Tuesday, 21 August 2018

A grim anniversary

Fifty years ago we in the West heard the depressing news that the Prague Spring had been crushed by the forces of the USSR. From the University of Luxembourg’s CVCE.eu:

The Communist Party had held power in Czechoslovakia since the 1948 Prague coup. In January 1968, the Stalinist Antonin Novotný was overruled and replaced by Alexander Dubček, a liberal Communist who sought to reconcile Socialism and freedom. The liberalisation of the regime began in the spring of 1968. Censorship was abolished, and Czech citizens were permitted to travel abroad. The First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), Leonid Brezhnev, expressed his dissatisfaction, but Prague refused to comply. In fact, as the pressure increased, so did the liberalisation. On 21 August 1968, troops from the Warsaw Pact countries, with the exception of Romania, took advantage of extended training operations to invade Czechoslovakia and arrest the ‘deviant’ leaders. Although Dubček retained his post for a while after his release, he was soon to be replaced by the pro-Soviet Gustáv Husák, who oversaw a return to normality. 

The USSR had demonstrated once more that it would grant only limited sovereignty to its Socialist brothers. The Western powers and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) reacted to the invasion of Czechoslovakia only with declarations of regret.

In those days, the US and UK were all too ready to accept the doctrine of "spheres of influence", but even today - apart from a few pinpricks of sanctions - we seem unwilling to annoy Russia when president Putin sanctions expansion of Russia into former Soviet territory.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Progress on patient records in Bridgend

A Liberal Democrat 1992 manifesto commitment is being implemented incrementally in ABMU this century.

The relevant paragraph from the manifesto is:

Real choice in health care. We will introduce an effeict Patient's Charter, including rights to hospital treatment within a specified time, a choice of GP, guaranteed access to health records, and a comprehensive no-fault compensation scheme. We will require health authorities to publish a Charter of Services, defining basic entitlements, and provide redress where these are not satisfied. We will establish a new National Inspectorate for Health to guarantee a quality service.

Since then, we have had advances in IT which have put a computer in the pocket of any possessor of a smartphone. So software which has already been used in 30 hospitals across England, including Great Ormond Street in London, has been introduced to ten departments in the Princess of Wales hospital in Bridgend. after a trial in dermatology at Singleton and urology in Morriston. There are more details here.

What is available to those patients now goes beyond the dreams of the drafters of the manifesto, but sadly none of the other aspirations is closer to realisation, either side of the border.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Lobbying part five of five.

This is the fifth set of  names from the Cusick/Milmo article of 2011 referred to on Monday. These firms are still listed by the ORCL. Links are to Powerbase entries, where these exist.

Cicero Communications is now Cicero Consulting. Director Iain Anderson had worked for several Conservatives, including Kenneth Clarke.
Clients in 2011 included HSBC, Fidelity, RBS, GE, Aegon, Invesco, Prudential, PWC, Goldman Sachs, AXA, Scottish Widows, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays

Global Government Relations Seemingly, the most EU-friendly firm in this survey, it is the lobbying arm of multi-national law firm DLA Piper. Tim Clement-Jones, Liberal Democrat peer, founded the firm and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, who had worked for EU commissioners, was a partner until she left for the US law firm Dechert in October 2011.  The head of media was Eben Black, a former political correspondent for the Press Association and thereafter various newspapers in the Murdoch empire. He moved on to Newgate in 2013.
No public list of clients in 2011

Politics Direct;is now Brevia Consulting. The managing director was David Beamer, former advisor to the Conservative party, who had worked with 8 Secretaries of State. He was assisted by
Clients included British Energy, EDF, Nokia, T-Mobile, Lilly, Alliance and Leicester and Allied Domecq.

Portland Managing Director Tim Allen worked for Tony Blair in opposition and in Downing Street. George Eustice MP had worked there as well as Henry de Zoete, adviser to Michael Gove, Education Secretary at the time.
Clients included Apple, Association of British Bookmakers, British Bankers Association, Cable and Wireless, Gazprom, Google, McDonald's, NSPCC, Tesco, Government of Russia, Virgin Media and Vodafone.


What has emerged from this exercise? Firstly, the amorality of most of these firms. Lobbyists are happy to work for charities and companies with a high public reputation as well as tax-dodgers, would-be monopolists and oppressive governments. Most are equipped to work both sides of the political street, government and opposition. The detailed Powerbase entries show that nothing has changed in seven years.

Secondly, the revolving door, drawn attention to by both Powerbase and Private Eye, spins merrily in spite of the supposed oversight of ACoBA. It seems to this cynical observer that the more senior the MP, civil servant, Special Advisor or company director, the fewer obstacles are placed in his or her way in or out of government circles and related areas of vested interest.

Thirdly, either firms exaggerated the strength of their client list (what, lobbying and PR organisations stretching the truth??) or the big corporations hedge their bets by employing several lobbyists at the same time.

So the next time that government resists a progressive proposal or takes a controversial decision favouring a particular industry or company, it is worth looking for possible lobbying links.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Lobbying part four of five

This is the fourth set of  names from the Cusick/Milmo article of 2011 referred to on Monday. These firms are still listed by the ORCL. Links are to Powerbase entries, where these exist.

Hill and Knowlton was another company which grew big on the back of the US tobacco industry. It is now part of WPP. Paul Sinclair, a former adviser to Labour ministers Douglas Alexander and Gordon Brown according to Cusick and Milmo (though this does not show on his Bloomberg or Linkedin profiles), was and is head of public affairs there. Oliver Dowden, Conservative MP for Hertsmere and a former aide to David Cameron worked there in 2011.
Clients included Aviva, Intercontinental Hotels, Johnson & Johnson, Serious Fraud Office, Statoil and Visa

Interel Consulting UK Part of the wider multinational Interel Group, it was founded by Andrew Dunlop (now Lord Dunlop) who had been at various times an advisor to Mrs Thatcher, to the Ministry of Defence and at Conservative Central Office.
2011 clients included Agusta Westland, Qinetiq, Rio Tinto, Virgin Atlantic and Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Quiller Consultants had been co-founded in 1998 by John Eisenhammer and Jonathan Hill. The latter went on to become David Cameron's choice of an EU commissioner and is now Baron Hill of Oareford. Others on the payroll in 2011 were Stephen Parkinson, another former Cameron aide, Malcolm Morton a former parliamentary assistant (though not a PPS, as Cusick/Milmo incorrectly stated)  and now Public Affairs Manager at Pension Protection Fund and John Slinger, a former aide and researcher for Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd. Slinger moved to Hanover Communications in 2014.
Clients included Experian, HSBC, UAE, PWC (the former Price Waterhouse Cooper), Capita Group and the City of London Corporation.

Sovereign Strategy founded by Alan Donnelly, a former leader of the Labour group in the European Parliament and a friend of David Miliband, made and continues to make much of its Labour links.
Clients included Bloomberg, FIA, the government of Iceland and Huawei.

Tetra Strategy was founded by James O'Keefe, "a former Labour Party staffer and Bell Pottinger director, and Lee Petar, one of the founding directors of BICOM (Britain Israel Communications Centre)". In 2011, they had recently recruited Julie Kirkbride, former MP and wife of Andrew MacKay (see Burson Marsteller in Tuesday's episode).
Clients named in 2011 were Amec, Cellcrypt, Media Matters for America, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Toyota and Ultralase.

TLG Communications formerly The Ledbury Group and now part of FTI Consulting was and is directed by Malcolm Gooderham, former adviser and press secretary to Michael Portillo. Jonathan Oliver, formerly political editor of The Sunday Times, had joined in 2010 but was to move on in 2011 to the Prudential as group director of media relations.
Clients included Asda, BT, Centrica, the Criminal Bar Association, FlyBe, Honda and the Prudential.

Weber Shandwick the UK subsidiary of Weber Shandwick Worldwide, one of the biggest global PR companies (owned by Interpublic), continues to have strong ties to the Labour Party through its CEO Colin Byrne, a former press officer for the party. However, it had numbered Priti Patel before her election as a Conservative MP and also employed Alex Deane, former chief of staff to David Cameron, and Tara Hamilton-Miller, a former Conservative press officer. Tamora Langley, who had been a Liberal Democrat candidate in the 2010 general election, was head of public affairs until June 2015, when she left to set up her own company. Of Miss Hamilton-Miller, there is no trace after a report of her promotion within the company in 2009.
In addition to the clients listed by Powerbase, Cusick/Milmo cite Asda, Associated Newspapers, Barclays, Bausch+Lomb, Mastercard, Mercedes-Benz and npower.

Westbourne Communications was very Conservative-orientated in 2011, with director James Bethell having worked on David Cameron's party leadership campaign and employing Campbell Storey, former chief of staff to Chris Grayling,  Maurice Cousins, former researcher on Iain Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Cohesion, and Dan Large, a former aide to Edward Timpson MP. The firm was sold to Cicero Communications (of which more tomorrow) earlier this year. All are still with Westbourne, though Storey has set up a separate coaching enterprise.
No client list was published in 2011.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Lobbying, part three of five

This is the third set of  names from the Cusick/Milmo article of 2011 referred to on Monday. These firms are still listed by the ORCL. Links are to Powerbase entries, where these exist.

Finsbury Roland Rudd, who was a friend of Peter Mandelson, and Simon Moyse, former adviser to Gordon Brown at the Treasury, were the prime movers in 2011 and are still with the company. Roland is the son of failed stockbroker Tony Rudd and therefore brother of Amber Rudd MP, disgraced former Home Secretary.
Clients then included BSkyB, Vodafone and Boots

Fleishman-Hillard's senior people included Henry Featherstone, former advisor to Conservative MPs including Francis Maude and Sophie Pim, former aide to David Cameron. Featherstone is now director of public affairs at pharmaceutical multi-national Sanofi.
2011 clients included American Pharmaceutical Group, British Insurance Brokers Association, JP Morgan, Marks and Spencer, Pfizer and Scottish Power.

Global Counsel Lord Mandelson's baby, formed with his aide Benjamin Wegg Prosser, a former director of strategic communications for Tony Blair. There was no public list of clients in 2011.

Hanover Communications Charles Lewington, former press secretary to John Major, founded the company. Laura Chisholm, now Laura Swire, a former adviser in Conservative Central Office, is still with the company. James Gurling, brother-in-law of the the late Charles Kennedy, who worked there in 2011, is now with MHP Communications but took time off to run the Liberal Democrat campaign for the 2017 general election.
Clients included Association of British Insurers, BSkyB, Goldman Sachs, Hewlett Packard, Jaguar Land Rover, Nomura and Santander.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Lobbying part two of five

This is the second set of  names from the Cusick/Milmo article of 2011 referred to yesterday. These firms were still listed by the ORCL in 2017. Links are to Powerbase entries, where these exist.

ACPO Worldwide  was born out of the US tobacco industry. Its UK arm had strong Labour connections in 2011. Employees included Darren Murphy, former adviser to Alan Milburn, and Razi Rahman, a former Blair aide. Murphy and Rahman went on to found Centreground (see below) which was bought out in 2014 by Bell Pottinger (see below).
2011 clients included British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers, eBay, GE, Microsoft, Netjets, EuropePfizer and RBS

Bell Pottinger is now in administration after exposure of its unethical activities in South Africa.
2011 clients included Axa, Nomura, Blackstone, Kellogg's and Pizza Express

Brunswick was founded by Alan Parker, financial PR guru. Cusick/Milmo report him as being godfather to one of Gordon Brown's sons, that David Cameron attended his 50th birthday party and that Blair attended his wedding. Mike Girling, who had been press aide to Nick Clegg, worked for Brunswick before moving on to work for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Pakistan.
2011 clients included BA, BT and Blue Circle

Burson Marsteller, once the largest PR company in the world, is part of the WPP group and as a result of a merger earlier this year is now Burson Cohn & Wolfe. The chief executive in the UK in 2011 was Matt Carter, former general secretary of the Labour party. Former Conservative MP Andrew MacKay was also on the strength. Carter went on to found Message House in 2013.
2011 clients included Bacardi Martini, Danone, Heineken, Lloyds Banking Group and Pilkington.

Centreground Political Communications picked up Jonathan Powell, Chief of Staff in 10 Downing Street in the Blair years and controversial Labour spin doctor Adrian McMenamin. Bell Pottinger took the company over in 2014. No clients were listed by Cusick/Milmo in 2011.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Anu Garg gets political -

 - as Trump, Bannon and their followers over here would have it. I see it as the excellent A.Word.a.Day website expressing concern about the abuse of the English language by those (temporarily, one hopes) in power.

George Orwell predicted it. It’s just that his numbers were a little off. Instead of 1984, it happened some 30 years later (perhaps Orwell didn’t have access to a computer fast enough to precisely account for the retrograde motion of Jupiter).

Anyway, compare:

“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
(US President, July 24, 2018)

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
(Orwell in 1984)

In this new reality, real news is fake, faux (also spelled as Fox) news is real.

As an homage to Orwell, this week we’ll feature five words he coined in the novel 1984 that are now a part of the English language.


(NOO-speek, NYOO-) 

noun: Deliberately ambiguous or euphemistic language used for propaganda.

Coined by George Orwell in his novel 1984. Newspeak was the official language of Oceania. Earliest documented use: 1949.

Oldspeak is the opposite of newspeak. For example, in 1984, the oldspeak “labor camp” is called a newspeak “joycamp”. But you don’t have to go to fiction to find newspeak.

What is “torture” in oldspeak becomes “interrogation”, or even better, “enhanced interrogation” in newspeak. While “waterboarding” itself is newspeak -- no, it’s not a water sport -- they go one step further and couch it as “enhanced interrogation”. As if in regular interrogation one is suffocated with regular water while waterboarding, but in enhanced they use nothing less than Evian.

“In current newspeak, limiting compensation for unfair dismissal is described as a ‘brave reform’, whereas limiting the gains from stock options that an executive may receive through such firings is seen as demagoguery.”
Alain Supiot; A Labour Code for the 21st Century; Le Monde Diplomatique, English ed. (Paris, France); May 2018. 

See more usage examples of newspeak in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.