Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Damian Collins’ Declaration of Interest

Make sure you listen out for a very important declaration of interest at this afternoon’s Culture Media and Sport Select Committee show trials. Surely Tory MP Damian Collins is going to point out that his wife, one Sarah Richardson, is an employee of Edelman PR – Murdoch and News International’s recently hired spinners…

The spinmeisters have form in this sort of thing, getting into trouble in 2007 when John Hutton was at the DWP. His wife, Heather Rogers – a director at Edelman, lobbied successfully for DWP contracts. Edelman are yet to get back to Guido with assurances that Ms. Richardson is not working on the account…

UPDATE: Edelman stress Ms Richardson is not on the account. The connection must still be declared.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Is Hilton Going On His Bike?

As Downing Street’s Digital Communications guru takes the money and flies off to Dubai to work for mega-spin-shop Hill and Knowlton, speculation turns to policy guru Steve Hilton’s future. Sam Coates in The Times suggests that there is a “50-50 chance” of Hilton walking out within six months, disillusioned with the realities of governing from Downing Street and having lost key battles to Osborne. Hilton was an advocate of big-bang reforms, Osborne is more cautious about securing a Tory majority.

It isn’t only Osborne he has been losing out to, Andrew Cooper has been providing an evidence-based reality check and pulled Cameron on to the right side of the argument over Ken Clarke’s discounted jail terms for rapists. Craig Oliver is also competing successfully for Cameron’s ear. So speculation mounts that Hilton may be on the way out…

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lobbying Register Warning Bells

Guido has to laugh at the audacity that some of the more brazen members of the lobbying community have shown in defending the new voluntary register of “political consultants”. As Spinwatch said, this is no more than a “PR stunt from PR experts”.

As the new UK PAC site with public registers went live this week just 251, out of an estimated 14,000 spinners, had  voluntarily signed up. A further 1,362 were put on the list automatically by their companies, but where are the big hitters? Search the register for power-lobbyists like Roland Rudd, Tim Bell, Alan Parker or Matthew Freud and you get “Your search did not return any results.” Francis Ingham, spinmeister for the widely discredited PRCA trade body, makes hyperbolic claims for the nascent self-regulator: “It provides a foundation on which to grow self-regulation. It is – though doubtless our detractors will dispute this – a good thing.” It is an abject failure, with an estimated 90% of lobbyists ignoring the register.

Guido is no fan of government regulation of the private sector but the political lobbying industry thwarts democracy and pollutes the body politic to such an extent something has to be done. Guido’s idea is that all politicians and civil servants should be required to transparently publish all details of meetings with lobbyists – Cameron’s 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…

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Local Government Association Up for Spin Consolation Prize

Tonight is the Public Affairs News Awards where the spin-industry pats itself on the back. Shortlisted for “Trade Body of the Year” is the Local Government Association. Given that Pickles has just successfully gouged out 27% from local councils in the spending review, Guido would love to know what could have gone worse for that trade body. The LGA is not exactly the most successful lobby of all time…

The LGA wastes £14 million of council taxpayers’ money every year lobbying Westminster from a posh Smith Square office. Even Caroline Flint, Pickle’s Local Government shadow, thinks the LGA should be handed a revolver. Local councils would better off taking Eric out for curry…

UPDATE : Believe it or not the LGA won.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lucas Lobbying Links

Back as an MEP Caroline Lucas lamented the European Parliament “dragging its feet on the implementation of the rules for lobbyists.” So why then has she given a parliamentary pass to one?

Granted James Humphreys was a Green candidate at the last election, but he is also a former Downing Street civil servant, and not the first to walk through the revolving door of lobbying, or as he calls it “strategic communication”. He is the director and joint-owner of Woodnewton Associates who have a range of public sector clients. For now.

No mention of Humphrey’s severing any ties with the company while taking the taxpayers’ shilling.

Last year Lucas told the Compass Conference that she was dedicated to “curbing the influence of businesses and lobbyists on political decision-making”. Guido tried to put a call into her office to see how giving a lobbyist unfettered access to Parliament helps with this aspiration. It seems they have closed down until next month. Presumably she has gone to Climate Camp, though James is expected back in Woodnewton office tomorrow morning…

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Bingle Email Blames Bungling Tories

Bell Pottinger’s Peter Bingle has let rip in another one of his helpful memos reproduced here in full:

I said a prayer last night to St Jude the patron saint of hopeless cases but I doubt that even he will know what to do about the Tory Party campaign.

Something is happening with the electorate. Today’s YouGov poll showing the Lib Dems in the lead is astonishing. Perhaps the public anger with MPs over their expenses and the banking crisis will result in the body politic being smashed to bits. What was true on Friday may not be true any longer.

The stakes are now very high. If David Cameron does not become PM on 6/7th May the electoral system will be changed. The first past the post system will be abolished and there will not be a Tory government for a very long time if ever again. Perhaps John Major will go down in history as the last Tory PM.

This is the most inept Tory campaign in living memory. I know there have been some dud campaigns in the past. William Hague’s was pretty awful but in a way it didn’t really matter. Nobody believed he was going to win the election. This time all the Tory Party had to do was to ask the electorate a very simple question: “Do you want five more years of Gordon Brown?” The answer would be no. The election campaign strategy was therefore all about giving the electorate the reasons for voting against the PM. The M&C Saatchi adverts were a good start.

As I have mused before the Tory opinion poll lead was always based on the public’s loathing of the PM rather than any real affection for David Cameron. The election campaign should therefore have been negative in tone and focused entirely on the PM’s failings. Whatever the focus groups may say negative campaigning works.

There doesn’t appear to be any strategy. The ‘big society’ idea has come and now disappeared. The most popular Tory politician Ken Clarke has become the invisible man. He may be campaigning in marginal seats but he should be on our TV screens every morning, noon and night. And then there is the policy that dares not speak its name. Immigration. Every canvasser I have spoken to from every party has told me that the issue that keeps coming up on the doorstep is immigration. This is a Tory issue and yet I am told that there will only be one day when it is raised. What is going on?

The decision to agree to the televised debates may well have cost the Tory Party the election. It has elevated Nick Clegg from nowhere to equal footing with the PM and David Cameron. Whichever adviser or guru advised David Cameron to take part made a terrible mistake.

So is the election campaign lost for the Tory Party? I don’t think it is. Nick Clegg’s policy agenda is very attackable. As Alan Johnson put it in Saturday’s Times: “The Lib Dems are soft on crime, inept on asylum and bloody dangerous on national security.” How Labour candidates must wish he was the PM …

The Tory Party needs to mobilise its key assets such as Ken Clarke and talk about Tory issues such as low tax, immigration and Europe. It needs to connect with Tory voters and indeed anybody who doesn’t want Gordon Brown for another five years. Thatcher’s great strength was her ability to connect with ordinary voters, particularly those who wanted to better themselves. Politics is all about helping people to realise their dreams. We seem to have forgotten this.

Winning the election didn’t seem that difficult a task until the televised debate which should never have happened. Even now there is a simple message. Only a vote for the Tory Party will prevent Gordon Brown being PM for the next five years. Nick Clegg is never going to become PM but he could help Gordon Brown stay PM. This is all very reminiscent (in reverse) of the US presidential election when Ross Perot enabled Bill Clinton to beat George Bush.

I attended a lunch on Saturday at which many Tories were present. The conversation inevitably focussed on the election. There was a mixture of gallows humour and real concern. Nobody could understand why with the most unpopular PM ever and an economy on its back the Tory Party is polling at the same level as Michael Howard when he lost in 2005. The only solution was to have another glass of wine.

Perhaps this is all some terrible nightmare and I will awake to discover that I have missed the real campaign and that David Cameron is PM with a majority of 52.

Is the game up for the Tory Party? What does the Tory Party need to do to regain the political initiative? Will the Nick Clegg bubble burst?

Guido is sure all his advice was most appreciated in CCHQ this morning…

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gordon’s Cheerleader

As the Prime Mentalist took to the stage at his Pyongyang  style manifesto launch he was introduced by his chief cheerleader the famous-for-Twitter Ellie Gellard. Some might know her better as the self-titled “BevaniteEllie“, Labour’s 24/7 twittering foghorn. While she may tweet her way through the ups and downs of Brown’s last days, some might consider the choice less than appropriate. Given that Labour last week sacked a candidate for inappropriate jokes on Twitter, there seems to be some double standard for poster girls. Making jokes about Thatcher breaking her neck is fine apparently, and gets you a spot on the top platform.  But who is this dyed in the wool Labour activist?

Reading between the lines you can see why Labour wouldn’t want this well spoken, rich-girl socialite on television before. She’s hardly your average Labour voter. Growing up on the mean streets of Holland Park and attending one of the most selective schools in the country, Bevan must be turning in his grave. How many “average students” Labour are trying to reach out to can quaff champagne when flitting between London and Paris to go clubbing whenever she chooses? Does Gellard really relate to working people whilst sipping cocktails on a yacht?  She is more Mandelsonian New Labour than anything Old Labour’s Nye Bevan would recognise…

UPDATE: Seems Sky News are a little grumpy that reams of press officers wouldn’t let them get anywhere near Gellard for an interview. The whole painfully stage managed affair is unravelling. She was only trusted to read from a script and perhaps that plummy accent wouldn’t have gone down so well on the lunchtime news…

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Twitter Blows Spin : Labour Fakes Up Gordon Support

The first Twitter based new media gaffe of the campaign is a revelation. PPCs and activists of all colours have been out in force today, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats invited them to speeches by their leaders and press released the whole thing as just that – speeches to the party faithful.

It was only Gordon that felt the need to attempt to create a “spontaneous” Potemkin Village of support. The news channels are reporting Gordon being “cheered off” by the public who were shouting “good luck Gordon” as he departed St. Pancras station. Funny then that there is a remarkable similarity between the crowd below and the one leafleting for Labour at tube stations earlier this morning. It seems no one has bothered to check that this “crowd” was in fact a group of Young Labour hacks and Labour Students.

In what will, Guido suspects, be a recurring theme this election, Twitter lets slip what really happened. Notice how the party activists, (including PPC Emily Benn, the President of the National Union of Students Wes Streeting, the chairman of Young Labour Sam Tarry and über-spinning totty Ellie Gellard) aren’t wearing their Labour T-shirts in order to appear like a random gathering of ordinary voters. As if genuine members of the public would cheer Gordon…

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Bingo Bingle

Peter Bingle has a point doesn’t he? Guido, like Bingle, talks to CCHQ insiders, spin-merchants, activists, media allies and wonks every day – almost all are agreed.  It has been shambolic since January and the Tories are on the back foot.

Examining Bingle’s critique point-by-point:

Ashcroft was an entirely foreseeable problem, Tory high command hoped that because they had squared the Electoral Commission they had buried the problem.  A strategic miscalculation based on wishful thinking.  It completely undermines the “Cameron cleaning up politics” message of financial transparency.  Told you so.

“Nobody knows what the Tory Party stands for any more.” Change is not an ideology, it is a process.  Repeating the word over and over again is not a substitute for communicating thought out policies.  Splitting the difference on policy, a.k.a. Finkism, might not scare off voters but nor does it get the vote out. Being 5% to the right of Blair with a dash of euroscepticism will not inspire people much.  Voters want change for the better. Shadow ministers offering only a change of management and almost no change in policy won’t get the voters on their feet cheering.

Bingle says the advertising has hurt the Tories.  In truth the advertising campaign posters have been mixed.  Adverts need to address voter concerns simply and memorably. Labour might be right – in the digital age do paper posters even work that well?

“What is the strategy?” Steve Hilton better communicate it to the rank and file in a way that inspires confidence.  There is striking irony in his top down diktats about localism, decentralisation, transparency and the importance of feedback in a post-bureaucratic age. Mandelson fights for his strategy from the front, Hilton sends memos from the back room.

Something Bingle didn’t focus on is policy development.  We are weeks from the election and the Tories have still not formulated the policies they are going to fight on.  No, really.  Even when they do announce a policy it frequently unravels.

Guido will give you an example of a policy announcement that is going to unravel.  We are told there will be a pro-business cut in the corporate tax rate, signalling that the Tories want to reduce the tax burden. We haven’t been given the exact details, just the gist of the policy.

Except, according to Mark Hoban, they will claw back the tax reduction by changing the treatment of various tax allowances such that the overall change will be revenue neutral.  The effective rate of tax on corporations will be unchanged.  It is change for the sake of a headline, a financial sleight of hand typical of Gordon Brown.  Most businesses would rather not suffer the administrative upheaval if they are not going to get any revenue benefit.  It is pure Finkism, signal an aspiration and promise to maintain the fiscal status quo.

Finkism is a product of fear.  Fear of losing again.  The Cameroons hoped that power would slip into their hands, they fear that if they do anything radical or bold they will lose.  There is the alternative possibility that if they don’t clearly communicate a message of “change for the better”, not just a change of personnel, they will fail to make a compelling case.  In only one area are they offering a radical change – education – with the result that the government is moving towards them policy-wise.  If the Tories offered a bold change from high tax, high spending policies the government would not be able to match them, voters would have a real choice.  Fink claims that voters don’t believe politicians promising tax cuts. That is not a failure of the policy, it is a failure of politicians to communicate credibly.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bad Al Keeps Good Company

You know things are never going to go well when Bad Al Campbell gives you a n endorsement.  It seems Iris Robinson was in fact just trying to cover her back with her claims of depression using tactics straight out of the Campbell media manipulation playbook.   Bad Al wrote a long piece on his blog before Christmas about brave Iris:

If my own experience is anything to go she will feel better for being open, and she will perhaps be surprised by the warmth of people towards her admission. There are so many people out there with mental health problems, yet so few who speak openly about them. I hope that once the dustsettles she will get involved in the Time to Change campaign to break down the stigma and taboo surrounding mental illness, which leads directly to discrimination. I was pleased that her statement suggested she would have more to say on the subject of her illness at a later date. A word too on her husband. Depression is a horrible illness for the sufferer. But it can be a huge strain too on the family of the depressive, and it cannot have been easy for him to cope with his wife’s illness in addition to everything else his various political roles require.

What is it with him and people killing, or at least trying to, kill themselves?


Seen Elsewhere

What Ruffley Standing Down Tells Us About Gove | James Forsyth
Tories Say They Could Sack Ruffley | Buzzfeed
Ruffley Supporter Provokes Outcry | HuffPo
Mirror Readies Pennies for Hacking Payouts | Media Guido
How to Win a Twitter Argument | Hopi Sen
Sign Petition Calling for Ruffley to Resign | Change.org
People’s PMQs Would Divide Politicians and Public | Dan Hodges
Morgan Hires Gay Rights Campaigner as SpAd | Telegraph
Don’t Underestimate Philip Hammond | Nick Wood
Labour Council Collaborates With Pro-Hamas Group | Breitbart
Qatar Sugar-Daddies of Islamist Financing | Left Foot Forward


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New Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has big ambitions in his first meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu today:

“I came to bring this conflict to an end.”



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