Starmer assistant among active corporate lobbyists working for shadow cabinet

Spread the love

Original article by Adam Ramsay republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Image of Labour leader Keir Starmer and party chair Anneliese Dodds.
Image of Labour leader Keir Starmer and party chair Anneliese Dodds. A staffer in Starmer’s office works for consultancy firm Grant Thornton, while a Weber Shandwick lobbyist had a six-month stint in Dodds’ office

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.”

In recent years, Grant Thornton has benefited from more than 300 public sector contracts in the UK. It also supports hundreds of major corporations on a range of projects, from the private healthcare sector to the oil and gas industry.

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.

Weber Shandwick also represents private healthcare firms.

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.”

Original article by Adam Ramsay republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

UK Labour Party hires former Israeli spy

The UK Labour Party has hired a former Israeli spy to help manage its social media, The Electronic Intifada can reveal.

Assaf Kaplan will work in the office of Labour leader Keir Starmer, a source with knowledge of the hire said.

Kaplan was in Israeli military intelligence for nearly five years, an officer in Unit 8200, its cyberwarfare branch.

Unit 8200 specializes in spying, hacking and encryption. It carries out blackmail, mass surveillance and systematic discrimination against Palestinians.

Continue ReadingStarmer assistant among active corporate lobbyists working for shadow cabinet

COP26 News review day 9

Spread the love

Gender day today at the COP26 summit. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nancy Pelosi arrived today.

COP26 Report Reveals ‘Massive’ Credibility Gap Between Climate Commitments and 1.5°C Target

Climate policy experts on Tuesday called for the final days of the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be spent with world leaders focusing on closing the “credibility, action, and commitment” gap that has emerged as countries put forward their goals for reaching net-zero fossil fuel emissions, with current targets on track to allow global heating far above the 1.5°C limit.

The climate policy organizations Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute released their annual Climate Action Tracker (CAT) on Tuesday, showing that even with full implementation of emissions targets set for 2030, the planet is expected to heat up by 2.4°C by the end of the century.

[Comment by dizzy: I can’t see humans surviving anything like an increase of 2.4C. Apparently we’re at 1.1 or 1.2C increase currently and look at the problems that we have already …]

First Draft of COP26 Decision Text Slammed as ‘Love Letter’ to Fossil Fuel Industry

As a new analysis revealed Monday that fossil fuel industry lobbyists have a larger presence at the COP26 than any country, global campaigners criticized the first draft of the final decision text for the United Nations climate summit for failing to even mention phasing out coal, gas, and oil.

Greenpeace International, in a statement, highlighted that “this glaring omission” comes despite expert warnings about the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground that have mounted in the leadup to the ongoing summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

“What’s very concerning here in Glasgow is that the first draft of the climate pact text is already exceptionally weak. Usually, the text starts with some ambition, which then gets watered down,” said Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan.

UN ‘guilty’ of failing to act on climate change say activists and experts from the Global South

Sunday was an official break day for proceedings at COP26 – but that doesn’t mean that climate events weren’t still happening across Glasgow.

Organised by the COP26 Coalition, the People’s Summit for Climate Justice was one of those events. And as negotiators and COP attendees took a well-deserved rest, a People’s Tribunal took place. This is a simulated trial with the aim of holding the UN accountable for failing to act on climate change.

Made up of activists, experts, NGOs and even a former COP negotiator from the Global South, the tribunal heard four hours of evidence against the UNFCCC, the UN organisation behind these climate talks.

Climate change is a far bigger problem than coronavirus, Sir Patrick Vallance warns

The climate crisis poses a far greater threat to humanity than Covid, the UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance has said.

In a stark warning, Sir Patrick Vallance said global warming could kill more people than the pandemic and pose a threat that could last a hundred years.

Jeremy Corbyn hits out at COP26 ‘greenwashing’

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has told The Big Issue there is too much greenwashing and “chat” at COP26, and not enough action.

“I’m concerned that there’s an awful lot of greenwash. There’s an awful lot of chat going on, there seems to be very few concrete agreements that have been reached so far. That worries me,” he said.

Boris Johnson to return to Cop26 for one-day visit

Continue ReadingCOP26 News review day 9