"Generals for hire" - yet another lobbying scandal

A Sunday Times investigation has secretly filmed former generals boasting about lobbying to win multi-million-pound defence deals for arms firms.

A Sunday Times investigation has secretly filmed top-ranking retired generals boasting about their lobbying ability when it comes to helping arms firms secure multi-million-pound defence contracts.

Individuals like Falklands war hero Lieutenant-General Sir John Kiszely, Lieutenant-General Richard Applegate and Lord Dannatt were filmed bragging about their access to ministers. Several said it was possible to "ignore" the rules banning recently retired service personnel from lobbying or deals that are in official "purdah".

One detail that stands out in particular is the fact that Lord Dannatt met the undercover journalists at his private lodging in the Tower of London - where the front door is guarded by a beefeater.

Defence secretary Philip Hammond has launched an investigation into the claims, saying the allegations are serious, but insisting that these retired generals wield "no influence". The individuals in question have denied wrongdoing.

It's another great undercover scoop by the Sunday Times, in the style of the sting that caught out former Conservative treasurer Peter Cruddas, who was filmed boasting that he could provide access to the prime minister in return for donations.

Whether or not serious wrongdoing is uncovered, the bragging of these generals (or the "galloping greed of the old warhorses" in the Sunday Times superb phrase) conforms to an overall impression that a lot of money and undue influence is wielded behind the scenes in Whitehall. The cloud under which former defence secretary Liam Fox left the department a year ago contributes to this.

David Cameron has repeatedly vowed to "clean up Parliament". The more stories like this emerge, the more people will doubt his ability, or even will, to keep that promise.

 

Former British Army head Richard Dannatt. Photograph: Getty Images

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.