Bell Tolls for Lobbyists

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…

When Rawnsley Was Wrapped in the Tentacles of Lobbyists

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

Shamed MacShane Becomes Lobbyist

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”. For some reason the would-be lobbyist’s CV doesn’t mention why he was kicked out of Parliament and remains to this day under investigation by the Metropolitan Police.

His alleged new offices in “London, Paris and Washington” will be a big step up from his old office – the garage of his semi-detached house in Rotherham – for which over 8 years he pocketed £125,000 in office rent expenses from the taxpayer

Lobbyists Warned of Undercover Sting Last Week

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. Insight Communications MD John Lehal alerted PRWeek to what he described as a ‘clumsy attempt at investigative journalism’ following a meeting last week. He met with two individuals purporting to be from an international management consultancy working on behalf of an energy investment fund.”

Obviously not that clumsy…

Balls Denies Gambling Lobbyist’s ‘Adviser’ Claim

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. He claims to be a “Business Adviser to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls”, yet that is the first Team Balls have heard of it.

Balls’ spokesman insists to Guido that “Neil has not been appointed as a business adviser to Ed Balls”. Interesting that Balls told industry insiders he wanted to curb his party’s anti-bookies rhetoric at a private dinner organised by Goulden earlier this year. And that Goulden also donated £15,000 to Labour in the run up to the last election. Odds on that we haven’t heard the last of this one…

Chloe Smith Forgets Cosy Lobbyist Supper

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.

The Government is committed to introducing a statutory register of lobbyists. We are continuing to carefully consider the evidence submitted in response to our consultation and will publish revised proposals in due course.

No meetings with anyone related to the lobbying industry since September, says Chloe. Oh dear. Funny then that she was spied dining with a lobbyist at Tory party conference in October. Must have slipped her mind…

Exclusive: Ed Balls to Replace Political Adviser Alex Belardinelli

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.

Labour sources say Balls has been unnerved by persistent speculation that he might be replaced by Alistair Darling in a re-shuffle by Ed Miliband ahead of the General Election. Bringing back heavy-weight Damian McBride would put rivals on notice that he would not go quietly and there would be consequences. An implicit threat they understand all too well…

Last year Belardinelli was humiliated when emails leaked in which he admitted a “screw up” meant Labour failed to vote against the reduction in the 50p rate of tax. The emails revealed he concocted a false line to spin to the media to cover up the screw up. Belardinelli worked for Tom Watson before Ed Balls and knows his way around Westminster and the media. In the event of Labour returning to government he will be able to cash in on his extensive contacts.

UPDATE: Important note.

Labour MP Allows Access For Lobbyist Friend

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. Now he seems to spend most of his time working as a lobbyist for the anti-bookies Campaign for Fairer Gambling. Why, then, does he still hold a parliamentary pass?

Guido contacted Nash’s office to ask for an explanation, but they had never heard of Zarb-Cousin. “He definitely, definitely doesn’t work in this office”, Guido was told, “he might be a friend of Pamela’s”. No wonder, it turns out Zarb-Cousin hasn’t worked for Nash since 2011, despite the fact that he still holds a parliamentary pass under her name, which he continues to use regularly in his job as an anti-gambling lobbyist. Naughty.

Zarb-Cousin has confirmed to Guido he has used the pass to access Parliament in his capacity at Fairer Gambling, and that he takes a wage from the organisation: “since it is not a commercially-motivated campaign I don’t consider myself a lobbyist, so I didn’t think I’d have to declare it. It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have kept hold of the pass”. Nash isn’t happy, she tells Guido: “I was not aware he was still using his parliamentary pass and have instructed the Pass Office to deactivate the pass immediately”. How many more lobbyists have access based on their interpretation of the rules around influencing MPs?

Hendry's Windfarm Windfall Former DECC Minister Cashes In

Sacked Energy Minister Charles Hendry has not wasted any time cashing in on his expertise; he has just been announced as the chairman of the wind energy giants Forewind. The consortium comprising of four international companies -Scottish and Southern, RWE, Statoil and Statkraf – was awarded the contract in 2010 to build the huge “Dogger Bank” windfarm 125 kilometres off the Yorkshire coast.[…]


Lobbying Reform Minister's Cosy Supper

New lobbying reform minister Chloe Smith is certainly throwing herself into her new job. Paxo’s Newsnight victim is responsible for overseeing the government’s new statutory lobbying register as part of Dave’s promise to clean up “the next big scandal waiting to happen”.[…]


Laws Landlord Lundie Loses Out For Love

David Laws’ landlord/lover Jamie Lundie, who gained notoriety following the revelations over his partner’s expenses in 2010, has made an intriguing job move this week. Lundie has left his post as Edelman’s public affairs MD to a less conspicuous position at the spinmeisters’ new reputation and risk advisory division.[…]


VIP LibDems Live Conference Lobbyist High Life

The LibDem conference should by all accounts be an excuse for Clegg and co to distance themselves from their Tory counterparts, but it looks like they will be partying like the 1% next week. While Tories will remain under a strict champagne ban, Ashdown and Farron will be chugging kir, champagne and canapés thanks to spinmeisters Guide Consultancy.[…]


PRCA Backtrack on Press Release Mocking Chloe Smith

You would think that the lobbying group representing lobbyists would know how to check a press release before it’s sent out. What with being PR experts and all…

Not so with the Public Relations Consultants Association. Compare and contrast these two versions of their release from this afternoon.[…]


Former Screws Political Editor Turns Lobbyist

Ex-Screws political editor Ian Kirby is off into the world of lobbying. Kirby has joined MHP Communications as a director to develop new campaigns and advise on media strategy. His experience of changing Gordon Brown’s kids nappies should set him up nicely. […]


Tim Yeo’s Heathrow to China Bonanza

Green lobbyist and part-time MP Tim Yeo has taken a break from the golf course to make some waves today by calling for an expansion of Heathrow airport. Writing in this morning’s Telegraph, his main gripe seems to be that he can’t fly directly to some parts of China:

What better way to kick-start Britain’s sluggish economy than by boosting trade with China?



By-Election Watch: Lobbyist Reunion in Corby

Labour’s Corby campaign might have posed problems for Tom Watson and his team over the last few weeks, but there were smiles all round yesterday as two former public sector lobbyists enjoyed a reunion in the sun. The highlight was Labour chief whip Rosie Winterton posing with party candidate Andy Sawford as she opened Labour’s new campaign bunker.[…]


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