Lobbying has been out of the headlines for a bit, but now it’s back – thanks to this story on the front page of the Sunday Times.
The paper reports that the Audit Commission shelled out £60,000 to Connect Public Affairs amid conerns over plans being cooked up by Eric Pickles.
So what were our friends at Connect were telling their client? According to the paper, they provided the watchdog with advice on ‘how to undermine Tory frontbenchers who challenged its activities’.
Fellow lobbyists will be intrigued to read how Connect lobbyists advised the watchdog to foment a rebellion in the Tory grassroots:
‘Many Conservative local authority leaders do not follow national party lines. Therefore there is a good opportunity for the commission to exploit any potential differences in opinion.’
Connect lobbyists also urged the commission to put up a ‘strong local lobbying response in order to mitigate and combat the activities of Eric Pickles’.
Sensible stuff? Standard lobbying techniques? Perhaps so, but the Tories are claiming to be outraged that it has been payed for with taxpayer cash.
Pickles tells the Sunday Times: ‘It is disgraceful that I and other taxpayers have had to pay for the Audit Commission to do the Labour party’s dirty work.’
(The reference to the Labour Party seems to be exapined by the fact that senior folk at both the Audit Commission and Connect have strong Labour credentials….)
Meanwhile Connect director Matt Bryant was working himself in to a right old state. However his agitation was apparently unrelated to his firm’s unexpected appearance on the front page of the Sunday Times.
As the story hit the streets, sports nut Matt told his followers he was ‘trying to watch murray v federer but finding it unbearable…’