Union leaders and MPs demand justice for first black woman MP
DIANE ABBOTT has called on Sir Keir Starmer to prove his commitment to fighting anti-black racism amid growing anger over Labour’s “fraudulent” investigation into the left-wing MP.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, TUC president Matt Wrack and scores of socialist MPs and activists have joined the campaign to restore Britain’s first black female MP’s Labour whip.
Speaking to the Morning Star, Ms Abbott said: “I appreciate the support. But this is all about much more than me.
“The issues are Labour Party democracy and the leadership’s commitment to recognising and fighting anti-black racism.”
Labour faces increasing pressure to conclude its investigation into the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP’s comments about racism after she branded the process “fraudulent” in a statement earlier this week.
THE Labour Party has “lost its way,” Jewish Labour campaigners said today as the party faces a formal complaint over its mistreatment of Jews.
A legal letter on behalf of the Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), sent to the party and copied to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, sets out evidence that Jews who disagree with the current leadership about Israel, Palestine, zionism and anti-semitism “suffer disproportionately from the party’s harsh disciplinary regime.”
Jewish members are six times more likely to be investigated and more than nine times more likely to be expelled from the Labour Party for anti-semitism than non-Jewish members, according to recent research by JVL.
The letter, sent on August 22, says the party has failed to understand the diversity of opinion among British Jews and misconstrued criticism of Israel as anti-semitism, illegitimately restricting the free expression of Jewish views on Israel and zionism.
It highlights that restrictions are contrary to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and to the party’s own rules.
to educate people about how dangerous a Starmer government would be. The media are unwilling to probe into Starmer’s murky past, expose his dishonesty or report on his alarming authoritarianism.
A healthy democracy requires an enlightened population and Trilateral Starmer is firmly opposed to that.
Ours is a grassroots campaign to get the word out via street stalls, leaflets, tailored social media posts and publicity stunts that emulate Just Stop Oil and Palestine Action. We see this as the only way to get our message out there. If the media pick up on it that would be a bonus.
A Starmer government would be just as bad – or worse – than a Tory government.
Liverpool’ Audrey White, who famously gave Starmer a dose of uncomfortable truth during his sneak visit to the city
former Labour and Respect MP George Galloway
‘free Assange’ campaigner Deepa Driver
Palestine Action leader Huda Ammori
purged Labour member and star of ‘The Labour Files’ Becky Massey
NHS campaigner Dr Bob Gill
Jewish former party member Frances Rifkin
investigator Ben Timberley
Eric Jarvis and Phil Davison of OCISA, the group aiming to fight Starmer in his London seat at the next election
Video messages were sent by former miner John Dunn, former union leader Tosh McDonald, ex-Labour MP Chris Williamson, forensic author and journalist Asa Winstanley and Carel Buxton that time did not allow to be shown, but these will be published in due course.
A staff member in Keir Starmer’s office is selling his knowledge of “politics, government and public policy issues” to corporate clients through a major consultancy firm, openDemocracy can reveal.
The staffer, who joined Starmer’s team in the summer, is listed as an associate director of Grant Thornton. The arrangement does not breach any regulations because Labour is not in power, though equivalent roles advising government ministers come with an obligation that holders must not “misuse your official position, for example by using information acquired in the course of your official duties to further your private interests or those of others”.
Corporate lobbying firms have started expanding their offerings to clients who are looking to influence a likely Labour government next year. In November, it was reported that two major lobbying outfits had set up ‘Labour Units’ to help clients influence the party.
Over the past year, three other corporate lobbyists have had roles advising the shadow cabinet while still employed by their corporate bosses, and another ten former corporate lobbyists are now working in the offices of members of the shadow cabinet, analysis by this website has found.
Nick Dearden, director of the campaign group Global Justice Now, called it “yet more evidence that there’s a revolving door between big business and the top layers of the Labour Party”.
While Starmer’s staffer appears to work for Grant Thornton and Labour simultaneously, the other three had jobs in the offices of shadow cabinet members that were directly funded by lobbying firms in the form of secondments. One of these was placed in the office of Labour’s chair and equalities chief Anneliese Dodds for six months, while two more have been placed with shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds. Throughout their time in Parliament, their salaries were paid by the lobbying firms, none of which would disclose to openDemocracy whether any of their clients had funded the work.
Starmer’s staffer was formerly head of Grant Thornton’s Brexit advisory team. A page on the firm’s website advertises his knowledge of “politics, government and public policy issues” to corporate clients. He says he can “help our clients make sense of the current macroeconomic and political environment, providing insight and practical advice on what it means for them and their business”.
With a revenue of more than $7bn last year, Grant Thornton is one of the world’s largest professional services networks, offering clients a range of consultancy services. Its clients and partners in recent years have included the arms company BAE Systems, coal miners Adani and a range of oil and gas firms. In 2021, the firm was fined £2.3m for its involvement in the collapse of the bakery chain Patisserie Valerie. And last year, the company was found guilty of bribing officials in Western Australia.
The staff member appears to work part time on Keir Starmer’s team, and part time selling his political insights through Grant Thornton. Last year, before he took the role, he wrote a blog on Grant Thornton’s website discussing the likely priorities of a future Labour government.
A spokesperson for Grant Thornton would not disclose which clients their associate director had been advising since he started working for Starmer, or how he managed any conflict of interest.
They said: “As a leading provider of professional services in the UK, Grant Thornton has deep expertise in the public sector and has worked with a variety of government bodies and institutions over the years where our nonpartisan input has been of value. Whilst any such engagements will be a matter of public record, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on any specifics.”
Two other staff members in Starmer’s office are former lobbyists who worked at the firm InHouse Communications, whose clients have included Google, e-cigarette company Juul, and a number of major alcohol brands. Starmer’s press officer worked for the firm until August last year, while one of Labour’s communications chiefs was previously a director at the firm.
Dodds, the Labour Party chair and equalities spokesperson, had a senior Weber Shandwick London staffer seconded to work in her office from September 2022 to March 2023. The staffer’s roles at the firm’s London office have included senior vice president and team director for corporate enterprise. Since her secondment ended, she has been heading up another team at Weber Shandwick. The company would not say whether she now has any involvement in lobbying Labour.
Weber Shandwick is perhaps most controversial for its historic role lobbying on behalf of the tobacco industry, and was recently linked to at least eight oil and gas companies, some of which have been accused of opposing or seeking to delay net zero policies. The firm also lobbies on behalf of the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry as a whole.
Former clients of Dodds’ staffer before her secondment to Labour include the snacks giant Mondelez, which owns brands including Cadbury’s chocolate. In recent years, Mondelez has been involved in opposing health measures like a sugar tax, faced legal action over alleged child slavery, and been accused of involvement in illegal rainforest deforestation. Mondelez has said it has “been working relentlessly to take a stand against” child labour, which it claims to prohibit, and says it has taken steps to ensure its chocolate doesn’t come from illegally deforested national parks.
The staffer’s other previous clients have included the estate and letting agency Knight Frank, the French spirits giant Pernod Ricard, which has been battling India’s alcohol tax over the last year and is a sponsor of the Labour Party conference, and the takeaway Just Eat, which has also given free events tickets to a number of Labour figures over the last year.
openDemocracy asked Dodds’s office what it thought Weber Shandwick had to gain by funding a staff member for six months and was told: “You’d have to ask Weber Shandwick.” Weber Shandwick did not respond to our request for comment.
From September to October 2022, a staffer was seconded from the PR and lobbying firm the Lowick Group to work in the office of shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds. Immediately before the secondment, he had worked as a lobbyist for another firm, Westminster Digital, best known for running Boris Johnson’s online campaign during the 2019 election, though he did not work there at the time.
Another one of Reynolds’ seconded staffers is a senior policy manager at HSBC, which was forced by US regulators in 2013 to pay then-record fines of more than a billion dollars after being found to be the “preferred financial institution” of Mexican and Colombian drug cartels.
Before working for HSBC, she was registered as a lobbyist for Portland Communications, a major lobbying agency.
As well as shadow cabinet staffers currently working as corporate lobbyists or political advisers, openDemocracy has found ten staffers for shadow cabinet members who previously worked as corporate lobbyists.
Responding to the revelations, the Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Under this Conservative government we’ve seen the endless revolving door between MPs, Ministers and big business reach new heights. It’s deeply worrying that Labour already look set to follow in their footsteps.
“If they form the next government, they mustn’t be in the back pocket of any industry – we urgently need policies and legislation that consistently prioritise the greater public good over letting big corporations trouser ever bigger profits.”
Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East and SNP constitutional affairs spokesperson said: “This is shocking and quite extraordinary news. I’ve not been aware of this before – I’ve known special advisers who went to work for Weber Shandwick, but I’ve never known people ride both horses at once.
“Labour ought to be aware that these companies are not doing this on behalf of the Labour Party – they are doing it because they want to influence [a potential future] government on behalf of corporate clients.”
He added: “Labour need to be more careful about where they take their staffers from.”
Dearden told openDemocracy: “Many parts of society with an alternative vision of the future are finding it really hard to even get a single meeting with shadow ministers.
“A Labour government in hock to corporate interests will be a very short-lived Labour government. The world has changed. Across the US, Europe and the emerging economies, the economic myths of the last 40 years are being punctured. Big business lobbyists do not have the answer to the problems we face. If Labour wants to govern successfully, they need to start listening to a much wider pool of people.”
A Labour spokesperson said: “Employment and secondment arrangements have been transparently declared in line with legal requirements and parliamentary rules.”