For some reason today’s Lobbying Bill hasn’t gone down too well with one crowd in particular:
Anyone would think this lot spin for a living…
For some reason today’s Lobbying Bill hasn’t gone down too well with one crowd in particular:
Anyone would think this lot spin for a living…
Tobacco was top of the agenda at PMQs today, with Ed Miliband puffing away about the Prime Minister’s indirect connections to Phillip Morris International via Lynton Crosby. But what of his own Marlboro Man? When Ed’s Political Relations Manager left his desk in the Leader of the Opposition’s Office, where did he go? Phillip Morris International, obviously. James Barge is now the tobacco giant’s Corporate Affairs Manager. When was was the Labour leader last lobbied by his former aide?
See also: Labour Ministers Opposed Plain Packaging
Victory for Guido’s campaign against passholder lobbyists as 80 people who work for APPGs have their parliamentary passes taken away from them. Last year Guido revealed Patrick Mercer, then Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Security, received almost £10,000 from a private security firm, sponsoring their MD’s pass for his troubles.
Now the House of Commons Commission has decided that “APPG staff passes should be withdrawn with effect from July 18 and that this category of pass should not be used in future”. Bad news for lobbyists…
Cornered about his old campaign manager, Boris recounted Lynton Crosby’s advice to stop talking about airports earlier:
In an interview about airports, naturally.
Guido welcomes Labour’s new tough stance on lobbying after thirteen years of prostituting in government. They have outlined amendments to be put down to this week’s lobbying bill, amendments which include a change to ensure all professional lobbyists working in the UK will be required to declare their full list of clients and an approximate value of their lobbying activity. In an obvious dig at Crosby they will also demand that “anyone doing a senior job for the government of the day – whether in-house or a contractor, formally for the party or directly by the government – who is a professional lobbyist must be declared.” New appointments to government would also be scrutinised in a similar way to how senior officials or ministers leaving to take up posts in related areas have new their jobs put before a Cabinet Office committee. Solid stuff, but does this go far enough? Not at all.
Labour’s back-of-a-fag-packet announcement today does not take into account successful lobbyists that pay money directly to government figures. Surely, government MPs should for obvious conflicts of interest reasons have to resign from any union that financially supports them, and not accept money from them directly or indirectly to their constituency parties, whilst in government? Labour’s John Trickett said this morning:
“Labour is determined to stand up to vested interests and we will push amendments to the government’s lobbying bill that will once and for all clean up this aspect of politics.”
Except where their union paymasters are involved?
Labour are trying to make a big issue out of the government formally dropping plain packaging, as if this was all Lynton Crosby’s doing. The policy was not actually in the Queen’s Speech so this announcement was hardly a surprise. The fact is it is hard to find a major lobbying firm that is not, or was not retained by Big Tobacco at some point over the last 30 years.
It is not as if when Labour was in government ministers showed any more enthusiasm for the plain packaging idea:
Alan Johnson, Secretary of State Health, 16 December 2008:
“I have to say, however, that despite the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is quite right about the huge response in favour of plain packaging, there is no evidence base that it actually reduces the number of young children smoking. We want to keep that under review, and when there is an evidence base for it, it could well be another important measure to meet our goal, which is to reduce the number of young people smoking.”
Gillian Merron, Public Health Minister, 25 June 2009:
“No studies have been undertaken to show that plain packaging of tobacco would cut smoking uptake among young people or enable those who want to quit to do so. Given the impact that plain packaging would have on intellectual property rights, we would undoubtedly need strong and convincing evidence of the benefits to health, as well as its workability, before this could be promoted and accepted at an international level – especially as no country in the world has introduced plain packaging.”
Andy Burnham, Secretary of State Health, November 2009:
“No studies have shown that introducing plain packaging of tobacco products would cut the number of young people smoking, or enable people who want to quit, to do so. Given the impact that plain packaging would have on intellectual property rights, we would need strong and convincing evidence showing the health benefits of this policy before it would be acceptable at an international level.”
Exactly the same lines spun by the current government yesterday…
Rather than suspending them as reported by Sky last night, Bercow has merely ordered the 83 APPG parliamentary passes to be checked by MPs:
“There are currently 83 parliamentary passes that have been issued specifically to staff of APPGs (around 0.6% of the total number of passes). The Speaker has instructed the Serjeant at Arms to ask Members who have sponsored these parliamentary passes to confirm that they have been properly requested and allocated, as required by the rules governing APPGs. In the interim, no new passes in this category will be issued. The Serjeant at Arms has also been asked, as a matter of urgency, to consider with the Administration Committee whether it is necessary or appropriate for this category of passes to exist at all. The Commission also intends that, more generally, applications for passes for Members’ staff should seek more information than at present about the purposes for which a pass is required.”
New rules would be bad news for a few interesting names on this list…
Labour hand-wringers protest that unions cannot be seen in the same light as lobbyists as they don’t have a comparable capacity to influence changes the law. This is patently untrue. Wind back to 2011 and Guido revealed how the GMB union flagrantly bought votes from Sadiq Khan’s Shadow Justice team. Minutes from a Shadow Justice meeting at the time note that Labour MPs let the GMB decide which way they voted:
The leaked minutes also showed how GMB sponsored Labour MPs tabled amendments at the behest of the union. If the Tories did the same with, say, Goldman Sachs, there would rightly be uproar.
Several Labour MPs employ trade union lobbyists, subsidised with taxpayer money, sponsoring them for parliamentary passes and having them work on party business. Ian Mearns has Lisa Johnson, Tom Greatrex employs Catherine Godsell and Natascha Engel employs Heidi Benzing, all Political Officers at the GMB. For Unite, Jon Cruddas employs Nick Parrott, Mark Tami has Hannah Blythyn, Ronnie Campbell employs Stephen Turner and Jim Sheridan employs Stephen Hart. David Hamilton employs James McGowan, a ‘parliamentary consultant’ at the ASLEF trade union.
Taxpayer-subsidised trade union lobbyists employed by Labour MPs wear union lanyards around their necks as they enjoy unfettered access to the corridors of power. It is no wonder Ed Miliband voted against a lobbyist register in 2006. Labour have sold their votes, their amendments and their staff to trade union lobbyists pure and simple…
Guido made a modest proposal to lightly regulate lobbyists back in 2011. Here is the outline of Guido’s policy reform:
Guido is no fan of government regulation of the private sector however the political lobbying industry thwarts democracy and pollutes the body politic to such an extent something has to be done. Guido’s policy idea is that all politicians and civil servants should be required to transparently publish all details of meetings with lobbyists – government ministers and Downing Street SpAds already have to do this. The idea should be rolled out as a requirement for all those paid by taxpayers and involved in influencing legislation. Obviously this means the question of identifying political lobbyists will have to be addressed.
To avoid any confusion by ministers or civil servants when unknowingly or inadvertently meeting lobbyists socially, taking up tickets to the opera or lunching at Michelin-starred restaurants and the like, registered lobbyists should make themselves easily identifiable. The historically tried and tested solution for just this problem springs to mind. They should be made to wear bells around their necks, like lepers…
Andrew Rawnsley really went for the lobbying industry in his Observer column yesterday. “Too many MPs are wrapped in the tentacles of the lobbyists” he warned, laying into “the murky world of lobbying”, describing it as an “industry that too often distorts and subverts democratic decision-making” and gagging at “the pungent smell given off by the whole business”.
He must have held his nose when he picked up the Public Affairs News award for Political Journalist of the Year from Warwick Smith of Citigate Public Affairs back in 2006…
In Guido’s Sun column yesterday we revealed that the disgraced former MP Denis MacShane has become a lobbyist despite still under police investigation for expenses fiddles. The laptop grabber is currently hawking around his CV in which he describes himself as a self-employed consultant based in “London, Paris and Washington”, “advising Asian, US and UK based firms on government policy problems and media strategy”. For some reason the would-be lobbyist’s CV doesn’t mention why he was kicked out of Parliament and remains to this day under investigation by the Metropolitan Police.
His alleged new offices in “London, Paris and Washington” will be a big step up from his old office – the garage of his semi-detached house in Rotherham – for which over 8 years he pocketed £125,000 in office rent expenses from the taxpayer…
Spinmeisters were already trying to get ahead of a sting by “two undercover journalists” last week. This from PRWeek last Thursday makes very interesting reading:
“PRWeek has learned that what appear to be undercover reporters have contacted a number of public affairs consultancies and met with at least one to investigate the role of lobbying firms in the establishment of all-party parliamentary groups. Insight Communications MD John Lehal alerted PRWeek to what he described as a ‘clumsy attempt at investigative journalism’ following a meeting last week. He met with two individuals purporting to be from an international management consultancy working on behalf of an energy investment fund.”
Obviously not that clumsy…
In Sunday’s Sun column Guido revealed how a controversial gambling lobbyist was claiming to be a “Business Adviser” to Ed Balls, despite the Shadow Chancellor denying ever having appointed him. Neil Goulden is the chairman of the Association of British Bookmakers, boss of Gala Bingo and the man in charge of the Coral high-street betting shop. He claims to be a “Business Adviser to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls”, yet that is the first Team Balls have heard of it.
Balls’ spokesman insists to Guido that “Neil has not been appointed as a business adviser to Ed Balls”. Interesting that Balls told industry insiders he wanted to curb his party’s anti-bookies rhetoric at a private dinner organised by Goulden earlier this year. And that Goulden also donated £15,000 to Labour in the run up to the last election. Odds on that we haven’t heard the last of this one…
Here is what the minister responsible for lobbying reform said when asked how she was getting on with tackling the “next big scandal waiting to happen” last week:
Miss Chloe Smith: Cabinet Office Ministers have had no meetings with interested parties on the Government’s plans for a proposed statutory register of lobbyists since September 2012.
The Government is committed to introducing a statutory register of lobbyists. We are continuing to carefully consider the evidence submitted in response to our consultation and will publish revised proposals in due course.
No meetings with anyone related to the lobbying industry since September, says Chloe. Oh dear. Funny then that she was spied dining with a lobbyist at Tory party conference in October. Must have slipped her mind…
Alex Belardinelli, long-time Political Adviser to Ed Balls, is moving to lobbyists Tetra Strategy – where his girlfriend Ellie Gellard already works on digital strategy. The move is scheduled to happen in the autumn after Labour Party conference.
Speculation is mounting that he could make way for a rehabilitated Damian McBride following party conference, when McBride is aiming to complete his public rehabilitation with the publication of his memoirs.
Labour sources say Balls has been unnerved by persistent speculation that he might be replaced by Alistair Darling in a re-shuffle by Ed Miliband ahead of the General Election. Bringing back heavy-weight Damian McBride would put rivals on notice that he would not go quietly and there would be consequences. An implicit threat they understand all too well…
Last year Belardinelli was humiliated when emails leaked in which he admitted a “screw up” meant Labour failed to vote against the reduction in the 50p rate of tax. The emails revealed he concocted a false line to spin to the media to cover up the screw up. Belardinelli worked for Tom Watson before Ed Balls and knows his way around Westminster and the media. In the event of Labour returning to government he will be able to cash in on his extensive contacts.
UPDATE: Important note.
Back when they used to actually post stories, the Political Scrapbook team employed the services of Matt Zarb-Cousin, a lefty up-and-comer occasionally capable of scoring the odd point. Zarb-Cousin left Scrapbook to work as a researcher for Labour MPs Pamela Nash and Andy Slaughter, but sadly things didn’t quite work out. Now he seems to spend most of his time working as a lobbyist for the anti-bookies Campaign for Fairer Gambling. Why, then, does he still hold a parliamentary pass?
Guido contacted Nash’s office to ask for an explanation, but they had never heard of Zarb-Cousin. “He definitely, definitely doesn’t work in this office”, Guido was told, “he might be a friend of Pamela’s”. No wonder, it turns out Zarb-Cousin hasn’t worked for Nash since 2011, despite the fact that he still holds a parliamentary pass under her name, which he continues to use regularly in his job as an anti-gambling lobbyist. Naughty.
Zarb-Cousin has confirmed to Guido he has used the pass to access Parliament in his capacity at Fairer Gambling, and that he takes a wage from the organisation: “since it is not a commercially-motivated campaign I don’t consider myself a lobbyist, so I didn’t think I’d have to declare it. It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have kept hold of the pass”. Nash isn’t happy, she tells Guido: “I was not aware he was still using his parliamentary pass and have instructed the Pass Office to deactivate the pass immediately”. How many more lobbyists have access based on their interpretation of the rules around influencing MPs?
Sacked Energy Minister Charles Hendry has not wasted any time cashing in on his expertise; he has just been announced as the chairman of the wind energy giants Forewind. The consortium comprising of four international companies -Scottish and Southern, RWE, Statoil and Statkraf – was awarded the contract in 2010 to build the huge “Dogger Bank” windfarm 125 kilometres off the Yorkshire coast.
Though Hendry has waited for the appropriate cooling off period of three months since leaving government, a look through his declared meetings while a minister leaves an unfortunate taste in the mouth: between June 2010 and October 2011 Hendry hobnobbed six times with the representatives of the companies that make up Forewind, and now he is their boss. It seems the revolving doors spin far more than the windmills…
New lobbying reform minister Chloe Smith is certainly throwing herself into her new job. Paxo’s Newsnight victim is responsible for overseeing the government’s new statutory lobbying register as part of Dave’s promise to clean up “the next big scandal waiting to happen”.
Interesting that Chloe chose to dine last night in the glamorous surroundings of Strada in the Tory conference secure zone with Nicola Bates of lobbying industry recruitment consultancy Elwood and Atfield.
A lobbying lobbyists who places people in spin jobs. Guido wonders what she had to say about lobbying reform…
David Laws’ landlord/lover Jamie Lundie, who gained notoriety following the revelations over his partner’s expenses in 2010, has made an intriguing job move this week. Lundie has left his post as Edelman’s public affairs MD to a less conspicuous position at the spinmeisters’ new reputation and risk advisory division.[…] Read the rest