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…”
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”…
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…
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.”
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 2014. Petroleos 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…
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?
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…
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. Inconveniently situated 20 minutes away from SW1 in SE1.
Dods is lending almost all of that last year’s profits in an unusual investment. It has subscribed for 40% of the issued share capital of Sans Frontieres Associates for a nominal sum and lent it £700,000 to provide initial working capital. Sans Frontieres Associates is chaired by Tim Bell and will do PR and comms work in war stricken hotspots.
Dods reckon that:
“Jonathan Lehrle, CEO and founder has a strong vision for his organisation and the objective to redefine the approach taken to international geopolitical and crisis communications consulting. His vision for his company’s core capabilities and international reach is in keeping with the trends and changing market requirements seen by the Board of Dods.”
The respected NGO Médecins Sans Frontières is less happy. Here’s their spokeswoman Polly Markandya:
“We’d be in the same corridors – us trying to negotiate for humanitarian access and them negotiating PR contracts. It’s too close for comfort. Surely, with their creative brains, they can think of another good name for their venture.”
Other people who wondering about the new comms agency are Dods’ own clients, the comms firms who subscribe to their monitoring services and read their Public Affairs News* magazine. Many may be less than keen on paying monthly subscriptions to their competitor…
*Strangely Guido can not find any mention in Public Affairs News of the launch of Sans Frontieres Associates or the involvement of PA luminaries like Tim Bell and Darren Murphy. Fancy that…
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. A talented public servant lost to the dark side thanks to more silliness from Downing Street…
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. CTF’s reputation made it an opportunity too good to miss…
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. On the show she was described as the former chair of the Security Industry Authority, a quick scan of Lords interests reveals that she had a little more to declare.
Henig is the Non-executive Chairman of SecuriGroup Ltd. A security firm helpfully offering their services in “Security Guarding, Door Supervision, Event Security and even “counter-terrorism strategies” as one of the services. The very service she’s trying to make compulsory for thousands of small venues…
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:
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?
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. Congratulations…
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.”
What is it about Owen Smith and Big Pharma lobbyists? Fresh from hiring Pfizer PR guru Jon Lehal as his chief of operations, Smith has taken on a former AstraZeneca lobbyist as his director of communications. Will Tanner was until recently the head of Finsbury PR’s UK public affairs team, where he proudly boasted of his work for top pharmaceutical companies. Tanner has for the last decade been right hand man to mega-rich super-lobbyist Roland Rudd, the Remain campaign’s éminence grise. Which explains why Smith is so keen on his democracy-defying plan for a second referendum. Oily Smith is a former Big Pharma lobbyist, whose campaign is being run by a former Big Pharma lobbyist, and whose spinner is another former Big Pharma lobbyist…
UPDATE:A pro-Corbyn source gets in touch:
“What would Nye say? Pretending to be the heir to Nye Bevan and having one big pharma lobbyist running your campaign is sloppy, but having two is either suspicious or incompetent or both. It’s clear now that Owen Smith doesn’t give a Pfizer about our NHS.”
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…
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. Guidorevealed 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…
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 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:
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.