Uber, But For Brexit

whetstone

Isabel Oakeshott’s write up of working the room with Arron Banks at the White House Correspondents Dinner is filled with nuggets. She reveals the Uber app comms chief Rachel Whetstone is backing Brexit:

“Hovering at entrance to the 30,000-square-foot ballroom, we are surprised to bump into David Cameron’s former policy chief Steve Hilton, now US-based. He greets us exuberantly but his wife Rachel Whetstone looks like she’s swallowed a fly. She warms up when Hoey gets her talking about Brexit, saying she supports Out and wishes she could do more for the cause. Hilton keeps his powder dry but I know he was deeply unimpressed by Obama’s intervention in the debate.”

Whetstone’s grandfather Antony Fisher founded the IEA and the ASI. She is also of course married to Steve Hilton and is one of the PM’s closest friends…

Farron Bankrolled By Disgraced Rwanda Spinners

Farron Rwanda

Tim Farron has accepted a £2,000 donation from a disgraced lobbying company which smeared critics of the Rwandan government. BTP Advisers boss Mark Pursey, who used to work for the LibDems, was caught boasting how his firm set up an “attack site” targeting people who “over-criticised” over “who did what in the genocide”. The firm was accused of running a “dirty tricks” campaign in the 2013 Kenyan election, and also acted for human rights violators in Azerbaijan. BTP was paid by some of the most authoritarian regimes in the world, now that money is lining Farron’s pockets…

The LibDem leader even signed a pledge condemning the Rwanda genocide. Yet he is happy to take cash from those who spin for the regime…

Lobbyist Flame War Revenge

Yesterday Guido brought you the PR flame war being waged over Google adverts. Spinmeisters at Cicero had bought ads targeted to appear whenever someone searched the name of one of their rivals:

Well, one such rival has exacted digital revenge. This is what comes up when you google Cicero this morning:

Clearly a slow week in spin world…

Lobbyist Flame War Via Google Ads

Things are getting nasty in the slippery world of PR spinmeisters and lobbyists. The digital Machiavellis over at Cicero have bought these punchy Google adverts targeted to appear when someone searches the name of one of their rivals:

These screenshots were taken this morning:

Searches for rival PR firms told Googlers to take their business elsewhere:

The message is not exactly subtle:

So Bell Pottinger, Brunswick, Blue Rubicon and Edelman – you gonna take that?

Ed Davey Defends EDF Deal

Ed Davey’s worst ever Hinkley Point C deal, which will allow owners EDF to charge treble the current market rate for 35 years, was featured on the Today Programme this morning. The BBC failed to mention at any point before, during, or after Davey’s interview that he is now working for EDF’s lobbying firm, MHP. Davey spoke for three minutes defending his deal with EDF, and did not once think to mention his new role as a ‘strategic adviser at MHP to the energy sector’.

Davey claims the agreement was made with “the best available advice”:

“… the truth is, if you look at deals like this, which are over 60 years of generating, you don’t know sitting here today exactly what the value’s going to be, because you’d have to know the price of carbon, the prices of gases and things, in 20, 30, 40 years time – I’m not a clairvoyant, I’m not God.”

You do work for a firm that lobbies on behalf of EDF though…

Cash-For-Access MP Faces Standards Commissioner Probe

Laurence Robertson, the Tory MP at the centre of a cash-for-access row following Guido’s two stories yesterday, has been reported to the Standards Commissioner. Edward Buxton, who was Labour’s candidate in Robertson’s Tewkesbury seat, writes to Kathryn Hudson:

Dear Mrs Hudson,

I wish to refer you to the recent allegations that have been made regarding my local Member of Parliament Laurence Robertson and his award of a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist​. 

​The Guido Fawkes ​website reported that Mr Robertson gave “a parliamentary pass” with “authorised access” to the entire parliamentary estate to Jennifer Bryant-Pearson, “a lobbyist who paid him thousands of pounds.” Jennifer Bryant-Pearson is chief executive of JBP Public Relations, a lobbying firm which specialises in parliamentary affairs.

It ​was further reported that Mr Robertson has declared “up to £10,000 in payments from Westminster Parliamentary Research”, which is ​in turn ​run by Bryant-Pearson. ​The Telegraph has reported that ​Mr Robertson is ​employed as ​a board member at Veolia Environmental Services ​and “has declared thousands of pounds in payments from Veolia since 2013.” ​Veolia Environmental Services has been described as “one of the main clients” of JBP Public Relations.

​The overlap between Bryant-Pearson; JBP Public Relations; Westminster Parliamentary Research; Veolia Environmental Services and Laurence Robertson seems to have allowed Mr Robertson to sponsor “Bryant-Pearson for a pass while he was in the pay of her client.”

Mr Robertson has ​claimed “Ms Bryant-Pearson carried out work supporting All Party Groups (APPG), secretarial duties, publicity, arranging and attending meetings and translation services,” however the use of parliamentary passes for ​APPG staff ​was withdrawn on 18 July 2013 and the Serjeant at Arms wrote to ​all ​MPs informing them “that this category of pass should not be used in the future”. Yet the pass in question was still held by Ms Bryant-Pearson until ​a few months ago. If I may can I refer you to the final words of the Guido Fawkes blog post: “it stinks…”

The entire case raises ​fundamental questions and concerns over the conduct and judgement of Mr Robertson. I would be grateful if you would investigate this matter and inform me of the outcome.

Kind Regards,

Edward Buxton

Giving a pass to a lobbyist for APPG work is explicitly banned by the Serjeant at Arms, and Robertson confessed to Guido in writing that this is what he has done. Add in the £40,000 changing hands and this is going to be a very difficult one to explain…

Cash-For Access Tory MP Paid £30,000 By Lobbyist’s Client

This morning Guido revealed a Tory MP has given a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist who paid him thousands of pounds. Laurence Robertson was paid £10,000 by a firm run by Jennifer Bryant-Pearson, for whom he subsequently arranged a parliamentary pass. This afternoon Guido can reveal that Robertson is currently employed by one of Bryant-Pearson’s biggest clients.

Robertson has been paid £10,000-a-year since 2013 for his position on the board of Veolia Environmental Services. Veolia are one of the main clients of JBP Public Relations, the lobbying company run by Bryant-Pearson. So not only did the pass-carrying lobbyist employ Robertson, her major client still does. Crucially, Robertson sponsored Bryant-Pearson for a pass while he was in the pay of her client. Robertson tells Guido:

“Ms Bryant-Pearson carried out work supporting All Party Groups, secretarial duties, publicity, arranging and attending meetings and translation services.”

Lobbyists were banned from having parliamentary passes through work on APPGs in 2013. Yet Robertson gave Bryant-Pearson a pass until 2015. Guido has asked Robertson if he denies this is a case of cash-for-access, and what “secretarial duties” this chief executive of a lobbying company carried out. He has yet to reply…

Tory MP Cash For Access: Pass For Lobbyist Who Paid Him Thousands

A Tory MP has given a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist who paid him thousands of pounds. Laurence Robertson, the infamous cad who employed both his wife and girlfriend on the taxpayer, has authorised access to the parliamentary estate to Jennifer Bryant-Pearson. She is the chief executive of JBP Public Relations, a lobbying firm which specialises in parliamentary affairs. Bryant-Pearson also runs a company called Westminster Parliamentary Research, which paid Robertson around £10,000 for “consultancy work” in 2010. A lobbyist lined the pockets of a serving MP, then he gave her unfettered access to the corridors of power.

As you can see below, Robertson has declared up to £10,000 in payments from Westminster Parliamentary Research, which is run by Bryant-Pearson. The register of secretaries’ interests shows Robertson then sponsored Bryant-Pearson for a parliamentary pass:

Robertson has been approached for comment. This ain’t the last you’ve heard of this one, it stinks…

Pro-EU Lobbyist in Heart of Whitehall

A key figure from the ‘remain in EU’ campaign has been given unique access to the heart of Whitehall ahead of the referendum. Guido can reveal that the Campaign Director for the Business for New Europe group, Lucy Thomas, was allowed to go ‘on secondment’ to the Department of Health’s HQ last year. According to Thomas’ LinkedIn CV, the role also included work at the Cabinet Office, though she now claims it was limited only to the Department of Health. Sources suggest the placement was organised with by the puppet-master of UK Europhilia, the mega-rich lobbyist Roland Rudd. Arch-Europhile Rudd is famously close to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt…

Lucy’s CV is hardcore Europhile; LibDem, BBC, Business for New Europe, Whitehall, then back to Business for New Europe as the Campaign Director.

bne

When she was at the BBC in 2008 she won the European Parliament’s Prize for Journalism – demonstrating once again the BBC’s famed “impartiality” on Europe. Strangely she has no previous campaigning experience…

Guido has requested details of outside secondments from all departments under the Freedom of Information Act. Of the departments which responded, no staff from the various EU ‘leave’ campaigns have been on secondment. The revelation is reminiscent of the row caused in 2013 by Guido’s story revealing Prince Charles’ “spy” on secondment in the Cabinet Office, which made front page news at the time. Thomas says:

“My six-month stint working to raise the awareness of dementia and the need to speed up the search for a cure was neither policy-related or anything at all to do with the EU.”

On a day when Downing Street is trying to look neutral on Europe, it’s suspicious that a government department has been handing out cushy Whitehall placements to the Campaign Director of the pro-EU campaign… it is not what you know, it is who you know…

Burnham’s Big Pharma Fudge

You might have thought the Shadow Health Secretary would want to have his say on the brewing Pfizer scandal, which has seen the drugs giant accused of overcharging the NHS for epilepsy treatments. Surely this is an opportunity for the Labour leadership candidate holding the health brief to stand up to those big nasty drugs corporations?

Guido has invited Burnham’s people to comment several times over the last 24 hours, but alas they did not want to give a line. Only a cynic would think that silence has anything to with Burnham’s campaign director being uber-lobbyist John Lehal, managing director at Insight Consulting Group, whose clients include… Pfizer. Pure coincidence, Guido is sure…

Cash For Influence: How a Labour Donor Killed a Bill

Guido has written previously on how Labour have let trade union donors buy influence in the House. Well, they have been caught red handed once again.

On May 29, Labour peer Baroness Turner sponsored a Private Members’ Bill seeking to reform Easter trading laws – introducing it at its first reading in the House of Lords.

The bill would have removed the prohibition on Easter trading for large shops.

Two weeks later, on the afternoon of June 16, the general secretary of the USDAW union emailed Labour peers asking them to oppose the Labour bill:

From: John Hannett

Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Subject: Please oppose the Easter Day Trading Bill – Second Reading on Friday 19th June

Dear XXXX,

As the main retail union for the UK’s 3 million shopworkers, Usdaw urges peers to oppose the Private Member’s Bill on Easter Day Trading at second reading on Friday. The UK already has the longest trading hours in Europe, with over 150 shopping hours a week, and only 2 days per year of large stores being closed – Christmas Day and Easter Day…

As the attached briefing sets out, two thirds of shopworkers are already under pressure to work on Sundays, and this pressure intensifies at busy trading times, with holidays not permitted…

For these reasons, I urge you not to support the Easter Trading Bill. 

Yours sincerely

John Hannett

General Secretary, Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive & Allied Workers)

Just three days after that email was sent to Labour peers, Baroness Turner withdrew her bill:

In the last five years, USDAW has donated over £6 million to the Labour Party. It has regularly lobbied in defence of exisiting Sunday trading laws.

A major Labour donor, which lobbies heavily on a single issue, successfuly gets a Labour bill withdrawn after lobbying Labour peers. It stinks…

CBI Step Up Pro-EU Campaign Activity

Big business Brexit scaremongers the CBI are stepping up their campaigning activity for an EU ‘Yes’ vote. The “politically independent and impartial” lobbyists are hiring a campaigns adviser on a competitive salary “to promote the CBI’s messages on Europe”. Little doubt from the advert what that message is: 

“With an in-out referendum on the UK’s EU membership now on the table, the CBI is recruiting for a Campaigns Adviser to assist with the organisation’s day-to-day work in this area… the benefits of the UK’s EU membership outweigh the costs and no alternative arrangement offers the UK a better route to future prosperity.”

Key to the job will be remembering the CBI’s farcical Scottish referendum shambles and sorting out their status as a registered campaigner this time round…

Health Lobbyists Plan to Spy on Gays and Pregnant Women

Gay people and pregnant mothers will be spied on under controversial plans drawn up by health lobby extremists. Guido has seen a copy of a report set to be released later this month by ASH, that draws up plans for a massive clamp down on the rights of the individual in regard to smoking.

The anti-smoking lobby group have written a wide-ranging wishlist for the coming parliament and it’s about as authoritarian as you can get. History would indicate that this bunch get what they want; from the smoking ban, to plain packs and restrictions on smoking in cars.

The document includes plan to spy on gay people in order to stop them smoking:

“Improve national surveillance to ensure that timely and robust data are available on smoking prevalence including data on all socio-economic groups, people with long-term conditions, people with mental health problems, minority ethnic groups, the LGBT population and other disadvantaged groups.”

And the midwives will be armed in this fight:

“Issue every midwife in England who conducts antenatal appointments with a carbon monoxide monitor.”

Because obviously all pregnant women are liars.

Smoking is set to be banned in prisons and on stage, as ASH demand the government “remove the smokefree exemption for prisons” and “theatrical performances.”

And they’re not done there…

The leaked memo includes plans to investigate “legislative and non-legislative options to make outdoor environments smokefree” and “all enclosed cars and motor vehicles.”

So what will the group recommend to make all their dreams come true? Higher taxes, obviously:

“Increase the tax escalator on tobacco products to 5 per cent above the level of inflation.”

You read it here first…

Bingle Muses on Losing Friends and Alienating People

Legend in his own lunchtime Peter Bingle must be bitterly regretting sending this most unfortunate tweet – among many – on election day. Good luck to any client the flamboyant Tory PR man now registers he is lobbying the Government on behalf of, as this must count as the Gerald Ratner moment of the campaign. Not sure that many Tory MPs will will be keen to be seen with the lobbyist who tried so hard to trash their saviour!

Dorrell Exits Through Revolving Door

When Stephen Dorrell stood down as chairman of the Health select committee back in June, Guido wondered:

“Why would [he] not want to keep the coveted post, as well as the extra pay, for [his] last year in the Commons? Nothing to do, Guido is sure, with the fact that anti-corruption Cabinet Office rules state that politicians have to spend a year ‘cooling off’ before they a can go to work in the lucrative private sector in an area they have acquired expert knowledge in through their position in public office. Any six-figure consultancy contracts and directorships they take up after the election would more than compensate them for their temporary short-term loss this year. A coincidence, no doubt.”

Sure as night follows day, Dorrell today announced he will be quitting parliament at the election to take a job as a health consultant with KPMG. Giving him time for a nice summer holiday before his cooling off period expires and he can start putting all that experience to good use. Kerching!

Lobbyists Claim Fallon SpAd Retained Whilst at MoD

Back in September Michael Fallon hired defence lobbyist Bill Clare to spin for him as his special adviser. The right-winger worked for Michael Howard before joining Liam Fox’s abortive bid for the Tory leadership, ending up on the side of the angels at arms manufacturers General Dynamics, eventually going on to spin for the London First group. A job that he appears to have kept for longer than he strictly should…

An email has emerged that shows Clare’s old lobbying organisation claiming to have kept the newbie SpAd on their roster while he worked at the Ministry of Defence:

​From: Gavin Hayes
Sent: 02 October 2014 15:25
To: LondonFirst
Subject: Bill Clare

Hello

This it to let you all know that as of Monday 22 September Bill has started an exciting new role working as an adviser to Michael Fallen MP the Defence Secretary at the MOD.

Bill will continue to provide advice and support for the Let Britain Fly campaign over the next couple of weeks by phone and email but will no longer be coming into the office.

I would like to personally thank Bill for all his fantastic work on the Let Britain Fly campaign over the last year and for all the support he has given us.

We wish Bill all the very best of luck and success in his new job.

Gavin
Gavin Hayes
Campaign Director, Aviation
London First

At a time when the MoD were bombing ISIS, why was Clare apparently combining SpAd-ing with being a business lobbyist? Curiously, London First also “work with government and police organisations in helping their respective cyber units”.

Cyber Units like the one recently set up by the Ministry of Defence.

Guido does wonder if this unusual arrangement was cleared with the MoD permanent secretary and the Cabinet Office, and whether the conflict of interest was declared?

UPDATE: Statement from Bill Clare:

My last working day for Let Britain Fly was Monday 22nd September – as they have now confirmed – at which point I closed down my company in accordance with my agreement with the Cabinet Office. I began work with the MOD on Thursday 25th September. The email you’ve been “leaked” is not accurate – so your story isn’t either – a point I understand Let Britain Fly has been in touch to make and to confirm the dates above.

Guido has received no such communication from Let Britain Fly…

Shepherd’s Buy: Tory Lobbyist Swoops for Westminster Lunch Spot

There were lamentations across Westminster when the once great lunch spot Shepherd’s shut down last year after going down the pan. Well, it’s back! With caveats. Public Affairs News reports Tory spin merchant Lionel Zetter has bought the lease and the name, saying “I want to resurrect Shepherds and take it back to its best: superb food, great service, an elegant ambience and a discreet environment”. It used to be lobbyists just picking up the tab, now they’ve picked up the whole damn building…

Burnham ‘Owes’ Tax Efficient Lobbyist Aide £20,000

The Times and Mail are on the case of Andy Burnham’s health lobbyist aide Kevin Lee over his tax arrangements, a story Guido broke over two years ago. Readers will remember how back in 2011 this blog revealed how Lee was being paid as Burnham’s spinner not on a normal PAYE contract, but through his company, Lee Communications. Since Labour advisers are paid for by taxpayer-funded ‘Short Money’, this seems particularly creative. And the murkiness doesn’t end there.

When Burnham was Health Secretary, Lee Communications raked in hundreds of thousands of pounds in NHS cash, which is somewhat ironic given Burnham’s apocalyptic warnings about the Tories privatising the health service. Lee also splashed himself all over the internet boasting about his connections with Burnham and his expertise in public affairs. He was a health lobbyist with NHS clients.

As if Burnham employing Lee’s company and giving him a parliamentary pass permitting a health lobbyist access to parliament was not suspicious enough, Lee also “loaned” £20,000 to Burnham’s failed leadership campaign. Burnham has never managed to explain why he gave a lobbyist donor unfettered access to the parliamentary estate. As for that £20,000 loan, did Burnham ever pay it back? Let’s see if he can clear it up once and for all two years on…

Goldsworthy Joins Lobbyists Before Losing Election

“Hanover Communications has secured the services of Liberal Democrat politician Julia Goldsworthy,” reports PR Week. The former LibDem MP turned Treasury SpAd for Danny Alexander was last heard from heralding her campaign to win back her old Cornish seat. Which is clearly not taking up all of her time.

Well at least she is off the taxpayer dime for the first time since 2005…

AstraZeneca Lobbyists Confirm Labour Relationship

“We are standing up for good jobs in Britain, not Ed Miliband’s supper club cronies” says Tory MP Henry Smith after Guido revealed Ed Miliband received thousands of pounds in donations from an AstraZeneza board member. Ed Miliband should declare his interests before he starts political meddling” Smith continues.[…] Read the rest

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