VIP LibDems Live Conference Lobbyist High Life

The LibDem conference should by all accounts be an excuse for Clegg and co to distance themselves from their Tory counterparts, but it looks like they will be partying like the 1% next week. While Tories will remain under a strict champagne ban, Ashdown and Farron will be chugging kir, champagne and canapés thanks to spinmeisters Guide Consultancy. VIPs are being invited to drink with the grandees in an invite-only Brighton penthouse.

The lobbyists claim to have “stocked up on some great wine, not the usual conference fare” – presumably as a thank you to the LibDems for their abject failure to introduce lobbying reforms thus far, despite all the promises. Bottoms up.

PRCA Backtrack on Press Release Mocking Chloe Smith

You would think that the lobbying group representing lobbyists would know how to check a press release before it’s sent out. What with being PR experts and all…

Not so with the Public Relations Consultants Association. Compare and contrast these two versions of their release from this afternoon. The first version has been pulled from their website…

Now you see it:

PRCA – PRCA calls for Chloe Smith to engage with the lobbying industry
Tue, 11 September 2012 

The PRCA has called for Chloe Smith, who has been handed the ministerial brief for the proposed statutory register of lobbyists, to listen and engage with the industry. Smith has joined the Cabinet Office from the Treasury, where she was best known for her poor performance when interviewed by Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman. The minister takes over from Mark Harper, whose consultation proposals into a statutory register are still being considered following widespread criticism that it would not include in-house lobbyists.

Now you don’t:

PRCA – PRCA calls for Chloe Smith to engage with the lobbying industry
London, 11th September 

The PRCA has called for Chloe Smith, who has been handed the ministerial brief for the proposed statutory register of lobbyists, to listen and engage with the industry. Smith has joined the Cabinet Office from the Treasury to take over from Mark Harper, whose consultation proposals into a statutory register are still being considered following widespread criticism that it would not include in-house lobbyists.

Probably best not to take the mick out of the minister you will be trying to lobby…

Former Screws Political Editor Turns Lobbyist

Ex-Screws political editor Ian Kirby is off into the world of lobbying. Kirby has joined MHP Communications as a director to develop new campaigns and advise on media strategy. His experience of changing Gordon Brown’s kids nappies should set him up nicely. The move was announced with a lovely picture of a young looking Ian and an old friend…

Tim Yeo’s Heathrow to China Bonanza

Green lobbyist and part-time MP Tim Yeo has taken a break from the golf course to make some waves today by calling for an expansion of Heathrow airport. Writing in this morning’s Telegraph, his main gripe seems to be that he can’t fly directly to some parts of China:

What better way to kick-start Britain’s sluggish economy than by boosting trade with China? Perhaps with Chongqing, with 28 million consumers, many enjoying rising incomes. Or Chengdu, with 14 million. Or how about Wuhan, with 10 million? We could not only boost exports – we currently sell more to Ireland than to China, whose population is 250 times bigger – but might also tap into the bulging coffers of the Chinese for some job-creating investment in Britain. There’s just one problem: you can’t fly directly to those three cities. Getting to and from China is harder from Britain than from our competitors.

While he does broadly make a good point, Yeo is not one to intervene unless he has a dog in the fight. So imagine Guido’s surprise at some other news today from Biofuels International:

“Developer of second generation biofuels technology TMO Renewables has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the authorities of Heilongjiang, China. The MoU will see TMO provide long-term large volume biomass feedstock supply for future bio-fuel production facilities from Heilongjiang State Farm, the largest state owned farming corporation in China.”

And who is the well paid Chairman of TMO Renewables? Step forward one Mr. Tim Yeo. The day his company sign a new deal in China, Yeo uses his position as Chairman of the Energy Select Committee to lobby for more direct flights from London to China.

The man is shameless…

UPDATE: 

Sky’s Jon Craig is yet another satisfied reader…

By-Election Watch: Lobbyist Reunion in Corby

Labour’s Corby campaign might have posed problems for Tom Watson and his team over the last few weeks, but there were smiles all round yesterday as two former public sector lobbyists enjoyed a reunion in the sun. The highlight was Labour chief whip Rosie Winterton posing with party candidate Andy Sawford as she opened Labour’s new campaign bunker. Cosy.

Yorkshire mafia footsoldier Winterton is a former employee of Connect Public Affairs, a lobbying firm with close links to the Labour Party. Connect currently employs ex-Unite trade unionist Tom Denney, Yvette Cooper’s former adviser Caroline Gordon, David Blunkett’s ex-researcher Emily Wallace and Gill Morris, described as “the best connected Labour lobbyist in the business“. Another former employee of this merry band of lefty lobbyists? One Andy Sawford…

Why Tim Yeo is Really Upset About Green Cuts

Guido’s old adversary Tim Yeo has been flying the green flag once again this morning, laying into George Osborne for failing to back renewable energy. Yeo sided with Energy Secretary Ed Davey in his dispute with the Treasury: “They are working particularly to target some Conservative backbenchers, pursuing a policy designed to prove that they are not going to get into so-called costly green initiatives. It is extraordinary.”

Rather more extraordinary is the vast amount of money Tim rakes in from his personal investments in green companies. In the past twelve months Yeo has made over £60k as chairman of TMO Renewables, a company which develops and supplies technology for second generation biofuels. He is also chair of AFC Energy, an alkaline fuel cell technology that pays him over £50k per year. Guido has visited this before:

Given that Yeo makes over £100,000 each year from private green investments, using his role  to lobby on behalf of the industry for subsidies represents a serious conflict of interest. This is the Chairman of the Energy Select Committee.  Replace the words “green” with “oil”…

Portland Lobbyist Alastair Campbell Slags Off Firm's Star Client

Guido is not quite sure why Apple will bother to retain Portland for thousands per month when one of their big name fixers takes to Twitter to lambast the company to his 150,000 influential followers:

Maybe Campbell should have picked up the phone…

Michel Threatens Hunters

So the fightback begins, and not just from Hunt, who quite fairly wants his day in court. The statement he put out last night claimed some of the information was inaccurate and it later emerged the the Permanent Secretary at Culture had given permission for Hunt SpAd Adam Smith to hand hold BSkyB through the bid. Guido doubts that permission would have extended to accurate pre-parliament tip-offs though…

The other man kicking back is the spinmeister Fred Michel who has given a less than subtle threat via Iain Martin:

“If a diary of all Fred Michel’s meetings with senior government figures and MPs was to be published at some point, then a lot of well-placed people in the three main parties would feature. Oh, and he’s a neighbour and close friend of Nick Clegg. This could get even messier.”

By the end of Rupert Murdoch’s testimony today we could all be talking about much more than Hunt…

Exclusive: Sarah Southern’s Thatcher Business Card

Thanks to an anonymous reader who goes by the name Paw the Mutton. They liked it so much that they laminated it…

UPDATE: For maximum amusement Guido is after the much rumoured Southern and Fox card. And the rest. They are out there somewhere. Get in touch if you find one.

Ed Commits To Transparency, Yet Still No Rudd Dinner List

Ed just told ITV News: “I’m very happy to be open and transparent about what we’re doing.” A nice platitude. And another promise. Now for the action:

Time to cough up who was at this dinner and whether any “wonga” was involved…

Sarah Southern Had Other Tories on Her Business Cards Links to Transatlantic Lobbying Group Masked

The business card of former CCHQ staffer Sarah Southern, who was busted offering to retain undercover Sunday Times journalists for £15,000 per month in return for access to top Tories, will remain one of the more amusing yet important details of this scandal. Guido understands that the Cameron card was not the only one that Southern uses, and in fact she is said to have a range cards with different photos with various Ministers. Tory insiders suggest that they have been the source of amusement for some time, but not long enough for someone to say “hold on a moment here…”

After doing what is commonly known as “a Derek Draper”, an internet clean up job seems to have been done this afternoon, with various profiles being deleted, but not every trace of Southern’s connection to the British and American Project has been removed. She sits on the Executive Committee of the transatlantic networking group that puts rising stars in rooms so they can show off business cards. And the rest…

If you have been lucky enough to receive one of the sought after picture cards, then do drop us an email

Picture via Political Scrapbook

UPDATE: Southern is a Director of the British American Project. She also set up Sarah Southern Consulting on the 16th of last month.

Debate Tonight: “Lobbyists Are Paid to Thwart the Democratic Will.”

Tonight Guido and Tamasin Cave from Spinwatch are proposing the motion for debate that “Lobbyists Are Paid to Thwart the Democratic Will”. Mark Adams from Stand Up 4 Lobbying and Justin Fisher from the The Magna Carta Institute are opposing.

The event is taking place in Smith Square, Westminster and the audience will probably be riddled with lobbyists. So if you want to attend tonight and bolster the forces of democracy, email debate@StandUp4Lobbying.org, There is free booze courtesy of Ellwood and Atfield.  Full details here. See you later…

Wives, Girlfriends, Predecessors

Carina Trimingham turned heads on Thursday when she sat casually having lunch in Portcullis House. Whilst the speculation today is whether or not she was wearing an engagement ring, Guido is more concerned about what a lobbyist is doing having unmitigated access to Parliament.

She apparently has a spouses pass…

And it’s not just wives and girlfriends that get this perk. After two terms in the House, former MPs are entitled to a pass, meaning they can get access to the bars and restaurants and continue to live their subsidised life. So they can retire back to the countryside and have exclusive use of riverside restaurants and bars to entertain in whilst in town, without paying London prices. A nice perk, especially if you are seeking to influence decision makers…

It’s bad enough that we subsidise the public sector workers inside the Palace of Westminster, but can anyone really try to justify feeding and watering their spouses and predecessors?

A Job for Jacqui

Though no longer an MP, Jacqui Smith is still lingering around. Today she’s gone violently off message in her weekly column for Lord Sainsbury’s Continuity-Tony faction, Progress:

“We need a ‘prawn cocktail’ offensive for the 21st century – a ‘scallops and celeriac purée’ offensive, a ‘baked figs and goats cheese’ offensive – anyway, you get my point. In the 1980s and 1990s, energetic Labour spokespeople led by then City minister Tony Blair toured the private dining rooms of the City trying to decontaminate the Labour brand with leading business people.”

She criticises Ed’s banker bashing and echoes David Miliband’s warnings of business desertion, before finally concluding:

“I want to see Ed, Ed, Chuka and Rachel on the telly, but I also want them to be in private dining rooms across the City and beyond – making the contacts, generating the policy ideas and building the consensus which will translate into a serious new business and industrial policy for the next Labour government.”

But Ed is doing that Jacqui. He’s using shady spinmeister Roland Rudd to set up all sorts of secret meetings with these types.

He refuses to release who was at the dinners though, because he is embarrassed.

Maybe you could ask him yourself, and let us know?

READ: The Full Lobbyist Register Consultation Document

Could be tougher all round…

The Crow Flies

As Guido revealed yesterday union lobbyists are on course to be added to statutory register of spinmeisters. Cue faux outrage. Speaking to the Standard’s Craig Woodhouse, Bob Crow has thrown his toys out of the pram before he’s even read the proposals:

 “The idea that trade unions, representing millions of workers up and down the country, should be bracketed in with the chancers and shmoozers from the shadowy world of political lobbying is a gross insult to men and women fighting for a fair deal in the workplace. This is just another blatant ConDem attack on the trade union movement and shows complete and utter contempt for the role we play in protecting working people from the savagery of casino capitalism.”

What are you paid £145,000 a year for then Bob? 

Dromey Was in the Pay of Lobbyists While an MP

Jack Dromey, aka Mrs Harman, aka Unites’ man on the inside, will be forced to issue an apology to the House for failing to declare he was still in the pay of the union when he became an MP. While many Labour MPs benefit from union cash, such a formal arrangement was enough for John Lyon to gently toss an abridged version of the book at Dromey’s feet. Imagine if it had been any other form of lobbyist giving secret payments of £57,000 to an MP…

UPDATE: John Lyons said the matter was serious but has given leniency due to Dromey being “a new an inexperienced MP”. He’s been political operator for decades. He knew what he was doing…

Government Consultation to Examine Union Lobbying

The much awaited government consultation paper on the statutory registration of lobbyists will be released on Friday morning. Even if it recommends putting cowbells on these spinmeisters, it wouldn’t stop them…

Guido hears that there will be one section of it that Labour MPs will find particularly uncomfortable. The consultation will include scrutiny of the relationship between politicians and trade unionists, with an eye to making political union officials and liaison officers sign the register. Apparently Canada will be used as a model, unions were forced to register there.

Given the amount of money floating between the unions and Labour, as well as their presumption that they will be consulted before any big decision made by the party, the move seems like a no-brainer. Unions lobby for their vested interests and pay to play. Just take a look at the recent Cash for Votes scandal that saw countless Labour MPs take cheques in election season and do their paymaster’s legislating for the rest of the parliament. Given that millions of taxpayer pounds are channelled to the unions every year, we should know who is being paid to meet the politicians who hand out the cash.

Ellie Keeps the Red Flag Flying From the Outside

It seems Ed Balls’ most loyal Twitter fan can’t get used to life on the outside, Ellie Gellard used to Tweet relentlessly for Ed Balls when he was running for leader. Having left his entourage to go work for Tetra Strategy, the Twitter foghorn formerly known as BevaniteEllie is now “Head of Digital” for the shady spinmeisters.

And look what a difference it has made to their Twitter feed:

Compare that to the more neutral offerings put out before she arrived. Though Tetra was set up by former Labour figures, they have been trying to ingratiate themselves with Tories, most notably with their hiring of the disgraced expenses cheat Julie Kirkbride.

Someone better tell the new kid though…

It’s All Gone Wonga Is Ed in a Ruddy Mess?

Despite an on camera promise in October, Ed Miliband has failed to release the list of businessmen and lobbyists he dined with at a secret “off the record” supper organised by Roland Rudd the shady spinmeister. His agency Finsbury has a whole host of “predators” as clients, including at the online loan sharks Wonga.[…] Read the rest

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