them sound more important than they really are. Has anyone else seen any other examples of this sort of behaviour today?
When Guido pointed out that unlike other Labour Senior Political Advisers, Kevin Lee has not declared in the Register of Members’ Staff Interests that he is employed by the Labour Party, the answer came that he is not. Instead of having him on the staff, his company, Lee Communications, are contracted by the Party to provide services for Burnham. This again seems unnecessarily muddy, especially given these advisers are paid for by taxpayer funded “Short Money”.
So to recap we now know that the Labour “NHS Not For Sale” Party have contracted a lobbying firm, with previous and possibly current financial interests in health to work for their Shadow Health team. Burnham’s people are still looking into how Lee was appointed, where the job was advertised, what the due-process was and how many others were interviewed for the post. Guido’s given them pretty much all morning to answer…
Would something by the end of lunch be too much to ask?
How Mervyn King Lost Bank Battle War | WSJ
BBC Corporation Tax Horror Story | IEA
Sally Bercow Judgement in Full | Mr Justice Tugendhat
Commies Blame Capitalism For Terror Attack | The Commentator
Lord Black v Press Regulation | Guardian
Osborne’s Complacency | FT
DWP’s Welfare Failings | Isabel Hardman
Get Used to Coalitions | David Aaronovitch
Woolwich a Showcase in the Banality of Evil | Fraser Nelson
The Enemy Within | Max Hastings
Muslim Led Military-Style Free School Needed | Toby Young
Ed Balls stretches credulity by claiming he isn’t ambitious…
“I would love to be part of Ed’s Labour government but what I do next for me is not an all-consuming passion. I’m more bothered, in a personal sense, about getting to grade 8 piano by the time I’m 50.”
Ned Flanders – Clegg
Lisa Simpson – Natalie Bennett
Milhouse – Hilary Benn
Martin Prince – Andy Burnham
Edna Krabappel – Luciana Berger
Crazy Cat Lady – Glenda jackson
Comic book guy – John Prescott
Carl – Chucka
Lenny – Philip Hammond
Willie – Eric joyce
Poochie – Gordon Brown
Reverend Lovejoy – Tony Blair