Lobbyists Increasingly Leaning Lib Dem

A study of 159 public affairs professionals carried out by Opinium for PR Week and the PRCA reveals that senior lobbyists are mostly white, male, London-based and right-leaning. Shocker!

The slightly more surprising finding is that the industry that was once dominated by sharp-suited Blairites is now drifting towards the LibDems. They’re the preferred choice of floating voter lobbyists, and second only to Tory lobbyists among committed partisans. As is now fashionable, the overpaid lobbyists (on an average pay of £57,500) are victims too, with a fifth of practitioners having been diagnosed with a mental health condition in the last 5 years. Probably self-loathing…

Lobbyist’s Gamekeeper Singleton Switches to Poaching

David Singleton who edited Public Affairs News quit as editor some six weeks ago. He is off to WPI Strategy so will no doubt be ethically lobbying on their behalf. He wrote a valedictory piece on his 7 years covering lobbying here. The Dods-owned publication has not been updated since the day he wrote that article on March 8th. Nobody seems to have noticed…

Rumour is that it will be shuttered. Most lobbyists prefer to read Politico nowadays anyway…

Tory People’s Vote Campaign Using Undeclared Lobbyists

The Tory People’s Vote campaign, ‘Right to Vote’, has not exactly been a roaring success since it launched in January, despite being awash with undeclared dark money. Under electoral law, Right to Vote qualify as a members association, like Momentum, and are therefore required to declare any donations over £7,500, even outside election periods. Guido understands that the Electoral Commission will be meeting Right to Vote to remind them of their reporting obligations under electoral law…

Now Guido has learned that Right to Vote have also been engaging the services of lobbyists without declaring them to Parliament. Guido understands that lobbyists Interel Group have been engaged by Right to Vote, with Interel’s Katherine Morgan – a former Treasury civil servant who also worked for the European Commission – working on their behalf. Right to Vote are also engaging the services of Howard Bowden, who is listed as the media contact on their site. Bowden is a freelance PR and former Head of News for now disgraced PR firm Bell Pottinger…

Under Parliamentary rules, MPs receiving support from a lobbying company need to declare this as a donation to the relevant Register of Interests, and check that the donor is a permissible donation with the Electoral Commission. Neither Right to Vote Chairman Phillip Lee nor any of his fellow Right to Vote MPs have declared their use of lobbyists…

What Phillip Lee has declared are two donations in kind from The Common Sense Collective Ltd in the form of “services to assist with media and communications”, to the tune of £7,860. However, these donations appear to be impermissible as their most recent records at Companies House show that Common Sense Collective is a dormant company.

Under electoral law a dormant company cannot make a political donation – it must be registered at Companies House and carrying on business in the UK. Unless Common Sense Collective have resumed trading without yet informing Companies House, Lee will have accepted impermissible donations and will need to forfeit their value to the Electoral Commission…

Right to Vote are certainly not short of cash, just last month they sent a first-class mailshot to every Tory Association Chairman in the country asking them pressure their MPs into support a Brexit “timeout”. Each letter was personalised for every individual constituency, including specific constituency-level voodoo polling from dark money-hungry anti-Brexit campaign Best for Britain. The vast array of second referendum campaigns are all flush with buckets of cash from anonymous donors and corporations, yet Guido cannot remember the last time a single broadcaster challenged a Remainer over the source of their funding…

UPDATE: A spokesman for Interel Group tells Guido: “Some colleagues worked with the Right to Vote campaign for two weeks earlier this year. We took the decision to end this. We did not receive any payment and we have declared this in the Public Affairs Board Register as pro bono activity”. Even if it’s pro bono work Lee should still have declared it himself as a donation in kind…

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Lord Feldman Breaks Lobbyists’ Code

Congratulations to Lord Feldman, the former Conservative Party chairman on becoming Managing Partner for lobbyists Tulchan Communications. The firm’s website boasts that:

“The line between boardroom and political issues is becoming ever more blurred as corporates consider the long-term repercussions of political and regulatory uncertainty. Navigating the world of government is vital if a company is to fully understand its stakeholder environment and manage external risks. Our policy advisory team has extensive government and public policy experience. We help companies identify political risks and counsel them on strategic engagement to best position them with regulatory and political audiences.”

Feldman knows his way round politics. He also knows his way round the rules of the game…

Yesterday the Public Affairs Board issued a new, unified Public Affairs Code for the industry, following a lobbying industry-wide consultation, it comes into effect at the end of this month.

The code and its independent complaints, determination, and disciplinary rules and procedures will apply to the Public Relations and Communications Association’s 30,000 members that conduct public affairs. The PRCA-established definition of public affairs is used in the Code, defined as “activities which are carried out in the course of a business for the purpose of (a) influencing government, (b) or advising others how to influence government.” Services Tulchan and their well connected managing partner self-evidently offer clients.

Under the code lobbyists can’t employ parliamentarians. All this means Lord Feldman and Tulchan Communications are in breach of the new Public Affairs Code. How does he square this problem? Tulchan and Lord Feldman simply haven’t signed up to the code…

Lobbyist Trade Groups Merge into “Public Affairs Board”

The Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) merges today with the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) becoming the official sounding “Public Affairs Board” (PAB). The spin-merchants claim it means that this creates “a single, stronger, united voice for the industry”. Ironically the spin-merchants still have a terrible reputation, partly derived from hiring MPs sacked by the voters, partly because they do slippery things. Of course the dodgiest lobbyists don’t even admit to being lobbyists…

Nick Clegg’s New Job Lobbying the European Commission

It seems like a bit of a come down for a former Deputy PM to become Facebook’s spin-doctor and Brussels lobbyist – however it is dressed up that is what he is being hired to do. No doubt the fee and stock option millions will cushion the humilation.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Mr Clegg said: “Throughout my public life I have relished grappling with difficult and controversial issues and seeking to communicate them to others. I hope to use some of those skills in my new role.” The former MP for Sheffield Hallam is being hired for his connections at the European Commission. He was a former EC trade negotiator and member of the European Parliament. Facebook is the prime legal target of the European Commission for privacy breaches and a myriad of other regulatory issues. Not the least of which is taxing the internet giant.

On which subject Clegg previously said “I actually find the messianic Californian new-worldy-touchy-feely culture of Facebook a little grating. Nor am I sure that companies such as Facebook really pay all the tax they could.” Guido’s sure Mark Zuckerberg will be pleased to hear what his new hire thinks now…

It also signals that he thinks the fight against Brexit is over. Now he’s in Brussels for one thing only. The money, reportedly £1 million-a-year…

 

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?

Housing Campaigner Labour MP Was Luxury Skyscraper Lobbyist

Labour MP Luke Pollard considers housing one of his personal campaign priorities. The Plymouth MP proudly says on his website: “We need to build more homes. I want to unlock spare public sector land to build more houses, especially affordable homes, part-buy/part-let and social housing.” During the 2015 election he warned:

“We need a better deal for people on housing: more affordable and predictable rents, more affordable homes to buy and to let and better quality housing for all.” 

All very worthy. But two months later Pollard took a job with a property firm which lobbies on behalf of luxury real estate developers who have been criticised by Sadiq Khan and dubbed “the capital’s most controversial major redevelopment scheme”. His role as a director for Field Consulting UK saw him act as the lead lobbyist for the not-so-affordable £1.1 billion Earls Court Capco development, £400 million Leadenhall Brookfield development and multi-million pound ‘The Trellis’ skyscraper in the City. The Earls Court development was explicitly criticised by Sadiq, who said he had “serious reservations” about the scheme. Go on then Luke, tell us more about that “better deal on housing”…

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…

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… 

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…

Médecins Sans Frontières Objects to ‘Sans Frontières’ Name of Crisis PR Firm

Political publishers Dods Group last year made a small £800,000 profit after years of multi-million pound losses. This was achieved largely by Guy Cleaver halving the bloated sales and marketing headcount down from 119 to 57. Dods celebrated their new found profitability by moving out of their Mayfair offices and into the Shard.[…] Read the rest

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Boris Aide Joins Edelman After Team May Force Him Out

Boris Johnson’s respected former adviser Will Walden has joined lobbying firm Edelman after being forced out of government by Theresa May’s increasingly paranoid aides. Boris wanted Walden, his long-serving, well-liked director of communications, to join him at the Foreign Office. Number 10’s control freakery saw them refuse to sign off on the appointment, so Walden has moved to the private sector to earn a decent salary as Edelman’s MD.[…] Read the rest

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Telegraph Pol-Ed Dominiczak Joins Crosby Textor Fullbrook

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Tells you everything you need to know about the dire situation at the Telegraph that their widely respected political-editor has, Guido can reveal, quit to join lobbyists Crosby Text Fullbrook Partners. Guido understands that Telegraph executives tried to convince him to stay.[…] Read the rest

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Labour Peer Henig’s Security Sell-Out

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Labour peer Ruth Henig has been touting her plan to force venues to take counter-terrorism training to keep their licence. Approaching the anniversary of the Bataclan attack in Paris, Henig told Victoria Derbyshire that small venues weren’t taking up free terrorism training and her planned ammendment to the 2003 licensing act would make it compulsory.[…] Read the rest

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Bet Against Banks Leaving

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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:

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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.[…] Read the rest

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Joey Jones Quits Home Office For Weber Shandwick

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Joey Jones has left his role spinning at the Home Office to become head of public affairs at Weber Shandwick. There was surprise that the former Sky News man didn’t follow Theresa May to Number 10, a job in which he surely would have thrived, and now he’s off to make some money in the private sector.[…] Read the rest

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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. […] Read the rest

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