Tag Archives: lobby

The influence of ‘big tobacco’ isn’t limited to think tanks: former minister Priti Patel was a lobbyist

Priti Patel: A former lobbyist for ‘big tobacco’.

Following the revelation that the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank is a lobbyist for British American Tobacco and for companies producing food that harms health – and also a major donor to the Conservative Party – does anybody remember this?

Priti Patel, the former International Development Secretary who was forced to resign after apparently conducting her own foreign policy in Israel, also lobbied for BAT, albeit in her former employment for a PR firm:

The employment minister, Priti Patel, was part of a team of spin doctors paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to help a tobacco giant counter negative publicity, including that surrounding its joint venture with one of the world’s most brutal military regimes.

Documents unearthed by the Observer shine new light on Patel’s work for Shandwick, a lobbying and PR firm that worked for British American Tobacco (BAT) in the early years of this century.

The documents, released by BAT following a legal action, show that Patel was one of seven employees used by Shandwick on the account. One of her jobs was to lobby MEPs against the introduction of the EU tobacco control directive, which was introduced shortly after the new millennium.

In 2001, Shandwick drew up plans to invoice BAT for 279 hours of its work a month, of which Patel’s contribution amounted to 100 hours. BAT was charged £165 an hour for Patel’s services. The entire team was on a monthly retainer of nearly £40,000 – a total of almost £500,000 a year.

Firms like BAT are major donors to the Conservative Party, while people like the IEA and Ms Patel were instrumental in pushing their agendas onto politicians – and onto the public through political discussion shows like the BBC’s Question Time.

These people betray the public trust because they present the desires of corporate bosses as the needs of the nation. And then you wonder why the environment is going to ruin…

Source: Minister worked as spin doctor for tobacco giant that paid workers £15 a month | Business | The Guardian

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‘First do no harm’: Public to lobby Parliament over DWP assessments

Activists are to lobby Parliament next month in a bid to persuade MPs to impose stricter rules on the assessors hired by private firms to judge whether people claiming sickness and/or disability benefits are faking it.

The First Do No Harm lobby on February 13 aims to expose the continued harm caused to disabled people by the Tory government’s work capability assessments (WCAs), concentrating on the repeated failure of assessors hired by the Department for Work and Pensions to collect and pay proper regard to further medical evidence, as needed to judge a claimant’s eligibility for sickness and disability benefits.

It has been organised by Labour’s Treasury and work and pensions teams, through shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood, after campaigning by the disabled people’s grassroots group Black Triangle and other disabled activists.

The aim is to push for the principle of “First Do No Harm” – a concept that should be at the heart of any true medical professional’s moral code – to be included in the benefits assessment process, through a framework that “treats disabled people with dignity and respect”.

This would introduce new “safety protocols” to ensure that the health and lives of disabled people are not put at risk by unfair decisions on eligibility following a WCA.

The lobby also aims to push the Conservative government to bow to years of pressure to carry out a cumulative assessment of the impact of its social security cuts and reforms on disabled people.

And it will call for an end to the government’s sanctions and conditionality regime.

The lobby is due to take place on Wednesday 13 February between 1pm and 6pm, with the briefing from 2-3.30pm, in the Palace of Westminster’s committee room 15. The committee room can be used for one-to-one meetings with MPs or further discussions on the issue from 1-2pm and then from 3.30-6pm

You can read more details in this Disability News Service article – and then you are invited to help out.

While the lobby has been organised by Labour, it is hoped that MPs from all parties will attend – especially Conservatives. And they’re only likely to do so if their constituents demand it.

It doesn’t matter if you are sick, disabled or able-bodied – if you want your MP to attend the lobby, get in touch – for example, by using the website WriteToThem, saying you wish to seek an appointment on the day of the lobby.

One more thing: Spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, and any other social network you use.

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A taxpayer-funded lobby group is a breach of government rules – but only an INDEPENDENT inquiry will prove that

Chummy: Brexiters Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

This Site has reported on this story before.

The funding of a lobby group with taxpayers’ money is a clear conflict of interest, no matter what the Tory government says.

But it’ll take an independent inquiry to establish that.

A number of Cabinet members appear to have breached the rules of government through their membership of a secretive hard-Brexit lobby group, now chaired by the outspoken government critic Jacob-Rees Mogg.

Senior Conservative ministers including Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt and David Gauke have used taxpayers’ cash to fund the hard-Brexit European Research Group (ERG), which is now led by Rees-Mogg MP, who has been accused in recent days of trying to undermine Prime Minister Theresa May and oust her Chancellor, Philip Hammond.

The ministers have funded this lobby group (through their expense claims) whilst holding posts in government – despite the ministerial code prohibiting ministers from becoming “associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with government policy”.

New evidence shows that a number of other key figures in government – including Brexit ministers Steve Baker and Suella Fernandes – have remained active in the ERG after taking on government posts, and that the senior whip Chris Heaton-Harris has hosted meetings for them inside parliament.

A government spokesperson has denied that there has been any breach of the rules. But a number of Labour and SNP MPs have now called on the parliamentary authorities to “urgently investigate” the matter, with former Foreign office minister Chris Bryant calling it a “clear conflict of interest”; Caroline Lucas labelling the findings “deeply concerning” and the SNP’s Deirdre Brock asking, “What kind of shameless opportunist would be supporting their colleagues in public while betraying them in private?”

Source: MPs demand ‘urgent investigation’ into Cabinet ministers’ support for hard-Brexit lobby group | openDemocracy


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Prince William receives confidential cabinet papers


As with Prince Charles, it is arguable that Prince William is entirely entitled to receive confidential cabinet papers, because he is the son of the heir to the Throne and needs to understand the issues facing the UK before becoming monarch and being asked to sign acts of Parliament concerning those issues.

But the revelation that he receives these documents – which was not included in the response to a Freedom of Information request by the campaigning group Republic – creates a huge amount of concern over who has access to this information, and who does not.

The Duke of Cambridge occasionally receives copies of confidential cabinet documents, the BBC has learned.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said that, as a future heir to the throne, it was “appropriate that he is regularly briefed on government business”.

It was revealed on Tuesday that Prince Charles receives such material routinely – as does the Queen.

Campaign group Republic said there was “no good reason” why Prince William also received the information.

Earlier this week, Republic received four chapters of the Cabinet Office’s “precedent book” – released after a three-year freedom of information battle.

The book shows Prince Charles, the Queen, ministers and a handful of others get papers from cabinet and ministerial committees.

Junior government ministers do not receive such access to the documents.

Source: Prince William receives confidential cabinet papers – BBC News

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Controversy over Prince Charles should reopen debate on the government and lobbyists


Some might say that Prince Charles is entirely entitled to receive confidential cabinet papers, because he is heir to the Throne and has the right to understand the issues facing the UK before becoming monarch and being asked to sign acts of Parliament concerning those issues.

However, he has made no secret of the fact that he has concerns of his own – and the revelation that he does receive these documents means he is in an excellent position to push his own agenda, ahead of any other lobbyist or the national interest.

If critics of the policy that allows him to see these papers want him to stop, though, they should also consider the fact that the Conservative Government, more than any other, is accessed by lobbyists representing other paid interests on a regular basis.

There was some discussion of this when the Transparency of Lobbying Act was being pushed through Parliament by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, but of course the national interest always comes a distant second to personal interest when ministers have a chance to make a little extra money.

Consider Esther McVey’s latest job – not the one we fund in which she chairs the British Transport Police; This Writer means her new job with lobbyists Hume Brophy.

Or what about Nadhim Zahawi, who works as chief strategy officer for oil explorer Gulf Keystone which has interests in Kurdistan, has had shares in Genel Energy, which also works in Kurdistan, and also chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kurdistan, is on the UK Prime Minister’s Policy Board with special responsibility for business and the economy, and was appointed to the Commons Foreign Affairs select committee in June 2014, where he played a key role in its inquiry into government policy on Kurdistan?

The magazine Private Eye has a section entitled ‘Revolving Doors’, reporting on the huge number of MPs and civil servants who take jobs with private sector employers.

Strangely enough – unless huge numbers of the public rally to fight over any single issue, these individuals and the relatively small number of private interests they represent appear to have a monopoly on the Conservative Government’s ear.

So why single out Prince Charles?

“The disclosure of cabinet papers to Prince Charles is quite extraordinary,” said Graham Smith, Republic’s chief executive. “Not only because they would contain highly classified information, but because it gives him considerable advantage in pressing his own agenda when lobbying ministers. He is essentially a minister not attending cabinet. He gets the paperwork and has private meetings with ministers about policy.”

A senior MP called for a parliamentary inquiry into the arrangement, which he said made Charles Britain’s “best informed lobbyist”. It also prompted speculation that the prince uses the flow of information to help him intervene with ministers on new policy proposals before parliament or the public are aware of their existence.

Paul Flynn, a member of the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee, said Charles’s access to cabinet papers was “a considerable surprise” and called for a parliamentary investigation.

“He is not just a figurehead, he has become a participant in national debate and there is no control over his lobbying,” Flynn said. “This means that he is not only the most influential lobbyist, but the best informed and he is lobbying for his own interests, which are not always benign or sensible.”

Source: Revealed: Prince Charles has received confidential cabinet papers for decades | UK news | The Guardian

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Lobbying: Cameron’s deleted speech and his jaw dropping hypocrisy – Pride’s Purge

David Cameron has been caught red-handed wining and dining corporate lobbyists, writes Tom Pride.

Tycoons mix with top Tories at fundraising ball in London

This is particularly awkward for Cameron because in the run up to the last election, he gave a speech in which he promised to bring transparency to lobbying:

It is the next big scandal waiting to happen, the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money. We all know how it works. The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, helping big business find the right way to get its way. We must be the party that sorts all this out.

Stirring stuff.

Which is probably why the Tories have now deleted* the speech from their website.

Never mind. Because you can still read Cameron’s full speech here and decide for yourself whether this could win first prize for the best example of jaw dropping hypocrisy from Cameron yet.

*Permanently deleting stuff from the internet is not as easy as you might think. The Tories went to some trouble to do it. For the more technically minded, here is how they did it.

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How UKIP became pawns in a new plan to bring back fox hunting

The hunt is on (possibly): Nigel Farage shaking hands with Surrey hunter Mark Bycroft, who had freely admitted punching a protester in the face, with no warning or provocation, at a hunt meet on December 14, 2013.*

The hunt is on (possibly): Nigel Farage shaking hands with Surrey hunter Mark Bycroft, who had freely admitted punching a protester in the face, with no warning or provocation, at a hunt meet on December 14, 2013.*

It seems UKIP is again pushing the Conservative Party further into the right-wing of politics.

This time, the subject of fox-hunting is rearing its bloodstained head once again. The first Yr Obdt Srvt heard of it was in an email from Vox Political‘s alleged masters in the Labour Party.

It begins: “Did you hear what Liz Truss – the Tory Environment Secretary – announced was top of her priority list last week?”

Bringing back fox hunting. That’s right – instead of sorting out the mess they’ve made of our country, the Tories are fixating yet again on overturning the decade-old ban on this brutal bloodsport.

“Let’s make so much noise that the Tories have to leave fox hunting in the dustbin of history. There is so much that the Tories should be doing right now that would make life better for millions of people in our county. Doesn’t it just speak volumes that they’re choosing to obsess over this instead?

“Labour consigned fox hunting to the history books – and that’s where it belongs. Help us keep it there.”

This is followed by a link to a petition against the proposal which also asks the reader to make a donation to Labour. It is a particularly annoying practice of the party at the moment; admittedly, Labour needs cash to campaign, but tricking people into connecting to a donation site by telling them they’re doing something else… that’s not the way forward.

So if anybody has a link to a petition page that doesn’t want your money as well, please get in touch.

That was the story, and it all seemed cut-and-dried, right? Wrong.

Several hours later, a blog article by the ever-engaging John D Turner provided invaluable information about UKIP’s part in this affair.

It seems the Country Land and Business Association (described here as a sort of trade union for the landed establishment – a description that is both apposite and insulting at the same time because these people wouldn’t want to be seen dead in a union) has been lobbying both UKIP and the Tories for the return of foxhunting.

It was later reported that UKIP could benefit from half a million extra votes if the Tories refuse to commit themselves to repealing the Hunting Act, implying that UKIP supports this move already.

That was in August; Elizabeth Truss came out with her announcement a little more than a month later.

This tells us several things:

Firstly, UKIP may be many things but it absolutely is not the party of the “people’s crusade”, or whatever nonsense its representatives were spouting during the European election campaign. It’s pretty much a ‘given’ that Nigel Farage’s hope for the blue collar vote started to evaporate when he revealed UKIP’s tax plan was to give all the money to the extremely rich, and disappeared altogether when the Conservatives announced an even more regressive policy in response.

Secondly, UKIP is quite happy to be the pawn of rich landowners.

Thirdly, the Conservatives are terrified that UKIP may be able to steal away their support, and this means they will copy any UKIP policy in a desperate attempt to be more like UKIP than UKIP. Anyone in the Labour Party who finds this funny should look at the economic policy currently being promoted by Ed Balls, and remember Rachel Reeves’ ‘tougher than the Tories on welfare’ speech, before trying to make political headway on it.

The practical upshot of all this?

In this renewed right-wing attempt to bring back fox-hunting, it seems UKIP have been cast in the role of fat, red-coated, “Tally ho!”-screaming hunters…

… and the Conservatives – how unusual for them! – in the role of the fearful fox.

* Here’s the story. Scroll down the page to the entry for December 27, 2013 (it has the same image as at the top of this article).

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Tories should check their own ranks before accusing Labour of infiltrating thinktanks

Double standards: Philippa Stroud, paid to advise Iain Duncan Smith on DWP policy issues, who was also paid by the right-wing thinktank the Centre for Social Justice to lobby him on the same policy issues.

Double standards: Philippa Stroud, paid to advise Iain Duncan Smith on DWP policy issues, who was also paid by the right-wing thinktank the Centre for Social Justice to lobby him on the same policy issues.

Department of Double Standards: According to the Telegraph, the left-wing Institute of Public Policy Research is being investigated by the Charity Commission because of its connections with the last Labour government.

The Torygraph reckons half of Gordon Brown’s special advisers now work for charities or “supposedly neutral” thinktanks, many of which now lobby the Coalition government.

“There is increasing concern among Conservatives that charities and thinktanks are being used as vehicles for a pro-Labour agenda,” the paper crowed.

On the face of it, it may seem reasonable for charities to be investigated for putting forward partisan opinions as they should remain politically neutral.

Thinktanks like the IPPR, on the other hand, are entirely free to put forward any political philosophy they choose; it’s part of their reason for existing.

But what about when a Conservative government minister actually employs, as his special adviser on policy, a person who is not only already an employee of a right-leaning government thinktank – set up by the minister himself – but actually co-founded it with him?

Step forward Philippa Stroud, who co-founded the Centre for Social Justice alongside Iain Duncan Smith in 2004, as a right-wing research and lobby group. When Mr… Smith became a government minister in 2010, he appointed her as his policy special adviser, even though she was still employed by the CSJ as co-chair of its ‘board of advisers’.

The special advisers’ code of conduct stipulates that they “should not receive benefits of any kind which others might reasonably see as compromising their personal judgment or integrity”.

An annex to the code, titled the Seven Principles of Public Life, adds: “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.”

The code also makes clear that ministers making such appointments, in this case Mr… Smith himself, are held responsible for their advisers’ conduct.

So Philippa Stroud, a prominent member of the Conservative Party, took public money on top of her own salary and had a job as a senior member of a pressure group that tries to influence his department, when her role within that department was to give him advice on what to do.

That’s a conflict of interest, right there.

Oh, but the arrangement was cleared by the DWP and the Cabinet Office, both of which are currently headed by members of the Conservative Party, with no mention made of any conflict of interest they might have been enduring at the time.

Chris Grayling, writing in the Telegraph, claimed: “Britain’s professional campaigners are growing in number: sending emails around the country, flocking around Westminster, dominating BBC programmes, and usually articulating a Left-wing vision which is neither affordable nor deliverable – and wholly at odds with the long-term economic plan this Government has worked so hard to put in place.”

Sauce for the goose, Mr Grayling!

If it’s fine for a Conservative Party member and special adviser to Iain Duncan Smith to be employed by a thinktank that foists right-wing policy views on the government, then it should be perfectly acceptable for Labour Party members to be employed by thinktanks too.

In fact it is clear that the Labour members are committing the lesser of the two evils.

The moral: If you’re going to accuse your enemy of cheating, make sure you’re not doing it yourself.

Also: Chris Grayling is a fool.

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Labour must turn and fight now – or give up its electoral hopes altogether

Struggling to make an impact: Ed Miliband must reject the Tory Party's narrative about the need for austerity and bring forward a vision for the future that really does make us 'One Nation' again, rather than hanging on David Cameron's neoliberal coat-tails, as many former Labour voters believe.

Struggling to make an impact: Ed Miliband must reject the Tory Party’s narrative about the need for austerity and bring forward a vision for the future that really does make us ‘One Nation’ again, rather than hanging on David Cameron’s neoliberal coat-tails, as many former Labour voters believe.

The political debate is all about the Labour Party again today – as it has been since the Budget.

The newspapers and websites are full of advice for the party, which is now clearly seen to be struggling to gain any kind of a foothold with electors who have become disillusioned at what might best be called the Party of Very Little Opposition.

Labour “must adopt new principles” according to an alliance of thinktanks and party intellectuals who have written to The Guardian; Ed Miliband has been told “don’t play safe” with the party’s manifesto according to an article on the same paper’s site.

The BBC News site has words from left-wing MP John Mann, calling on his party leader to stop trying to be “too clever” and be “much clearer” in setting out his policies.

We can probably discount the Telegraph article by Dan Hodges, claiming that Labour is “closed for business”. It plays to right-wing readers’ prejudices just a little too much.

Will Ed pay any attention to these pleas? Evidence suggests he will not.

I should clarify from the outset that, as a Labour member, I want the Party to win in 2015 (and also to gain the lion’s share of the vote in May’s European elections).

But Miliband seems to be living in a world of his own, insulated from the rest of the Labour Party – not to mention supporters of Labour ideals who are not members – by a small group of (not-so-special) advisers who, it’s claimed, intercept any decent ideas before they get to the party leader and spin them until they turn to drivel. Whether this is true or not seems immaterial as this is the perception of the general public.

And perception is everything.

As I write this article I have just received a comment stating that “Miliband’s strategy for the next election seems to be a) to accept the Tory frame of reference for any given argument and b) to then concede the field of battle on that issue, whatever it is, without a shot being fired.” This is a common complaint, and Labour has no answer to it.

Why do Miliband, Balls, Tristram Hunt (notably), Rachel Reeves (lamentably) and all the other Labour frontbenchers blithely accept the Coalition’s terms of reference on any issue, against the wishes of their own backbenchers, their party as a whole and the public at large?

Are they really just a gang of greedy moneygrubbers, determined to screw the country for whatever they can get? That in itself would be a betrayal of Labour Party ideals and their constituency parties should deselect them if members believed that to be the case for one moment.

Are they a gang of neoliberals, their political philosophy so close to that of the Conservatives that you can’t get a credit card between them? This rings threateningly true in the cases of Oxford PPE graduats Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, ex-Bank of England employee Rachel Reeves and Tristram Hunt. But Ed Miliband is (famously) the son of a Marxist. He, above all, should know better.

The trouble is, David Miliband is the son of the same Marxist and he was as much a part of the neoliberal New Labour Red Tory deception as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Oh look – another comment has just arrived. “More people don’t bother to vote because they feel that we as a people have moved on and all we really want is people who will represent us honestly, by majority and with no hidden agendas, backhanders or lobbyists pulling the strings. I don’t see any evidence that the present government or the Labour Party are capable or willing to do just that… They should have the courage to change and become the voice of the people.”

Become the voice of the people. The meaning is clear – Labour is not currently representing anybody at all.

Is this true? Let’s look at some of the other comments on my (left-leaning, let’s not forget) blog. These are from people who are generally sympathetic to Socialism and who should, therefore, see Labour as the natural home of their vote. What do they say?

“[Is it] any wonder [that] 1. People don’t vote because they are seen as “all the bloody same”? and 2. The perceived differences have become so minuscule?”

“Until Labour wakes up and realises it is the welfare cuts that are a major concern to most of us and to anyone who has a conscience, they will lose the next election due to apathy.”

“Labour have to do something different to what they have up to now but they don’t seem to want to. Are they scared of being in government over a country in the state it is?”

“Labour have had four years to do something – anything – to fight against the welfare cuts, and to help the people they are supposed to be the party for! They’ve really done nothing when all is said and done.”

If Ed Miliband was reading this, I would be asking if he was getting the message yet (are you, Ed?) and what he proposes to do about it. You think not? Let’s have some more comments from people who should be supporting Labour – I’ve got plenty of them!

“There has been absolutely no fight in this opposition and I am ashamed of them.”

“People need a reason to apply their votes to Labour and Miliband-Balls are not providing them with one. They are sleepwalking into another hung Parliament and a very real risk of the Tories teaming up with UKIP. Then we’ll really see Nazism grip this country.”

“The would-be voters demand change and need bold new policies to blunt the Tory cutters. If the Labour Party cannot come up with policies which are radical then they don’t deserve to be in power at the next election, or ever.”

“Ed Balls worries me because he seems intent on copycatting Osborne. For example Osborne says he will run a surplus by the end of the next Parliament and Balls promises the same. Osborne say he will be introducing a Benefit Cap on social security spending on working age benefits (which could have devastating effects and lead to real terms cuts in benefits for years on end) and Balls says that Labour will vote with the Coalition to introduce it.”

“Surely we need some clear red water between Labour and the Tories? Surely Labour needs to differentiate itself more from the policies of the Coalition?”

“I sent an email to the Labour Party asking for its policy on TTIP (the rightly-feared Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that will force employment standards down to third-world levels, or below), amongst other things. They were decidedly equivocal and I felt no reassurance at all. I think it’s about we faced facts, Labour aren’t being coy in a pre-election year to avoid frightening the horses, they really are just another pack of neoliberals.”

This is how left-wing voters (and the squeezed-middle waverers to whom Ed Miliband keeps trying to pander) see the modern Labour Party: Carbon-copy Tories with no fresh ideas who aren’t worth the effort of voting.

If any of Ed’s shadow cabinet is okay with that description, he needs to sack them and bring in someone with a clue. And he needed to do it last year.

If the Conservatives win in 2015, it seems clear that responsibility will lie as much with Labour’s failure to provide any clearly-visible alternative.

We have already seen carnage inflicted on the poor, the sick and disabled, and a Conservative-only government (or in collaboration withUKIP) would increase that bloodshed tenfold (senior citizens take note: the bribe you were given last week was a trick and if you vote Conservative, many of you will not live to rectify your error at another election).

Unless Ed Miliband sorts out his party – pronto – that blood will be on his hands as well, and the people will not forgive him.

Note that I did not say they won’t forgive Labour. I said they won’t forgive Ed Miliband.

Words cannot describe the way people feel at what has been done to them by the Coalition. If Labour reveals even the slightest element of complicity, I wouldn’t give a farthing for Miliband’s safety.

That goes for the rest of the shadow cabinet too.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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