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Now the House of Commons Commission has decided that “APPG staff passes should be withdrawn with effect from July 18 and that this category of pass should not be used in future”.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…
H/T Jon Craig
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.[…]
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”.[…]
In Guido’s Sun column yesterday we revealed that the disgraced former MP Denis MacShane has become a lobbyist despite still under police investigation for expenses fiddles. The laptop grabber is currently hawking around his CV in which he describes himself as a self-employed consultant based in “London, Paris and Washington”, “advising Asian, US and UK based firms on government policy problems and media strategy”.[…]
Spinmeisters were already trying to get ahead of a sting by “two undercover journalists” last week. This from PRWeek last Thursday makes very interesting reading:
“PRWeek has learned that what appear to be undercover reporters have contacted a number of public affairs consultancies and met with at least one to investigate the role of lobbying firms in the establishment of all-party parliamentary groups.
In Sunday’s Sun column Guido revealed how a controversial gambling lobbyist was claiming to be a “Business Adviser” to Ed Balls, despite the Shadow Chancellor denying ever having appointed him. Neil Goulden is the chairman of the Association of British Bookmakers, boss of Gala Bingo and the man in charge of the Coral high-street betting shop.[…]
Here is what the minister responsible for lobbying reform said when asked how she was getting on with tackling the “next big scandal waiting to happen” last week:
Miss Chloe Smith: Cabinet Office Ministers have had no meetings with interested parties on the Government’s plans for a proposed statutory register of lobbyists since September 2012.
Alex Belardinelli, long-time Political Adviser to Ed Balls, is moving to lobbyists Tetra Strategy – where his girlfriend Ellie Gellard already works on digital strategy. The move is scheduled to happen in the autumn after Labour Party conference.
Speculation is mounting that he could make way for a rehabilitated Damian McBride following party conference, when McBride is aiming to complete his public rehabilitation with the publication of his memoirs.[…]
Back when they used to actually post stories, the Political Scrapbook team employed the services of Matt Zarb-Cousin, a lefty up-and-comer occasionally capable of scoring the odd point. Zarb-Cousin left Scrapbook to work as a researcher for Labour MPs Pamela Nash and Andy Slaughter, but sadly things didn’t quite work out.[…]