"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.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.