Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda have been furiously lobbying against plans for an indepdendent ombudsman to stop them trampling over the interests of suppliers, The Observer reveals today.
FOI requests made by Friends of the Earth and ActionAid show that, between April 2008 and August 2009, the retail giants held 13 meetings with officials and ministers, including three with Lord Mandelson.
Strangely, the Groceries Market Action Group was a rather less frequent visitor to Mandelson’s empire.
The group, which represents UK farmers, manufacturers and small shops and producers from developing countries, had only one meeting. And they didn’t even get Mandy, instead having to make do with competition minister, Kevin Brennan.
If only they had a few former Downing Street employees, or a shareholder who used to be a minister…
UK lobbyists have landed a couple of knock-out blows, according to stories in today’s papers:
WALLOP! Britain’s water companies – doubtless aided by a myriad of public affairs consultancies – have knocked down Ofwat’s plans to cut water prices for consumers.
KER-POW! The drinks industry has used its lobbying muscle to persuade politicians to block legislation designed to set a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland.
Cash strapped bill payers and people concerned about binge drinking will surely be delighted…
Former Labour spinner Tim Allan has gone to great lengths to rebrand his lobbying consultancy as a re-energised, all-singing, all-dancing, Tory-friendly operation.
Recent hires at Portland include former Tory press chief George Eustice and The Sun’s political ed George Pascoe Watson. On top of this, the agency has recruited big-hitters Michael Portillo and Tony Ball to its part-time ‘advisory council’.
At the Tory conference, Allan was seen brandishing a new guide to the Tories (my copy must be stuck in the post) and even appearing on Channel 4 News to talk up his Tory credentials.
But will it work?
The final proof of the pudding will be in the new business that falls in to Portland’s clutches. And one big piece of business could soon be reeled in.
As the Tories edge closer to power, Virgin Media is poised to appoint a new agency to its lucrative public affairs account. As I reveal this week, Portland is going all out to land the £200,000 business – and is now within touching distance.
Virgin’s decision will not determine whether Portland’s rebrand is a success or failure.
But it will feed in to the picture…
Happy Birthday to Bell Pottinger Public Affairs chairman Peter Bingle, who has just turned 50.
Characteristically, ‘the Bing’ has marked the occasion by sending out some special musings to friends and colleagues. He writes:
‘Reaching fifty inevitably involves a degree of retrospection about one’s life thus far. Fate has been good to me…. I have one of the best jobs in British politics – all the fun of being a politician with no Friday evening surgeries!’
And then, this bombshell:
‘I was once an ambitious young thing who wanted to be an MP and then PM’
Bingle for PM?! A lobbyist voted in to high office?
Well, if David Cameron can do it…
The Tories have previously pledged to crack down on ‘government lobbying government’.
I wonder if they will be clamping down on jobs such as this…
As David Cameron measures up the Downing Street curtains, the secretive lobbying firm Quiller Consultants is snapping up some unusually large public affairs accounts.
A few weeks ago it won the 02 account from Bell Pottinger. Now, the agency has also pulled in HSBC’s lucrative UK public affairs business.
Of course, Quiller has some tasty Tory credentials. Co-founder Jonathan Hill previously headed the Downing Street policy unit under John Major, while senior consultant George Bridges is a recent CCO staffer and a good pal of George Osborne.
A mere coincedence? Or the latest evidence that good Tories are worth their weight in gold in today’s lobbying industry? You decide…
Sorry for the lack of posts recently, folks. I’ve been away.
I see that The Telegraph’s Ben Brogan has noted my story about Tory special adviser plans, saying it has ‘distracted Tory towers’.
It will also have been noted by those lobbying chiefs still keen to sign up a Tory…
In particular, there are two public affairs consultancy bosses who are said to be getting increasingly desperate:
1. The stauch Conservative who has been casting his net far and wide for his first Tory hire. So far he has failed to land a big catch. Is time running out?
2. The old Labour hand who is becoming increasingly worried that his best Tory consultant may not be hanging around for too long after the election.
They know who they are…