Monthly Archives: June 2009

Signing out for a few days

I’m now off to Glastonbury courtesy of some nice folk at a certain drinks brand. Normal service will resume next week.

Will keep an eye open for any political types braving the mud…


Downing Street departures lounge fills up as head of news signs for Tesco

As I suspected, Downing Street head of news Tom Hoskin is off to earn a crust at Tesco. See the full story here.

Hoskin is by no means the first to leave Brown Central in the last 12 months:

This time last year Martin Sheehan quit as head of strategic comms;  in September 2008, Paul Sinclair left after just six months as a special adviser charged with influencing the commentariat; in December 2008, strategic comms adviser Nick Stace had enough and went to Australia. In April 2009, Damian McBride had to resign; last month Tom Watson decided to give up his seat in the Downing Street war room.

This month it emerged that Number 10 director of comms Mike Ellam is heading back to the Treasury and in recent days it has been reported that Brown’s (joint) press handler John Woodcock is leaving.

The Downing Street departures lounge has never been busier

UPDATE: I should clarify that Hoskins took the Downing Street job last year to fill in for Emily Hands, who went on maternity leave. Hands returned this week…

Has Tesco hired a second Downing Street aide?

Tesco already has Tony Blair’s former private secretary David North on the payroll. As government affairs director, North is one of the most powerful lobbyists in the country.

But it would seem that one former Downing Street aide is not enough for the UK’s biggest supermaket. A well-placed mole tells me that North will soon be joined by a senior PR man who is currently at the heart of the Number 10 media operation.

Tesco have not denied anything and are getting back with the details, so keep an eye on the PRWeek website.

At this rate Tesco will have even more links to Downing Street than BAA…

New housing minister hires lobbyist as special adviser

I now have it confirmed that newly-appointed housing minister John Healey has hired a lobbyist to be his special advisor.

The lucky chap is Ian Parker, senior vice president of FD Public Affairs (previously LLM Communications). And Parker has wasted no time in leaving FD – I’m told he started the new job yesterday.

Neverthess, the agency is still claiming him as one of their own on the company website.

Can’t they accept that he’s gone? Or are they expecting him back after the election?

Where have all the (ex) special advisers gone? Not in to lobbying…

What’s happened to all the special advisers of the recent cabinet resigners? Blears, Purnell, Hoon and Hutton all left their hardworking aides without gainful employment when they walked out on Gordon. By now, I was expecting that at least one or two of said aides would be on their way to a public affairs consultancy.  But, as yet, nothing to report.

Have they all decided against the lure of lobbying? Or could it be the case that agencies are not so keen on employing Labour spads as they once were?

On the other hand, I hear that one of the newly-appointed cabinet attendees has turned to the public affairs world for a special adviser. According to a reliable source, the promoted MP has plucked a senior consultant from the ranks of a well known agency. 

More details on this once I get hold of the lucky lobbyist…

Weber Shandwick lobbyist in wind farm controversy

Last year saw Weber Shandwick hired by Viking Energy to help push through a controversial Shetland Islands wind farm project.

Now it emerges that Weber Shandwick’s UK public affairs chief Jon McLeod is starting up a nationwide anti-windfarm campaign. Apparently, McLeod is hacked off about the various windfarms springing up near his home in Derbyshire and is establishing the National Alliance of Windfarm Action Groups (NAWAG) in a personal capacity. According to McLeod, every landscape  is at risk from ‘a wind lobby high on public subsidy and hungry for profits’.

Fair enough, but what next? With the agency boasting the Meat and Livestock Commission as a key client, can we soon expect to see CEO Colin Byrne beginning a crusade to promote vegetarianism?

Was Damian McBride behind Gordon Brown’s recent ‘Presbyterian conscience’ claim?

It was bound to happen soon. The Telegraph’s Alex Singleton (no relation) has spoken to a Downing Street staffer and got the story that Gordon Brown is still being advised by Damian McBride. He writes:

‘Before Mr Brown appeared on the Andrew Marr Show on May 31, he discussed his lines with Mr McBride by text message. This surely puts him at the heart of Gordon Brown’s inner circle.’

So what did Damian advise Gordon to say? To recap, this was the TV appearance when Brown started talking tough about expenses abuses. The PM told Marr:

‘What I have seen offends my Presbyterian conscience. What I have seen is something that is appalling. I did not expect to see instance where there are clear cases which maybe have to be answered to for fraud.’

Now, who would have thought that might have been a cynically constructed soundbite…