Chappers Hired By Disgraced Bell Pottinger Boss

James Chapman – remember him? – has chucked in “The Democrats” and is freelancing for “3 days a week” for former Bell Pottinger boss James Henderson at his new outfit JH Communications. The pair worked together very briefly at Bell Pot before Henderson had to resign over the South Africa scandal and the company imploded. As a former civil servant the ACOBA committee have had approve Chapman’s appointment, subject to conditions:

“… he should not draw on, disclose or use any privileged information available to him from his time in the Crown Service…”

Did they not see his Twitter account?

Tory MP James Duddridge ‘Does a Sheerman’

A sitting Tory backbencher is working for a lobbying firm. James Duddridge is being paid £3,300 for just eight hours’ work a month in his role as a consultant for Brand Communications, according to reports. Duddridge says his second job is “not a public affairs role” but Brand Communications boasts of its “political communications and government relations” work in Africa. Duddridge is a former Africa Minister…

Lobbying regulator the PRCA prohibits its member firms from employing MPs, but Brand Communications is one of the small number of shops that have not signed up to the PRCA’s charter. PRCA Director General Francis Ingham said:

Brand Communications, which sits outside of the industry’s regulatory regime, is damaging all of our reputations in employing Duddridge. Politicians must now admit that the rules surrounding second jobs need to be reformed. Ethics is a two-way street. It is against our rules, but not against their own, and once again the biggest loser in all of this is the public. How can we expect people to have trust in politics when we let this sort of thing happen?”

The same loophole allowed Labour MP Barry Sheerman to register as a lobbyistGuido has no objection to MPs having a second income, just not from lobbyists trying to influence politics and potentially MPs’ votes…

Sheerman’s Shameless Smart Meter Shilling

Last month Guido told how Labour MP Barry Sheerman has become the first serving MP to register as a lobbyist. Sheerman’s activities, conducted through his firm Policy Connect, caused industry groups to write letters of complaint to Parliament’s Standards Commissioner over the perceived conflict of interest. How can you properly serve your constituents and simultaneously be a registered lobbyist?

Yesterday the Huddersfield MP tweeted a picture of himself alongside the quote:

“Smart meters are a great way of using technology to help save money and make an environmental impact. It is great to hear so many homes in Huddersfield embracing smart meters and I would like to encourage more people to learn about the benefits of this technology.”

It must be a coincidence that Sheerman’s Policy Connect has put out a report on energy policy which, you guessed it, promotes smart meters. Contributors to the research included British Gas, EDF and Agility ECO: all firms in the smart meter business. Sheerman advising his constituents to use products directly linked to his lobbying activities…

Tim Bell: It’s Curtains For Bell Pottinger

Tim Bell says it is “almost certainly” the end for Bell Pottinger: “It probably is getting near the end. You can try and rescue it but it won’t be very successful”. His phone went off twice during this car crash interview, could do with some PR advice…

Bell Pottinger Expelled From PRCA

Bell Pottinger has been expelled by the PRCA trade body over the South Africa scandal. The firm has been banned from joining again for five years. PRCA chief Francis Ingham says:

“Bell Pottinger has brought the PR and communications industry into disrepute with its actions, and it has received the harshest possible sanctions. The PRCA has never before passed down such a damning indictment of an agency’s behaviour.”

Bye…

Sheerman Lobbying Prompts Calls for Ban

Earlier this month Guido told how Labour’s Barry Sheerman became the first serving MP to register as a lobbyist. The Huddersfield MP is chairman of Policy Connect, an organisation which charges firms between £175 and £20,000 to become members of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs). Those firms are then able to attend APPG events held in parliament, potentially gaining access to MPs and ministers. Sheerman says the House authorities don’t consider him a lobbyist, even though the lobbying registrar found that Policy Connect does provide lobbying services…

Now the Public Relations and Communications Association and the Association of Professional Political Consultants have written to Parliament’s Standards Commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, to express concern over Sheerman’s activities. The letter reads:

“We are writing to you following the recent decision by the Lobbying Registrar, Alison White, that the work carried out by Barry Sheerman MP under the aegis of the not-for-profit organisation Policy Connect is classed as lobbying. As you will know Mr Sheerman has since submitted an entry onto the Statutory Lobbying Register. This is the first time that an elected policy-maker has also been classified as a lobbyist, which causes us some concern. It seems to be inconsistent that Mr Sheerman is classified as a lobbyist by the Register of Consultant Lobbying and yet the MPs’ Code has, hitherto, permitted this lobbying. It is our view that no MP should work as both a legislator and paid consultant lobbyist… The sort of conflict highlighted by Mr Sheerman’s involvement in Policy Connect serves to diminish confidence in the work of lobbyists and policy-makers.”

The letter asks the Standards Commissioner to change the MP’s Code of Conduct, which is due for review, so as to ban members from carrying out such work:

“Changes to the MPs’ Code of Conduct preventing members carrying out any work which would necessitate compliance with the Register of Consultant Lobbyists seem to us fundamental to any changes to the Code and we hope that the case of Mr Sheerman and Policy Connect and its implications will be considered as part of this review work by the new Committee and any further work undertaken by yourself.”

The sooner the better…

Bell Pottinger’s PR For Venezuela

It isn’t just Jeremy Corbyn who deserves scrutiny for his links to the murderous Venezuelan regime. UK PLC has approved millions of pounds worth of arms export licences to the country over the last decade. Meanwhile, “reputation management” PR specialists Bell Pottinger worked for Venezuela’s state-owned oil company in 2014Petroleos de Venezuela is one of the key arms of Nicolas Maduro’s regime and needed help cleaning up its image after being hit with sanctions for trading with Iran. It has been accused of “gross mismanagement” and sacked workers who didn’t support Venezuela’s leader, pretty much summing up how the Venezuelan government does things. The book ‘Crude Nation‘ tells how Bell Pottinger conducted surveys for the Venezuelans about the concerns of their foreign partners. At least Jezza didn’t actually take Maduro’s petrodollars…

Bell Pottinger could do with some reputation management of their own at the moment. Aside from Venezuela, they are in front of the PRCA this week over allegations they helped stir up racial tensions in South Africa. Other recent clients have included the brutal regimes in Bahrain and Egypt, the dictator of Belarus and the wife of Syrian butcher Assad. Of course, those following Bell Pottinger’s newest recruit on Twitter know they are not exactly fans of democracy… 

Serving Labour MP Registers as Lobbyist

Barry Sheerman this week became the first serving MP to register as a lobbyist (yes, you read that right). The Huddersfield Labour MP is also Chairman of an organisation called Policy Connect, which charges firms between £175 and £20,000 to become members of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs can have external ‘secretariats‘ to help them organise their activities). By dint of their APPG connections, those firms are then able to visit Parliament and attend networking events: the wine flows, ministers sometimes drop by. Policy Connect is listed as the public face of nine APPGs, covering areas from manufacturing to health…

Lobbying Tsar Alison White ruled Sheerman should register after she found that Policy Connect is paid money by its clients who are then given access to ministers. But here’s the rub: MPs are already governed by a separate Code of Conduct that prohibits serving members from acting as “paid advocates”. Sheerman told The Guardian that Parliament’s Standards Commissioner has informed him that he is not in breach of the Code. So the House authorities don’t think Sheerman is a lobbyist, but simultaneously the lobbying registrar says his organisation does provide lobbying services…

Nicholas Dunn-McAfee, Head of Public Affairs, Policy, and Research at the Public Relations and Communications Association, said:

“Barry Sheerman has become the first MP to feature on the Register. On one hand, we have the Standards Commissioner and MPs’ Code of Conduct which prohibits paid advocacy and does not consider Sheerman to be a lobbyist. On the other hand, we have the Register of Consultant Lobbyists which clearly considers Sheerman’s company to be offering lobbying services.

“How are the public meant to have trust in our democracy when the right hand and the left hand disagree on the fundamental point of who is and is not a lobbyist? The cracks are clear for all to see: it is time to look again at lobbying regulation in the UK and strengthen the definition to include all those who influence government or advise others how to influence government.”

The Sheer mess of it all…

UPDATE 16.30: The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) says the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life should rule on Sheerman’s case. CIPR’s Paul Beckford said:

“It is hard to see how an MP can fall within the remit of the statutory lobbying register and at the same time comply with the MP’s Code of Conduct which says ‘No Member shall act as a paid advocate in any proceeding of the House’. The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life should now decide if registering as a Lobbyist is compatible with the rules of the House of Commons and the MPs Code of Conduct.”

Former MP Abusing Parliamentary Pass to Conduct Lobbying Activities

An unnamed former MP has been censured by the Serjeant-at-Arms for abusing their parliamentary pass and conducting lobbying activity on the parliamentary estate. The Sarjeant is unimpressed:

“The House authorities have been made aware of a former Member using their identity pass in breach of the rules in place to prevent lobbying activity on the Parliamentary Estate. This incident will be brought to the attention of the Administration Committee for consideration… The privileged access granted to former Members of Parliament must not be used for personal or commercial gain and (as set out in the attached conditions for use) former Members are explicitly forbidden from using the privilege in connection with lobbying activity.”

Yet no name is being released. Who is this illicit lobbyist using his privileged position as a former MP in breach of the rules? 

The public deserves to know…

Feldman Lobbying Job Avoids Oversight

Former Tory chairman Andrew Feldman has landed a lucrative role at the PR outfit Tulchan Communications. The hire highlights a flaw in the system of oversight for outside interests – under House of Lords rules, Feldman doesn’t have to disclose how much he is paid by Tulchan or, more importantly, what businesses he’s assisting. There will be no way of knowing whether questions he asks in the Lords pertain to interests he personally represents…

Feldman also has roles at Macro Advisory Partners – chaired by former MI6 boss Sir John Sawers – and TFG Management, a hedge fund. If he were a former minister or special adviser, he would have had to clear his new appointment with the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA). Despite attending Political Cabinet and still having the ear of half the Cabinet, the authorities have confirmed to Guido that Feldman doesn’t have to get his new job cleared by anyone.

Tulchan only recently entered the shady world of lobbying. As well as Feldman they have former Cameron spinner Graeme Wilson, ex-Osborne SpAd Lisa Jarrett-Kerr and former Tory aide Joe Armitage on their books. Their new under the radar hire spent the last few years phoning up big companies asking for money, sure he’ll make use of those skills at his new gig…

Top City Lobby Group U-Turns and Embraces Brexit

Number one square mile lobby group TheCityUK has performed a complete u-turn, abandoning its Remain position and instead embracing Brexit. TheCityUK – which represents major banks and professional services firms – said leaving the EU is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” and declared:

“TheCityUK is a strong believer in the potential opportunities that the UK’s departure from the European Union will offer.”

Before Brexit they said:

“A Brexit risks damaging our industry in the UK through uncertainty, reduced market access and a loss of influence over trading conditions. Major global businesses also come to London to access the Single Market – but that position is dependent on the legal freedoms made available by the Treaties and Single Market legislation. The overall competitiveness of the UK as a place to do business would therefore be threatened by Brexit.”

Screech…

Bet Against Banks Leaving

bank-of-guido-cheque

Anthony Browne of the British Bankers Association is a deservedly well paid lobbyist on behalf the industry. He earned his crust this weekend by getting the Observer’s front page splash:

observer-brexit

The lurid claim made in the first line is that

“Britain’s biggest banks are preparing to relocate out of the UK in the first few months of 2017 amid growing fears over the impending Brexit negotiations, while smaller banks are making plans to get out before Christmas.”

This echoes the claims made during the referendum campaign – claims which included that Britain will go into immediate recession this year if we dared to vote to leave the EU. Guido tried to bet anyone of the 71% of City economists who made that claim £1,000 that there would be no recession in 2016. Not one economist him up on the wager. So Guido’s new offer is to Anthony: £1000 says that not one leading bank will give up its UK banking licence next year to relocate to the EU.

Winnings to charity. Well Anthony, do we have a bet?

Ex-SpAd Spins for Murky Lagoon

tomos

Tomos Davies, a SpAd who advised the government on green energy, is in hot water after getting a job with the Cardiff lobbying firm Deryn less than a year after he left his government job. Spin merchants Deryn, a firm which has a hand in far too many Welsh government lobbying scandals, employed the former Special Adviser from the Wales Office.

Until recently Tomos Davies was advising UK Government Ministers on policy issues, including the proposal to a build tidal lagoon off the coast at Swansea. Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Neil McEvoy has complained to the Cabinet secretary, Jeremy Heywood, that he is in breach of the rules governing SpAd employment. Davies, he complains, jumped straight into lobbying work and failed to get Civil Service clearance to work for the firm.

McEvoy cites Davies’ ConservativeHome article praising tidal power as evidence of lobbying on behalf of one of Deryn’s clients in breach of the rules, especially as one of Deryn’s clients is trying to build a tidal lagoon off Swansea. In it Tomos claimed, without irony, that “the unit cost of power from the project can, at a manageably small scale, match that of Hinkley”. Hinkley’s energy costs are among the most expensive in the world. Guido thinks Tomos Davies might be left high and dry…

Remainers Split Over Freedom of Movement

REMAINERS SPLITTING

The remnants of the Remain campaign have descended into an almighty squabble over their future direction. Britain Stronger In Europe has rebranded as Open Britain, a new lobbying group which has ditched the commitment to freedom of movement, a pillar of Europhile principle. On Sunday, Open Britain’s founders wrote:

“The strength of feeling is clear. Free movement of people cannot continue as it has done. It has to be reformed.”

This has caused other prominent Remainers to kick off. Guido hears a letter is being circulated among pro-EU groups condemning BSE and Open Britain. Signatories include the man in charge of Scientists for EU, previously one of BSE’s main backers. Meanwhile the CEO of the European Movement, Matthew Fulton, says “our red lines are protecting freedom of movement”. When asked whether BSE and the European Movement were still on the same side, Fulton responded:

“At the time we were, but now with their lack of commitment to freedom of movement – I know it’s not popular thing in the country at the moment – but there needs to be people making that argument.”

Soft Remain versus hard Remain…

Serjeant at Arms Gets Complaint About Carolyn Harris

HARRIS BAILEY BLACK TIE edit

The Serjeant at Arms has been sent a complaint by one of Carolyn Harris’s constituents, demanding to know why she has granted a pass to lobbyist Lawrence Bailey who told Guido he was “not an employee or member of Carolyn’s staff.” The Serjeant’s office can now begin the official complaints procedure, which could see Bailey have his pass revoked and Harris face sanctions. This follows on from a complaint to Harris earlier this week from the director general of lobbying trade association the PRCA. Bailey’s made at least £51,305.60 from the taxpayer for doing what amounts to “5+ days a month support”, doing PR for an opposition backbencher and her predecessor, the former of which nobody had heard of until she became embroiled in allegations of homophobic abuse to a staff member. Time to take away the public teat…

PRCA Complain to Carolyn Harris Over Lobbyist’s Pass

prca-bailey

Following up Guido’s story Francis Ingham, the ever-lunching director general of the trade association for lobbyists the PRCA, has written an open letter to Carolyn Harris to complain about the lobbyist being granted a parliamentary pass by her. Guido revealed that Harris had granted a parliamentary pass to Lawrence Bailey of Whiterock Consulting, a man who was by his own admission “not an employee or member of Carolyn’s staff.” The PRCA’s Director General writes:

“I would like to remind you of your obligations to behave ethically as this story undermines the reputation of the lobbying industry and the integrity of MPs.

… Mr Bailey should have never entertained the idea of a parliamentary pass, and as an MP you should have never employed a lobbyist and given him a pass. Situations like this can seriously damage the public’s trust in politics.

We hope that there will be some swift action to clarify the situation. Will this matter be referred to the Commons Authority by yourself? Will Mr. Bailey be questioned as well?”

Bailey, who has so far received at least £51,305.60 in taxpayers cash while working for Harris and her predecessor, is not a PRCA member but is still bound by Parliament’s rules, which strictly forbids granting passes to lobbyists. Quite something for an MP to be blasted by lobbyists for a lack of ethics…

Labour MP Gives Lobbyist Parliamentary Pass

whiterock harris bailey

A Labour MP has handed a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist, giving him unfettered access to the corridors of power. Carolyn Harris is employing Lawrence Bailey, a “public affairs specialist” for Whiterock Consulting, among her parliamentary staff. When Guido asked Harris if she thought it was appropriate to employ a lobbyist in parliament, we received this response from Bailey:

“Just to clarify, I am not an employee or member of Carolyn’s staff. I am a self-employed sole trader. My firm, Whiterock Consulting, is retained by Carolyn Harris MP. We provide 5+ days a month support.”

Guido pointed out that Bailey appears on the MPs’ Register of Staff, directly contradicting his statement. He replied:

“Clearly I work for Carolyn but not as a member of her parliamentary/constituency staff.”

If he is not a staff member, why is he registered as one? Why does he have a parliamentary pass and a parliamentary email address?

Bailey concedes the arrangement is “confusing” but claims it is not “unusual“. He says he needs the pass to access Harris’ office and insists there is no conflict of interest: “I dispute any implied misuse of my parliamentary pass”. An MP has given a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist and declared him as a staff member, even though he isn’t. The Commons authorities will want to take a look at this…

Owen Smith Hires Top Pfizer Lobbyist to Run Campaign

LEHAL2

Owen Smith has hired a leading corporate lobbyist who works for Pfizer to run his leadership campaign, Guido can reveal. John Lehal is the smoothie MD of lobbying firm Insight Consulting, and boasts among his clients Big Pharma giants Pfizer, Novartis and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Lehal’s dealings sparked controversy when he was signed up to run Andy Burnham’s doomed leadership bid last year. Smith used to spin for Pfizer himself and has been dogged by his links to lobbyists over the last week, so it’s a stunning judgment call for him to be using another Pfizer lobbyist who loves Tony Blair:

lehal

John Lehal declined several opportunities to comment. A spokesman for Owen Smith doesn’t deny Lehal is working on the campaign:

“The campaign is still in the process of being set up and no formal paid appointments have yet been made. We expect to be able to finalise staff details at a later date.”

Owen Smith is the Blairite former Big Pharma lobbyist whose campaign is being run by a Blairite Big Pharma lobbyist. Too easy for the Corbynistas…

UPDATE: Smith’s team have now confirmed Lehal will be their Chief of Operations. He’s also signed up Corbyn’s former policy chief Neale Coleman.

Taxpayer Funded ASH Lobbied Government for Plain-Packs

tobacco lobbyists

Outraged anti-smoking charity ASH reacted with glee to the news that an attempt by a consortium of tobacco manufacturers to overturn the government’s plain-packaging legislation had been lost. The charity’s chief executive, Deborah Arnott, was particularly exultant:

“Millions of pounds have been spent on some of the country’s most expensive lawyers in the hope of blocking the policy. This disgraceful effort to privilege tobacco business interests over public health has rightly failed utterly.”

Arnott is not averse to using cash to influence government policy – our cash. ASH waged a half-decade campaign, involving top Civil Service officials, to introduce plain packaging. In a string of emails between Arnott, Hunt, the Department of Health’s top ranking official Andrew Black and surprisingly the PM’s Chief of Staff – Ed Llewellyn, the organisation appears to have broken the department’s rule on the use of its grant money. The Department of Health rules, as stated in November last year, prohibit government lobbying at the taxpayers’ expense:

“Funding applications from voluntary sector organisations are assessed against a number of criteria, but Departmental policy clearly states that grants will not be awarded if there is any indication within the application that some or all of any funding awarded will be used to support political activities, including political lobbying activity.”

Between 2011 and 2015, ASH received a whopping £745,650 in taxpayer funded grants from the Department of Health, their £200,000 grant last year was specifically for assisting the department to implement the “Tobacco Control Plan” (page 22). In that same period, documents seen by Guido highlight 74 separate incidents of lobbying contact, reaching as high as the PM’s office. Taxpayer grants form by far the largest donations given to ASH, and it would appear that they have been used to lobby the government against the Department of Health’s own regulations.

Tory MPs’ Parliamentary Ski Week Freebie

skiiers blunt spelman copy

During the Tory turmoil of the March recess, journalists calling up MPs’ mobile phones were met with a chorus of foreign dial tones. Some of the backbenchers briefing hacks from ski slopes at least paid for their holidays themselves. Crispin Blunt, Phillip Lee, Tim Loughton, Antoinette Sandbach and Caroline Spelman however enjoyed £2,500 worth of free ski passes courtesy of the Swiss Parliament.[…] Read the rest

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