Monthly Archives: October 2009

As one lobbying crackdown ends, another begins…

The government has only just dismissed calls for one lobbying clampdown, when along comes another.

Last week, the government batted off the public administration select committee’s calls for a mandatory register of lobbyists. Instead, the industry has now been told to go away and somehow develop a wide-ranging voluntary register of all lobbying activity.

Personally, I’m not holding my breath for that to happen.

Now, the government has been advised to set up an independent watchdog for the House of Lords and ban peers from paid lobbying in a package of measures aimed at ending a culture of ‘peers for hire’.

An independent inquiry by the former Archbishop of Armagh, crossbencher Lord Eames, recommends measures including asking peers to sign an undertaking to abide by the new code of conduct on entering the Lords and at the start of a new parliament.

The Lords will debate the proposals on 30 November.

I’m sure that Lord Bell and Lord Clement Jones will be  paying close attention…

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‘Top 100 lobbyists’ list will ruffle a few feathers

The Total Politics Top 100 Public Affairs Professionals list, out today, is certain to cause a few rumblings in the closely knit UK public affairs industry.

Well done to College Hill’s Warwick Smith partner for grabbing the top spot. The agency also has Robbie MacDuff grabbing ninth place, making it the only consultancy with two lobbyists in the top ten.

Meanwhile, Edelman has consultants coming in at fourth and 15th respectively, with the dream team of Michael Burrell and Alex Bigg.  And former Edelman consultant John Lehal, boss Insight Public Affairs, is at 25, apparently in recognition of his work on the Obama campaign last year.

Elsewhere, Weber Shandwick’s top pairing of Jon McLeod and Michael Prescott come in at eighth and 16th respectively.

I hope it was good clean fight, lads…

Other big agencies are conspicuous by their absence from the top of the list. Hill & Knowlton doesn’t feature until half way down and Burson Marsteller fares even worse.

Bell Pottinger’s Peter Bingle – recently described by Channel Four News as the Godfather of Tory lobbyists – comes in at fifth, one place behind Connect Public Affairs boss Gill Morris.

The victory will be especially sweet for Morris as the two previously clashed spectacularly over Bell Pottinger’s refusal to sign up to industry-wide codes.

Perhaps Bingle will call for a steward’s enquiry…

In 12th place, Simon Nayyar of Citigate Dewe Rogerson gets a mention for his ‘camel overcoat and rolled umbrella’, while Sacha Desmukh, in 14th, of Mandate is said to be ‘a self-professed dog obsessive’.

You learn something new every day…

Open Road’s Graham McMillan also takes a well deserved slot in the top 20, but Hanover’s Charles Lewington, Portland’s Tim Allan and Lexington’s Mike Craven all surprisingly fail to make the cut.

Will Iain Dale be a getting an angry call?!

Portland plays Ball – but at what cost?

After last week’s shock news about The Sun’s George Pascoe Watson switching sides, the hiring spree continues at Portland PR.

As reported in PRWeek, former BSkyB boss Tony Ball is heading there as chairman of the new ‘advisory council’. Ball used to be agency founder Tim Allan’s boss when the two were at Sky. The new role at Portland is only part-time, but Ball doesn’t come cheap if recent reports are to be taken seriously.

Ball was recently in the headlines as ITV held talks with him about their CEO role. It was reported that the talks fell through because the two sides couldn’t agree on the salary –  Ball had demanded a total package of £42m over five years, which was deemed excessive by ITV.

Lobbyists, Tories and Kirstie Allsopp

My scoop about Mandate Communications getting advance notice of Tory peerage plans has made it in to the papers today (Sun, Mirror, Mail, Times and Metro), after some activity in the blogosphere yesterday.

Most of the papers (except for Times) have all gone in on the fact the TV presenter Kirsty Allsopp is one of the names in the frame. So far, none of the papers have gone for an alternative story about Tories providing secret information to shady lobbyists at the party conference…

In most cases, the Tories are reported as dismissing Mandate’s list as ‘speculation’. The Times has Tories deriding it as ‘absolute rubbish’. The response is not surprising. Clearly they don’t want to be seen as telling lobbyists who is in line for a peerage and a ministerial post before the election has even happended.

For the Tories, this story could have played out a lot worse.

For Mandate, the episode will have increased recognition of the ‘brand’, but at what cost?

Tory talent is still out there

Certain lobbying consultancies have been getting increasingly desperate of late to sign up a new Tory. Yet the lack of good Tories on the market is making things tricky.

Some agencies may have ended up paying over the odds for an injection of Conservatism, while for others the search for a clued up Tory goes on.

Will today’s news from Bell Pottinger give hope to those agencies still looking to boost their Tory credentials?

The agency has hunted down former Downing Street aide-turned-shadow cabinet member Tim Collins and persuded him to join its ranks.  It’s a fairly a dramatic return to Westminster  for a man who decided a few years back to focus on running the family business.

The signing may well have come at a high price. But it suggests that even if the Cameroons are staying put, there are still some Tory big hitters ready to enter the public affairs industry.

You just have know where to find them…

Lobbyists accused of taking over Tory conference

It was no suprise to see last week’s Tory conference buzzing with lobbyists. But the flood of public affairs professionals has caused some alarm in the Tory blogosphere.

First Dan Hannan, blogging from the conference, noted that there were ‘remarkably few’ Tories. He complained:  ‘In consequence, the place resembles a business convention rather than a political rally, and fringe events are filled with cautious, sleekit, Europhile PR types.’

Then ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie told how NGO lobbyists hijacked a fringe event he was chairing.  He reckons the conference attracted ‘a lot of lobbyists, charities and so on’ and ‘relatively few’ party members.

Finally Iain Dale piled in on Friday with a similar criticism. He concluded: ‘Lobbyists should recognise that party conferences are conferences for the party, and not for them…. At times, they should recognise that they are best seen and not heard.’

Of course, the ratio of of lobbyists to party members was most wildly distorted at around 1am in the bar of the Midland Hotel.

Given the price of the champagne, some may have felt the extra lobbyists were very welcome…

New book names top Tory lobbyists

A copy of Blue Print, the new tome by lobbying supremo Lionel Zetter, has come in to my possession.

The book is billed as a guide to ‘the policies and personalities of the new Conservative government’

As though the election already happened…

I’ve not had time for a proper read, but at first glance it appears to be a staggeringly useful introduction to a range of Tories who will become increasingly influential over the next few months and years.

There are pen portraits of Tory MPs, candidates, staffer, donors – and 25 ‘Tory fixers’ drawn largely from the public affairs industry.

The hand-picked 25 range from established agency owners such as Lord Bell and Lord Chadlington, to new kids on the block such as Michael Portillo’s former press secretary Malcolm Gooderham, now boss of his own consultancy, TLG.

Quiller’s George Bridges, Fleishman-Hillard’s Kevin Bell, Hanover’s Charles Lewington and Westminster Council’s Alex Aitken are also included in the list. Less well-known lobbyists to have made the cut include Cavendish Place boss Alex Challoner and FD public affairs man Simon Elliott.

But the best entry is reserved for Bell Pottinger’s Peter Bingle, who is said to be ‘probably the only living lobbyist who could out-lunch the author’.

High praise indeed in the lobbying world!