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23 March 2010

Lobbying scandal: the Rory Bremner connection

How another Channel 4 show got caught up in the affair -- and how the Tories were warned off.

By James Macintyre

Hats off to my Press Gallery colleague Michael Savage at the Independent, who has just tweeted to point out that a story in the Mail on Sunday on 13 March gave an interesting insight into the lobbying scandal to come.

Under the headline “Tory MPs turn tables on TV bid to lure them into fake lobbying jobs”, the story says:

Five Conservative MPs were invited to meetings with a lobbying company which offered them £35,000 a year for just a few days’ work a year if they agreed to exploit their links with friends in a future Tory government.

At least two of the MPs attended the meetings, where they were asked to use their influence to help a drugs company.

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The lobbying company, Anderson Perry Associates, was given a sophisticated front.

Its London offices were hired by the hour, and the phone number for its Californian branch was bought from a “call-forwarding” service, which diverted inquiries back to the UK.

It has a website describing it as “a bespoke consultancy that helps organisations and individuals maximise and exceed expectation”, and boasts of advising “more than 120 clients in Europe, the Middle East and United States” — although it fails to identify any of them on the grounds of confidentiality.

Last night, after the Mail on Sunday established that the company was set up last month by a producer who works on Mr Bremner’s programmes for Channel 4, the Tories accused the station of a “desperate waste of money”.

The producer of this show, it appears, was also working on the Dispatches programme that was working on the exposure of Byers et al. Luckily for the Tories, one of the MPs the show approached — Julie Kirkbride — warned Conservative HQ and the party in turn emailed its MPs to warn them not to mess about with TV producers seeking lobbying stories.

Labour wasn’t so lucky, despite this rather wonderful pay-off in the MoS piece:

“A spokesman for the Labour Party said he did not think that any of its MPs had been approached by Anderson Perry.”

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