Lebedev Links Lost Bryant Shad Cab Role Labour Unease at Billionaire Buddies

When Chris Bryant took his column at the Indy back in September, we wrote:

“Coincidentally Chris is a friend of Lebedev’s son Evgeny and was at a recent dinner party with the oligarch’s offspring. Evgeny “speaks regularly” to Chris Blackhurst, no doubt about the weather…”

When we pointed out yesterday that Bryant was not declaring an interest when speaking on Russian matters, despite the £14,000 he has got so far in this deal, we seem to have struck a nerve. Hardly a surprise when Labour insiders have already expressed concern. One described it to Guido as “an extraordinarily close relationship to a newspaper proprietor, if you look at anything he says about anyone else.” The loss making Indy is entirely subsidised financially by the Russian oligarch.

One theory in Labour circles is that the reason Bryant missed out on a Shadow Cabinet position was because of the Lebedev-Moscow connection. Those that work with him point out he is articulate and capable, and anyone who has had the pleasure of being attacked by Bryant would not question his campaigning skills. He was widely tipped for the top team in the October 2011 Shadow Cabinet reshuffle, yet mysteriously – a month after signing up for the Indy’s Moscow gold – he remains out in the cold.

Tom Watson’s influence has grown under Ed Miliband’s weak leadership, for instance Watson keeps a tight grip on vital areas such as candidate selection. It is no secret that there is no love lost between him and Bryant and it’s said “they never really got on”, despite their work on the phone hacking scandal. Bryant refused to answer our questions when we put it directly to him earlier that Watson has expressed concern about the Lebedev connection directly to him. Curiouser and curiouser…

UPDATE:  Bryant has got in touch to deny any pressure from Watson. Guido has sent follow up questions…




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Jo Swinson on Chris Rennard…

“Vince — and Tim before him — have repeatedly, publicly said Rennard is not welcome anywhere near their frontbench team, even as an adviser. I remain deeply frustrated that he was not expelled from the party through its disciplinary process. It just feels wrong, and I do not want Lord Rennard to continue as a member of the party. As far as I am concerned, he is not welcome.”

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