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…

mdi-timer 22nd August 2017 @ 3:59 pm 22nd Aug 2017 @ 3:59 pm mdi-comment Comments
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… 

mdi-timer 14th August 2017 @ 11:51 am 14th Aug 2017 @ 11:51 am mdi-comment Comments
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.”

mdi-timer 1st August 2017 @ 10:58 am 1st Aug 2017 @ 10:58 am mdi-comment Comments
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…

mdi-timer 27th July 2017 @ 10:43 am 27th Jul 2017 @ 10:43 am mdi-comment Comments
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…

mdi-timer 4th July 2017 @ 1:32 pm 4th Jul 2017 @ 1:32 pm mdi-comment Comments
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…

mdi-timer 31st January 2017 @ 11:23 am 31st Jan 2017 @ 11:23 am mdi-comment Comments
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