Keep calm and stop scrolling — Always a lobbying angle — Gimme shelter – POLITICO

Keep calm and stop scrolling — Always a lobbying angle — Gimme shelter – POLITICO

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A weekly newsletter on campaigning, lobbying and political influence in the U.K.


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— Look you’re not actually reading this newsletter today are you?

— We can put whatever we like in here really then. Maybe settle a few scores. We feel… free.

— Seriously though there’s actually a lot of good stuff in here — including tips on influencing when EVERYTHING’S ON FIRE.

KEEP CALM AND STOP SCROLLING: Westminster’s public affairs pros (and er, a fair few journalists) risk running around like headless chickens today as Boris Johnson announces he’s quitting — and Tory leadership contenders start preening for the top job. Let’s bring in some voices of reason.

Hargrave situation: Nick Hargrave is co-founder of agency Strand Partners, and was a special adviser in Theresa May’s No.10 — so he’s seen a fair bit of government-in-a-crisis stuff. His message to SW1’s government relations teams is pretty clear — don’t confuse your Twitter addiction for useful insight that clients can make something of. And don’t get overawed by the Conservative leadership race.

Get to the point: “Just always remember to keep your advice short and focussed on what matters to the business you’re helping,” he tells Influence. “Avoid rolling news Twitter updates. Exec teams may find the TV drama intriguing but really they just want to know the material impact on policy that affects them. Personalities play a part but are secondary.”

Britain is not the world: Yeah Boris Johnson going is a belting story and it can feel like the drama happening right here, right now is the whole world. But, Hargrave warns, clients have businesses to run and “senior people client-side have a view of a number of markets.” He adds: “The U.K. has unstable politics but it is not unique given what is happening in other European countries right now. So although today feels very exciting to you, remember that it’s less exciting to people trying to interpret 12 or even 20 markets.”

He’s running: And finally, Hargrave says, beware the pie-in-the-sky promises of the Tory hopefuls looking to win over the party faithful. He urges consultants to show they can “distinguish between political positioning and credible policy direction.” And he adds: “Lots of Conservative leadership contenders are going to say lots of fantastical things in the coming months to try and become leader — not all of these policies will get implemented if they move into Downing Street. Judgement on this stuff is important.”

Nevertheless: It’s going to be a wild few months. One public affairs pro tells us it’s deja vu all over again in agency land, and that they’re “quite worried we are about to enter a period similar to 2019 when it was literally impossible to do any effective lobbying because Westminster and Whitehall turned in on itself.”

Not all fun and games: “People always assume politicos love this stuff but it’s not conducive to effective campaigning,” they warned. Anyone running a campaign on a bill weaving its way through parliament should now be braced for the very real possibility of it getting canned by an early election.

What about the wonks? Think tankers will be putting plenty of painstaking work on ice too. Max Anderson, senior comms officer at Tory think tank Bright Blue, says “the research can continue, but for communications and policy, the government’s current situation has brought things to a grinding halt.”

But but but: “On the flip side, events teams are in overdrive as every resignation means a new speaker is needed — worth noting Conservative Conference is fast approaching.” Feel like we’re going to get a lot of “Housing Minister XXXX (invited)”

Bit awks: Solidarity with the tech firm that bagged the literal chancellor of the exchequer for a visit to their gaff in a few week’s time, only to find his team going a bit quiet as of Monday (probably nothing, right????), and then faced the tiny problem of him, erm, not being the chancellor any more come Tuesday.

The next challenge for that company’s hard-done-by public affairs chief: How to un-invite a former chancellor-turned-random-MP. “I am unclear on the etiquette rules of telling him he is now NFI,” they pondered. Just do it in a POLITICO newsletter, we say.

Poll position: “The thing that is awful about days like this is just how far you get behind on all the other work that needs doing,” says one leading pollster. Just keeping up with the news and filtering the noise can be knackering — and “when you have breaking news the stuff in response to breaking news all takes priority, which means you have longer term work sitting on the back burner for too long.”

So look after yourselves: Now that Influence is basically an Agony Aunt column, we’ll share some, erm, healthy coping strategies from our inbox. We’ve got the trade association staffer “drinking more whiskey than I’d like to admit” at 8 p.m. … The Westminster adviser who had a very serious in-person meeting — “and then we all got drunk” … And t— look, you’re all just getting tanked up basically.

More happily: One reader’s finding solace in Scott Walker as they wade through a bunch of client requests to explain WTF is happening … And a wholesome third sector policy boss found themselves tucking into snacks and indulging in space-hopper races in St James’ Park (staff away day, natch) as Westminster burned down. Not jealous at all.

As for Influence: You might think POLITICO is all high-octane drama and sexy rooftop photo shoots, but last night your author continually updated our top story while eating a takeaway using *a piece of ripped cardboard* in an empty flat (we had no cutlery because of a house move, honest). And we do all of this for you.


Look clever in a hurry with the Institute for Government’s Conservative Party leadership contest guide. Is it a bit cheap to put your agency’s logo on it?


GIMME SHELTER: MP looking to hide from all the drama? Outgoing PM in need of a breather? Manufacturers’ lobby Make UK has you covered. It’s encouraging its members to throw their doors open to politicos this week to try and bust a few myths about the sector — and natch, it’s after some government help from erm, whoever is still left.

Open house: The group is putting on National Manufacturing Day today, with an “open house” allowing local people and their representatives to poke around sites and learn what modern manufacturing jobs are really like. It’s trying to emphasize that they’re high-tech, well-paid gigs, helpfully spread across the country.

Ready to grow: Make UK’s policy and campaigns chief Bhavina Bharkhada tells Influence the firms she represents are “ready to grow,” and itching to “invest in people and capital and ideas” but “can’t do it alone, and they need support.” She’s urging politicians to head to manufacturing sites, “see the potential of the sector” and then “use the policy levers that you have” to get things moving.

One for the leadership contenders? Make UK wants ministers to increase the proportion of British GDP represented by manufacturing to 15 percent — up from the current 9.7 percent. “We used to have an industrial strategy, but that got canned,” Bharkhada points out, and manufacturers aren’t yet clued up the government’s replacement, Rishi Sunak’s (remember that guy?) “Plan for Growth.” “It’s clear that actually many companies haven’t even heard of it — there’s a real kind of awareness gap there.”

The ask: Make UK is going to be pressing for some specific stuff. It wants the current temporary increase in the annual investment allowance — basically giving tax relief to firms who invest in plant and machinery — to be made permanent. It’s pressing for an expansion of research and development tax relief to include capital spending. And it’s also doubling down on its call for an overhaul of the apprenticeship levy “to make it work for businesses.”

The sell: “Go and visit your local manufacturer and really understand what modern manufacturing is,” says Bharkhada. “Because actually, it’s only when things go wrong — supply chains don’t work or we can’t get the food on our table — that you remember that, actually, what we make in this country is absolutely crucial.”

Influence’s pro tip: Stressed MPs, please do NOT break in to random factories with a crowbar and just hope for a tour — the actual list of those taking part is here.

THERE’S ALWAYS A LOBBYING ANGLE: Want to make a clean break with the Boris era? Get on with lobbying transparency reform, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations began boldly pitching to the Tory hopefuls about 4 minutes after we learned the PM is quitting. Talk about pros…

Get a move on: “The opportunity now rests with parliament to collectively commit to serious change,” says CIPR boss Alastair McCapra. “That means starting with limiting the roles they can take on as second jobs and beginning the process of comprehensively regulating lobbying. Time is short and patience is thin.”

He’s got a point: There’s a very good case to be made that the whole Owen Paterson scandal — over the then-Tory MP using his position to lobby on behalf of companies that paid him — helped kick off this torrid time for the now-finished PM.

SPEAKING OF WHICH: MPs on the Commons standards committee have been beavering away on their plan for tougher rules around paid advocacy since the Paterson row blew up last year and this week unveiled a final list of proposals with a few important changes it wants MPs to back. You can gawp at them here.

FOREIGN INFLUENCE WATCH: Another week, another Home Office publication on the National Security Bill that doesn’t really shed any light on its proposed new register of lobbyists and influencers working for overseas powers.

Reminder: The legislation, promised in the queen’s speech, has been out in the wild since May — albeit missing crucial sections on how the planned scheme would actually work.

And: A series of “fact sheets” on the bill dropping this week don’t mention the scheme once. One does give a bit more detail on the new “foreign interference” criminal offense that likely will underpin it all. This will, it says, be “aimed at pernicious interference and not legitimate influence activity,” and there’ll be a “three-part legal test” to ensure the government is only cracking down on “state-sponsored conduct” that’s done “with the intention to cause a certain effect and in an illegitimate way.”

Still … Those hoping for specifics on the actual register (who’ll have to sign it, for example, and how it’ll all be enforced) will have to keep hoping. The Home Office pointed us back to a May press release and stressed that the progress of the bill is subject to parliamentary timeframes.

98: The number of days since the last “quarterly” release of departmental lobbying transparency data. Just saying.

FROSTIES RECEPTION: Bad week for cereals giant Kellogg’s, who had its High Court challenge to the government’s fat, salt and sugar-heavy foods guidance dismissed at the High Court.

Milking it: The Coco Pops purveyor argued that the government’s guidelines on such foods — which subject some of its cereals to higher government advertising and promotion rules — didn’t take into account the fact that most people eat cereal with milk. As trade title Food Manufacture reports, Justice Linden disagreed.

Kellogg’s says it’s disappointed in the outcome and still believes the government introduced the plan without proper parliamentary scrutiny, but it won’t appeal. No use crying over spilt milk, we guess.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: Here’s a POLITICO headline for the ages from our Brussels buddies: “Hold your horses! Top EU digital lobbyist has to pay up for selling horse as a pony.” We love working here.

TAKING THE LEAP: MPs-turned-lobbyists have had a rough ride in recent months. But Conservative MP Fay Jones, who has gone the other way, joining parliament from lobbying outfit Grayling, thinks it’s time to stand up for a profession with a long tradition.

Note: Before she joined the ranks of Tory PPS’s quitting Johnson’s government in anger, Jones sat down with POLITICO’s Annabelle Dickson to get nerdy.

Brecon beacon: The MP for the Welsh constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire, who headed up Grayling’s Wales office before joining parliament in 2019, insists lobbying isn’t something to be ashamed of. “The term lobbying comes from [parliament’s] Central Lobby where people would walk through … with the expectation that they could speak to their member of parliament about anything. So I think it’s really important that we keep that alive.”

Career highs: In the years before she joined parliament, Jones went from negotiating parts of the Common Agriculture Policy at Defra, to the National Farmers Union, where she was external affairs manager lobbying for British farmers in both London and Brussels, before returning to her native Wales.

Why the switch? Jones always wanted to be around politics, but claims she never set out to be an MP like her dad Gwilym Jones, a former Cardiff MP. She decided to stand after getting frustrated with the Brexit wars which paralyzed parliament in 2019. “We weren’t doing anything but talking about Brexit all the time and I thought, ‘well, you can either shout at the TV for ages, or you can go and get your hands dirty,’” she says.

Transferable skills: Jones says being an MP is about influencing people too, and bringing “lots of people around to your way of thinking.” She’s still trying “to influence other organizations to come along to either my way of thinking, or to help me persuade government to do something,” so there’s plenty of crossover.

And back again: Jones defends the right of MPs to either become lobbyists for the first time or return to the profession after leaving parliament. “It’s tricky, you know we all need something to do after we leave this place. It is a professional skill set, and I think former MPs becoming lobbyists brings one element,” she said.

Transparency is key: “When you leave this place, you are quite well placed to talk about how it works, and to maybe advise people on how they might want to get their aims through parliament, or how they might want to make progress on something they’re trying to do. But it’s got to be done within a transparent system,” she says.

Open book: Telling people what you are up to can only be good for politics — and lobbying, she reckons. “I think if you just put it out there in the open, you’ll make connections better, you’ll get to know people better, you’ll learn more about what people are trying to do and that’ll help you in what you’re trying to do.”

What about this though? Jones argues that the system in Brussels, where lobbyists can actually apply for a pass to the European Parliament and head to meetings without needing an MEP’s assistance is “quite a sensible idea.” That is, she says, coupled with “a very clear register of who was in the European Parliament at any one time — then there is a record.”

We suspect this section is…. going to get quite busy.

Former Department for International Trade Permanent Secretary John Alty has been cleared to take on a part-time, paid role at the London School of Economics as an associate consultant.

Tech UK named Sheila Flavell of tech services firm FDM Group as the lobby group’s new president.

Another senior hire for public affairs firm Rud Petersen‘s fledgling London office. Alona Cherkassky — formerly of BCW Global, FleishmanHillard and Save the Children — is coming on board as director, strategic communications.

Former Lib Dem aide Elizabeth Tomlin has been promoted to associate director at Cicero/amo.

Alex Gray is moving on from supplier EDF to be the new head of public affairs at industry group Energy UK.

Consultancy Hakluyt announced a senior leadership shake-up under managing partner Varun Chandra, who helped set up Tony Blair Associates for the former Labour PM. Full details here.

Isaac Oliver – formerly of POLITICO and the Guardian – has been promoted to consultant at agency Teneo. Rob Fuller — ex- of Four Communications — moves on up to director.

James Hargrave is the new government affairs and communications lead, oncology, at healthcare firm DS UK. He joins from MSD and previously helped set up the UK Vaping Industry Association.

Andrew McConnell is taking on an expanded role as head of media and external affairs at the UK Civil Aviation Authority. Juniour Blake is meanwhile joining the CAA as external affairs lead after a spell with the Rail Delivery Group. Former Department for Transport spinner Robert Crawford is the CAA’s new media lead after two years at the Office of Rail and Road.

Hannah Galley — formerly of the No.10 press office and an ex-aide to Tory MPs Julian Smith and David Burrowes — joined Portland. Her most recent gig was media manager at Tesco.

Jobs jobs jobs: Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch is after a public policy manager amid “high levels of legislative and regulatory activity” … Agency Grayling‘s on the lookout for an associate director, public affairs … The Electoral Commission needs a senior comms officer … Lynton Crosby’s lobbying shop C|T Group, which opened a North of England office last year, is looking for a manager … Agency Public First is expanding — with a bunch of jobs up for grabs.

SPOTTED: Happy tenth birthday to Women in Public Affairs, the network flying the flag for female Westminster influence pros which celebrated with a House of Lords bash starting at PRECISELY THE MOMENT the Cabinet started falling apart. Turnout was strong nonetheless.

Among those celebrating while also constantly checking phones were: Lib Dem peer and host Baroness Garden of Frognal … women and equalities select committee chair Caroline Nokes … Transport special adviser Jess Webb and justice SpAd Jack Worlidge … Former SpAd and 5654 founder James Starkie … Women in Public Affairs chair Charlotte Adamson … WiPA Founders Laura Gilmore and Ella Fallows … WiPA exec members Tiffany Burrows, Lizzy Tomlin, Victoria McNish, Anna Harling, Anne Mirkovic, Madison Rogers, Louise Abraham and Laura Gabb … Ex WiPA chair Laura Sainsbury … Opinium CEO James Endersby … Polimonitor boss Sam Cunningham … Agency founders Emily Wallace and Vanessa PineRachael Clamp, former chair of the CIPR Public Affairs Group. Here’s to ten more.

Thanks: Journalism is a team effort! Thanks to editor Kate Day and the POLITICO production legends for getting it over the line.

This newsletter was updated to correct a typo in the subject line caused by a mixture of tiredness and author idiocy.

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