After Dave’s recent harsh words about lobbyists, how pleasing to see that he has not cut his ties with the industry completely.
As the Tory leader delivered his big speech in Brighton today, he was watched from close quarters by two of lobbying’s finest.
Within spitting distance of Ken Clarke was B2L Public Affairs director Darren Caplan, while tucked away on the back row was Simon Nayyar, MD of Cititgate Dewe Rogerson Public Policy.
Now that’s what I call good access!
Incidentally, Simon has been selected as PPC for Hackney South and Shoreditch, while Darren is contesting my own manor, the neighbouring seat of Hackney North & Stoke Newington…
Great news for all those retiring backbenchers currently in talks with lobbying firms!
The Sunday Times reveals that a ‘secret deal has been struck so that almost all former MPs are now entitled to a pass giving them special access to the Houses of Parliament for the rest of their lives’.
Under the old rules only long-serving members were eligible for passes. But those rules appear to have been relaxed.
The paper outlines the benefits: ‘The pass entitles former members to skip queues going into the Commons and mix with former colleagues over a drink at the bar or in the terrace cafe. They can also book dining rooms and invite guests.’
Sir Alistair Graham, the former parliamentary standards watchdog, suggests all of this makes backbenchers a more attractive proposition. He tells the paper: ‘Access to parliament provides an incentive for lobbyist companies to employ ex-MPs.’
Add that extra £10k to the salary now…!
Meanwhile, the campaign group Spinwatch has forced the release – under freedom of information laws- of documents naming the former MPs who hold Commons passes under the old rules. Of the 200 former MPs named, 25 work for lobbyists or public affairs companies…
The Association of Home Information Pack Providers appears to be rather unhappy with their (ex) public affairs firm Luther Pendragon.
It follows the recent controversial AHIPP email offensive masterminded by Luther. The lobbying drive was described by top Tory Grant Shapps as ‘one of the most crass examples of public affairs I have ever seen from a lobbying company’.
That story emerged yesterday. Today, I hear that director general Mike Ockenden has called Shapps’ office to protest his innocence.
He has also attempted to distance himself from the whole thing with a statement put out earlier today. It states: ‘We were suddenly informed by Pendragon that they wanted to terminate our contract on the 18th of February. Subsequently they then sent out letters they drafted, on our behalf, to all Tory MPs but sent the wrong letters to the wrong recipients.’
Meanwhile, Luther Pendragon has given a bit more detail on what actually happended:
‘As part of honouring our contractual notice period and continuing to deliver a service to the client these letters were sent from a company email address. These were signed by the client, expressed their views and were sent out at their request. Due to a technical error by Luther Pendragon some of the letters did not take account of those who had engaged on the issue…
‘In this instance, we were acting as a functionary on behalf of a client passing on their views to relevant political stakeholders. However, due to a one-off administrative error the communication was sent out directly from us, rather than from the client themselves.’
Those pesky administrative errors, eh?!
As I reported this morning, the Tories have hit the roof over a recent lobbying drive by Luther Pendragon, branding it ‘crass’ and tantamount to ‘political abuse’.
On the one hand, the attack by shadow housing minister Grant Shapps seems somewhat justified. Certainly no politican likes to be told their position is ‘irrational and regressive’ by anyone. Meanwhile, thanking someone for correspondence they never sent is a schoolboy error in anyone’s book. And contacting the party leader in his constituency is a long-shot at best…
On the other hand, one wonders whether the Tories might be keen to (further) distance themselves from lobbyists as the election approaches and the good folk of Luther Pendragon have become an unfortunate scapegoat because of something that happened to slip through the net.
Either way, in defence of Luther Pendragon it is fair to say this is not a consultancy with a track record of messing up. Far from it. In fact, for my money, the only controversial thing about them is their refusal to join the Association of Professional Political Consultants. They also have on their books one of the most clued-up political communicators in the consultancy world in the shape of former government comms chief Mike Grannat.
And I’m not just saying that because I’m meant to be having lunch with two of their top brass in a few days time…
Earlier this week I spoke to a front bench politician who was positively scathing about a certain well-known consultancy.
The furious MP and all of his senior colleagues had recently been on the end of a lobbying campaign which he described as ‘one of most crass examples of public affairs I have ever seen from a lobbying company’.
And it got worse from there…
It’s the stuff of lobbyists’ nightmares but who is the consultancy in question? What did they do to provoke such a furious backlash? And how did they respond?
The full gory details – complete with on-the-record quotes – will be revealed in the ‘PR industry bible’ tomorrow…
UPDATE: The story is now live here
Oh dear. Sounds like a few constituents of the much-loved Tory MP Andrew Mackay are intent on wrecking his career as a lobbyist.
Mackay is, of course, set to join Burson Marsteller once the election is out the way – much to the frustration of the Goodbye MacKay group.
The GetBracknell website reports group founder Dan Laycocks as saying:
‘Isn’t it exciting knowing that a lowly MP from little old Bracknell could rise to the heady heights of corporate sycophancy so quickly?’
Something tells me that Dan is not a big fan of lobbyists. The outraged local adds: ‘ Surely, Mr Cameron must make a stand and ban his MPs from meeting with MacKay.’
No word yet as to whether Cameron will take up Dan’s plan. Personally, I would urge the Tory leader not be too tough with MPs caught making use of Mackay’s new expenses account.
A small fine should be a suitable deterrent…
Lobbyists have been advised that Iain Duncan-Smith will definitely make a comeback should the Tories win the election.
At a packed Fishburn Hedges beakfast event this morning, the authoritiative Peter Riddell said the main question mark hanging over a Cameron cabinet concerned the role that the self-styled quiet man of British politics would get in it.
The Times chief political commentator reckoned that IDS may well get his own ‘social justice and cohesion’ department. Failing that IDS will get a seat in the cabinet and a ‘roving brief’, said Riddell.
So, if you see a bunch of lobbyists hanging out with IDS over the next few weeks, you know why!
Meanwhile Fishburn has produced a guide to winning over rookie MPs managing the transition. It advises that in the first few weeks new MPs will appreciate ‘any practical help that you can provide…’.
Like selecting a good restaurant, perhaps…?!