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.

There is growing concern in Labour circles that Ed is not putting his full weight behind Stella Creasy’s ill thought out campaign to outlaw these companies, that she claims, target the vulnerable. Ed has given the campaign the nod, but Guido hears that there is disappointment that it has remained a backbench attack. Some were expecting it to be referenced in Tuesday’s speech. Is Ed pulling his punches because of his behind-the-scenes relationship with Roland Rudd? Proper lefty blogger Carl Packman certainly thinks so. Guido will go further: Did this meeting of “independently minded senior business leaders”, aka Rudd’s clients, include anyone from, or representing, Wonga? We’re still waiting for Ed to keep his promise to let us know who he supped Rudd’s champagne with…

Gus O’Donnell tells businessmen not to waste money on lobbyists…

“People can exaggerate the impact of lobbyists, and the people who do that – surprise, surprise – are lobbyists, because they want to sell their wares. I’ve never felt that they’ve been that effective. If you’re a businessman and you want to get your message across, you can do it pretty openly.”

Lobbyists’ Umbrella Group Splits

We have in the past covered the lobbying world’s attempts at self-regulation. The most ardent opponent of a statutory register was Francis Ingham of the widely discredited PRCA trade body, he was instrumental in getting rival lobbying and spin trade bodies CIPR and APPC to join up under the UK Public Affairs Council banner to voluntarily produce a joint register of lobbyists. Guido suggested it might be simpler to just require lobbyists to wear leper’s bells.

Ingham has now performed a volteface and come down on the side of a statutory register.  His email to Elizabeth France, the first and probably last Chairman of the UK Public Affairs Council landed in Guido’s inbox this morning:

From: Francis Ingham

Date: Fri, 9 Dec 2011 10:44:04
To: Liz

Subject: RE:

As it happens Liz, I was about to email you the text below. Happy to talk if you’d like:

Dear Liz

It is with regret that I write to inform you that we are resigning with immediate effect from UKPAC.

I understand that this will be unwelcome news, and I apologize for that fact.

My Board has concluded that a statutory register is the correct public policy choice for the Government to make. It has also concluded that on the basis of UKPAC’s performance over the past year, UKPAC simply is not a credible body to hold that register.

We have come to this conclusion with regret and after considerable debate. The continued inability of UKPAC to deliver a timely, comprehensive and accurate register is an embarrassment to the whole industry. Having founded UKPAC alongside the CIPR and APPC, and having spent a considerable amount of time and money supporting it, we regret the fact that it has failed, but we are clear that this failure is manifest and irreversible.

We have today written to the Cabinet Office, making them aware of this decision, and urging them swiftly to introduce a statutory register, held by an independent body, to run in parallel with the Codes of Conduct that exist already within the industry. We will also this morning be notifying the press, and sending them a copy of this formal note of resignation.

I should like to thank you for the effort you have put into UKPAC over the past year, and personally wish you well in the future.

Yours sincerely

Francis Ingham

Francis Ingham
Chief Executive

Self-regulation looks dead. They brought it on themselves…

Breaking: Burnham Reported to Standards Commissioner

Details are sketchy and Guido is on the way to the pub, but he understands that Burnham, the loans and the ongoing mystery around the contracting of Lee Communications by the Labour Party has been reported by a Member to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner John Lyons tonight. These are the questions that Labour spinners have refused to answer all day:

1. Where was the job of Andy Burnham’s Political Adviser advertised and what are the exact specifications of the role?

2. How many people were interviewed for it?

3. Why was the job given to Mr Lee?

4. Was the somewhat awkward situation of the loans to the Burnham campaign discussed before he was employed?

5. What assurances were sought regarding Mr Lee’s private interests in the NHS? Is there anything in writing about him not lobbying while on the job?

6. How much is Mr Lee paid and is the job paid out of Short Money?

7. Why is Mr Lee’s company, Lee Communications Ltd, contracted by the Labour Party rather than Mr Lee being employed directly by the Party as is the norm with the other PAds?

The longer they don’t answer, the longer it looks like they cannot. C’mon Bob don’t make us angry…

Health Lobbyist Seconded To Spin For Burnham Political Adviser and Close Friend Not Paid Directly by the Party

While Bell Pottinger lick their wounds, there’s more to Guido’s scoop yesterday about the Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, the health lobbyist and a mysterious £21,000 “loan” to his leadership election. Burnham has made the lobbyist his political adviser in murky circumstances. Guido had a wee chat this morning with Burnham’s people, who claim the loan from Kevin Lee to Andy Burnham was paid back in full in February. Nobody told the Electoral Commission this, but Guido is willing to take them at their word. For now…

You have to wonder what a former Labour Party staffer, who, as North West Coordinator, would not have been on more than £35-40,000, was doing lending Andy Burnham £20,000, when he had been until very recently a Minister of the Crown earning well over £120,000. Odd…

Labour told the Sun on the record: “Kevin Lee is not a health lobbyist”. Which is odd given that his website has quotes like:

“Kevin worked with NHS Southwark to design and deliver our biggest ever consultation. Developing a strategy for primary and community care for the next 10 years, we wanted to make sure we understood the priorities and concerns of a real cross section of the community. Kevin’s knowledge and understanding of both research and the NHS was invaluable and contributed significantly to very successful exercise.” – Jonathan McShane, Head of Communications, NHS Southwark”

Sounds like a health lobbyist to Guido…

Lee Communications apparently doesn’t have any health clients at the moment. But, again, we are asked to take Burnham’s staffer’s word on that. Who would dare suggest that a lobbyist would big themselves up to make them sound more important than they really are. Has anyone else seen any other examples of this sort of behaviour today? 

When Guido pointed out that unlike other Labour Senior Political Advisers, Kevin Lee has not declared in the Register of Members’ Staff Interests that he is employed by the Labour Party, the answer came that he is not. Instead of having him on the staff, his company, Lee Communications, are contracted by the Party to provide services for Burnham. This again seems unnecessarily muddy, especially given these advisers are paid for by taxpayer funded “Short Money”.

So to recap we now know that the Labour “NHS Not For Sale” Party have contracted a lobbying firm, with previous and possibly current financial interests in health to work for their Shadow Health team.  Burnham’s people are still looking into how Lee was appointed, where the job was advertised, what the due-process was and how many others were interviewed for the post. Guido’s given them pretty much all morning to answer…

Would something by the end of lunch be too much to ask?

Bell Pottinger Power Point Presentation

Bell Pottinger sources are emphasising that a pre-condition of the deal negotiations with the fictional “Azimov Group” set up by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism was evidence of a reform agenda in Uzbekistan. To be fair to the left-wing BIJ they do mention it tucked away in their report. But here is the introductory Power Point they gave in the now infamous meeting:

So they were telling the “Uzbeks” to reform…

UPDATE: This is what Bell Pottinger were offering to spin:

[vodpod id=Video.15784425&w=480&h=350&fv=configFilePath%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.rferl.org%2FGetFlashXml.aspx%3Fparam%3D24408254%7Cuser%7Cvideo%2526skin%3Dembeded]

The Dark Arts

A good hit for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which they have handed to the Indy on a plate. While pretending to be representatives of the Uzbek government, they have stung lobbyists Bell Pottinger something rotten. The video is fairly cringe-worthy, not least because when the words weren’t put in their mouths, the promises seemed either implausible, or hardly worth the fees. They were clearly in full BS-mode, especially former Tory MP Tim Collins, who boasts that he was once Ed Llewellyn and Steve Hilton’s boss. Guido isn’t sure he’ll be getting calls from his one time minions any time soon though…

The BIJ got them:

“* Claiming they have used their access to Downing Street to get David Cameron to speak to the Chinese premier on behalf of one of their business clients within 24 hours of asking him to do so;

* Boasting about Bell Pottinger’s access to the Foreign Secretary William Hague, to Mr Cameron’s chief of staff Ed Llewellyn and to Mr Cameron’s old friend and closest No 10 adviser Steve Hilton;

* Suggesting that the company could manipulate Google results to “drown” out negative coverage of human rights violations and child labour;

* Revealing that Bell Pottinger has a team which “sorts” negative Wikipedia coverage of clients;”

“Sorting” Wikipedia? Guido hadn’t realised they had hired Johann Hari…

You Can Let Your Daughters Out Again

Despite all the noise about Andy Porter being “promoted” from Political Editor and “up” to Policy Editor at the Telegraph, everyone knew that it was a humiliating side-lining. As one Telegraph insider said “we put him in charge of paper clips.” It seems he’s finally seen the light too and decided to turn to the dark side and go spin for Brunswick PR.

Not a bad career move given the lobby lothario was struggling for copy ever since McBride was fired…

League Against Cruel Sports Sack Thieving Spinner

What a strange coincidence that the unpopular parts of the blogosphere have made such an effort today to try to spin a “Toffs-in-Turmoil” story about the head of the Countryside Alliance leaving their job. This comes the very same day that one of their own is up the creek – The League Against Cruel Sports Head of Comms Steve Taylor has been busted with his hands in the till.

Back in May, greedy Steve Taylor tried to compare hunters to burglars in a spoof video, adding:

“The hunters are the only group of criminals in society who flirt with this idea that they are in some way victims of the law, rather than transgressers [sic] of it.”

Who’s laughing now Steve?

BBC Caught Selling News Slots to Climate Change Crusaders

An investigation by the Indy has caught the BBC red-handed selling airtime for millions of pounds. They are trying to spin it as “nominal fees”, but a look at the numbers and content involved is pretty shocking:

“FBC produced programmes for the BBC about Malaysia without declaring that it had been allocated £17m by the Malaysian government to carry out a global strategic communications campaign. The BBC also found that FBC had breached programme guidelines on a programme it made on the subject of Egypt this March during the Arab Spring uprisings. The Independent has established that FBC has worked for the regime of the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.”

Perhaps most damning is the fact that a BBC World documentary about climate change was sponsored by green crusaders Envirotrade. And of course “Envirotrade was featured in a positive light in the programme but viewers were unaware that there was a funding arrangement in place.” The BBC have ruled “that commercial, financial or other interests may have influenced the editorial judgments in these programmes.”

So remember that next time you swallow the Beeb’s “the debate is over” climate change line…

See also: Green FlatliningCRU Boss Stands Aside, Queens University Blocking Data FOITime to Defund CRU’s Global Cooling DeniersClimate Change Alarmism is Snow Joke

Exclusive: Balls Pulls Lobbyist Strings For Young Aide


Last week Guido reported that Ed Balls had tried desperately to get one of his Shadow Cabinet colleagues to employ the apple of his eye, Ellie Gellard, as their political adviser. They all refused based on her lack of non-Twitter related experience. Having written his cornier speeches and been his general bag-carrier, today Guido can exclusively reveal that Balls has sorted her out with an actual job, in the actual private sector. As a lobbyist with Tetra Strategy…

This change of employment may not mean an end to late night Soho drinking sessions for Ed and Ellie. James O’Keefe and Lee Petar who run Tetra Strategy were both mentioned by Balls in the leaked Telegraph documents that revealed the extent of Balls’ personal war against Blair. Their lobby shop came to attention when it employed the disgraced expenses cheat Julie Kirkbride, more recently they came under the full media glare when it emerged they had been the organisation behind the now infamous meeting between Adam Werritty, Liam Fox and defence industry businessman Harvey Boulter. Industry sources imply that Tetra “do dodgy” – representing Russian oligarchs, the Government of Dubai, NHS contractors and private equity firms. Guido has confirmed that Ellie will be starting there next week, thanks to Balls. As members of the APPC, no Tetra employee can be a holder of a parliamentary pass, and at this time of heightened scrutiny of links between lobbyists and politicians she will have to surrender her pass on Friday…

Guido did try to ask Tetra Strategy what was it about the sultry 21 year-old that first attracted the lobbyists to hire her, was it her intimate knowledge of union affairs gained from Charlie Whelan? Was it her Twitter campaigning know-how? No one was available for comment…

Labour Donor Paying For Amendments

This morning Guido blew open the extent of the GMB union’s influence over legislation, and how they achieve it with a financial gun to the Labour Party’s head. Not a word out of any of them yet, but it gets worse. The leaked Shadow Justice minutes show how Labour, at the behest of the unions, will vote on various amendments, but who first tabled these moves? A GMB sponsored Labour MP of course…

Not only has Kate Green taken £6,550 off the GMB, the union even notched up another £5,000 as a donation-in-kind, in the shape of tele-canvassing. Trade union liaison officers have the kind of unfettered access to Labour MPs of which other lobbyists for other vested interests can only dream. MPs shower parliamentary passes on what are effectively lobbyists for the big unions. The GMB have 80 MPs in their pocket and their political officer Iain McNicol just happens to be the General Secretary of the Labour Party. The GMB’s 610,000 members represent less a sliver of the country, yet laws are being bought and sold in their name. This tyranny of the minority stinks, and remember that next time Ed mentions the 1%…

Oh Mann

Though he has his moments, few were surprised to see Labour MP John Mann contribute to the Westminster Hall debate on the lobbying on Tuesday. There was one particular target for his angst:

“Let us take the case of Bell Pottinger and the Werrity scandal. In that case, the question that arises is about the international role of lobbyists, because what has not come out is information about the role that Bell Pottinger was playing in Sri Lanka. People have been distracted from that issue, not least because Lord Bell is doing quite a lot of the public relations to try to cover his tracks and what was going on… Bell Pottinger is being paid to facilitate such things on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka … 

There must be absolute transparency in all the meetings that we have as politicians, and there is not. The lack of transparency is the fundamental weakness that exists, with people claiming that “private engagements” have happened. There should be no such thing as a “private engagement” for a Minister, and there should be very little of it for an MP. There should be transparency.”

Some good points, however Mann failed to declare his own “private engagement” with Bell Pottinger. Attendees at the 2005 Labour conference regaled to Guido the spectacle of a grossly inebriated Mann skulling £46-a-bottle Mumm Cordon Rouge 1996 at the expense of, you guessed it, Bell Pottinger. A proud rent-a-quoter such as Mann should remember the one about glass houses…

The Revolving Door at Health

“Asda has signed up former Department of Health comms chief Sian Jarvis to oversee its PR and lobbying” reports PR Week this morning. The former GMTV political hack spent twelve years spinning.

“Jarvis will already be familiar with the Asda comms team, as the supermarket has been a key funding partner in the DH’s Change4Life anti-obesity drive, which is promoted by Freud Communications. Coincidentally, Asda also uses Freuds for corporate PR advice. “

How convenient! No spell in the cooler?

Ask Pred-Ed About the Lobbyist Roland Rudd Right Now

Last week Ed promised to release a list of business clients he met at a dinner at the home of super-spinner Roland Rudd. So far he has not coughed the information. Lets ask him what he’s hiding…

Ed’s Twitter humiliation is becoming a near monthly occurrence. He’s doing yet another #AskEdM event at 15:00.

As ever Guido is making it easy for you to take part, all you have to do is click the box above and you are away.

Did you sup with a long spoon Ed, or were you the prey?

UPDATE: Are you listening Ed? Lots of people want a question answered:

Clegg's Other Lobbyist

With the LibDems trying to have their “told-you-so-moment” over a register of lobbyists, Guido drew your attention yesterday to the controversial spinmeister Clegg has brought into the heart of his operation – Olly Grender. Overnight many a co-conspirator also pointed out that Clegg’s Chief of Staff Jonny Oates is another flesh presser…

Starting at Westminster Strategy in the nineties, Oates worked his way up to become a director at Bell Pottinger in 2004.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Tory MP Nick Boles says what everyone thinks…

“There is a timidity and lack of ambition about Mrs May’s Government which means it constantly disappoints. Time to raise your game, Prime Minister.”

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