Friday, 6 August 2010

the biggest intake of tory lobbyists

By Joe Wade
Although we picked on two lobbying Tories who didn't win their seats, the new intake of MPs includes the largest number ever with strong ties to the lobbying industry. As the short list below demonstrates none of them thought to disclose their lobbying ties to the electorate via their websites or campaign literature. To avoid another expenses-type scandal Cameron and Clegg must reform the system and force lobbying companies to register and list their clients and so the people can see who is paying to influence policy. You can find out more about the campaign for a register of lobby firms at Spinwatch.org.

George Eustice (Conservative) - Camborne and Redruth, Cornwall
David Cameron's former press secretary won his seat by a small margin. Before his election George also worked with London-based PR and lobbying consultancy Portland PR, whose clients include the British Wind Energy Association, Vodafone, Morrisons and inevitably Tesco. A fact he neglected to mention on his website. Furthermore, and in common with his Hackney colleagues, George campaigned on a local shop ticket despite Portland's work for Tesco, that well renowned ally of the local shop. The work for Tesco has involved Portland's Planning Advocacy team, which "guides clients through the minefields surrounding sensitive planning applications", including how to win over local communities, and helps clients influence national planning policy.
Emma Reynolds (Labour) - Wolverhampton North East
Works three days a week for Cogitamus, where she "plays a leading role... providing a contemporary understanding of the Whitehall and Westminster scene". Emma says she didn't mention the job because her website was "geared towards the campaign" and what she's offering the people of Wolverhampton. This includes her list of hobbies (running, going to the cinema and reading), but not her current employment, so no-one who voted her in would have had any idea that she works for outside interests in her area.
Until very recently Cogitamus lobbied for the West Coast Main Line train operator, London Midland, which services Emma's constituency. Emma declined to say how her firm had helped them, but says she "hardly worked with them much at all, really", and would not have done so if it had presented a conflict of interest.

Chris Heaton Harris (Conservative) - Daventry Chris won this safe Tory seat. He has also been working as a part-time lobbyist with one of the world's biggest PR and lobbying consultancies, a fact he failed to disclose to voters on his campaign website. It mentions only that he is currently working with "local communities" on various local campaigns. Fleishman Hillard's clients include: the Cayman Islands Government, a well-known tax haven; Rupert Murdoch's News International empire; the world's biggest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev; Rio Tinto Alcan, the world's largest aluminium company; and giant public service provider, Serco.

Priti Patel (Conservative) - Witham, Essex
Priti hasn't been completely transparent with voters about her links to lobbying. She works for global PR and political lobbying firm, Weber Shandwick. But her campaign website only mentions that she is a director of a company providing "business and communication strategy" advice.
Priti says she doesn't "do lobbying," and yet admits to activities most people would consider to be lobbying: putting companies in touch with politicians and "giving my clients a particular insight into the [Conservative] party". Her employers describe Priti as "a great hire... powerfully connected within Cameron's Conservatives".Although Priti declined to say which companies she has been helping, Weber Shandwick's current lobbying clients include: Barclays bank, construction giant Balfour Beatty, and the arms company Finmeccanica.
Priti's personal clients appear to include International Financial Services London (ISFL), a banker's lobby group. Since enquiries were made by SpinWatch, her name has mysteriously disappeared from the year-old Weber Shandwick press release that announces her role on the account.

Penny Mordant (Conservative) - Portsmouth North
Alongside being a director of lobbying firm Media Intelligence Partners, Penny was also, until very recently, employed by PR and lobbying consultancy Hanover, which again she hasn't mentioned in her campaign literature.
Professional lobbyists make money by helping powerful private interests influence politics. Hanover promises to be able to help clients shape government policy, defend their reputation, and drive sales. Current clients of the firm include Microsoft; alcohol giant Diageo; and the arms company and Portsmouth employer, Lockheed Martin.
You can find out more about the campaign for a register of lobby firms at Spinwatch.org.

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