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3 July 2024

Revealed: the 103 professional lobbyists standing in the 2024 general election

In the 2024 general election, a lobbyist is 27 times more likely than a teacher to be a candidate.

By Will Dunn

With additional reporting by Megan Kenyon, George Monaghan, Jonny Ball, Samir Jeraj and Sarah Dawood

Whatever the result of Thursday’s general election, the voters of Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven will return a professional lobbyist to parliament. The most likely future MP for the seat is Chris Ward, a former adviser to Keir Starmer who has since January 2022 been a director of Hanbury Strategy. Hanbury is a registered lobbying firm whose clients, during the time that Ward has been a director, have included Royal Mail, the US private equity giant Blackstone, the frozen-food company McCain, the Israeli oil and gas company Navitas and UnHerd Ventures, which is owned by the GB News investor Paul Marshall.

Second place in Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven is likely to go to the Conservative candidate, Khobi Patterson-Vallis – also the director of a registered lobbying firm, Hanover Communications. “Khobi provides strategic political counsel to Hanover’s clients,” her entry on Hanover’s website reads, helping businesses to create “public affairs strategies and campaigns to work with the UK Government and Parliament in an effective manner”. Hanover’s lobbying clients in the past year have included the American Pharmaceutical Group, the multinational oil company Prax, the British Horseracing Authority and Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG, which is currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

Lobbying is perfectly legal and there is no suggestion that Ward, Patterson-Vallis or any of the candidates referred to in this article would put the interests of their former clients ahead of their constituents if they were elected.

However, a New Statesman investigation has found that at least 103 professional lobbyists are standing as candidates in the 2024 general election. This suggests the lobbying industry is significantly over-represented when compared with other professions.

Lobbyists outnumber teachers by more than four to one, for example. Relative to the size of their industry, a lobbyist is 27 times more likely to stand for parliament than a teacher.

If all of the 103 candidates were to be elected, nearly one in six MPs in the next parliament would have come from a background in professional lobbying.

Our investigation involved searching publicly available information – such as company websites, councillors’ registers of interests and LinkedIn profiles – for the employment information of all 1,848 candidates standing for the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.

We define a “lobbyist” as someone who works in public affairs, government relations or strategic communications. This could be third-party lobbying (also known as “consultant” lobbying), or in-house public affairs at a company, charity or other organisation.

We used the lobbying registers maintained by the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) and the EU’s lobbying transparency register to identify companies that either lobby on behalf of others or which contract these services. We have not included candidates who work in PR, marketing or communications unless their role appears to include advocating to government on their employers’ or clients’ behalf, or commissioning others to do so.

In many cases, candidates clearly identify their work as advocating to government on behalf of their employers. “I work closely with public affairs colleagues to create communications strategies that help drive home our lobbying goals,” writes Tom Holder, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Coventry North West, in his LinkedIn profile. Angeliki Stogia, the Labour candidate for Chester South and Eddisbury, describes her work as “helping organisations understand and influence public policy”, while Alexandra Herdman, the Conservative candidate for Airdrie and Shotts, writes that she “influences government decisions” on behalf of her employer, a major business group.

Among the 103 lobbyists identified are people who work (or have until recently worked) in public affairs for significant companies and industries, although this may not immediately be clear to voters. Andy Cregan, the Lib Dem candidate for Blackpool South, is the head of public affairs for British Gas, the UK’s biggest energy supplier. Cregan, who describes himself on LinkedIn as “an astute lobbyist”, doesn’t name his employer in his election leaflet. Similarly, Jilleane Brown, Conservative candidate for Luton North, doesn’t find space on her election website to mention that until October 2023 she was a public affairs officer for the Betting and Gaming Council, a lobby group for the UK’s £14bn gambling industry. Both Cregan and Brown list their employment histories clearly on their LinkedIn pages, however.

Less transparent are the connections between candidates who work for “consultant” lobbying firms and the clients they represent. We know that three Conservative candidates (Tom Pridham in Battersea, Andrew Johnson in Whitehaven and Workington, and Alex Deane in Finchley and Golders Green) are senior employees at FTI Consulting, and we know from the PRCA register that the 73 clients to which FTI has provided public affairs services in the last three months include BAE Systems, Meta, Drax, Japan Tobacco, Macquarie Group, Palantir, Water UK and others, but it’s not clear which if any of these clients the candidates have worked with.

Similarly, we know that alongside Chris Ward in Brighton, two other Labour candidates (Joe Morris in Hexham and Hannah Dawson in Winchester) are associate directors at Hanbury, and again the PRCA register can tell us that Hanbury’s public affairs clients in the last three months have included Sopra Steria (the IT company that runs the Ministry of Defence payroll systems which were hacked in May), the public transport company Arriva, and Flutter, the world’s largest gambling company. However, we do not know what role, if any, the Labour candidates may have had in providing services to these clients.

FTI and Hanbury are not the only professional lobbying firms to employ multiple MP candidates. Atticus Partners (whose founder, Leon Cook, is the Conservative candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood) has two candidates, as do Burson, Grayling Communications, Flint Global and PLMR. The small world of professional lobbying firms, whose work is concentrated largely within a single London postcode, is fielding more candidates in the 2024 general election than the entire medical profession.

One side of the revolving door between politics and private enterprise is relatively well scrutinised. Departing ministers and civil servants must tell the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) if their new jobs are relevant, and while Acoba’s powers are limited, they do at least exist. Notable examples of post-parliamentary lobbying, such as David Cameron’s work for Greensill, have produced unwanted headlines.

On the other side of the revolving door – from the private sector into the corridors of power – there are no standards for transparency, there is no regulator, and there is very little public scrutiny of the work being done by the people now planning to become the MPs and ministers of tomorrow.

Again, there is no implication that a conflict of interest exists for any of the candidates discussed above, or listed in our table of candidates, which you can view in full below. Seven of the candidates listed conduct public affairs or government relations work for charities, and three for trades unions, and in advocating to government for good causes or workers' rights they may well have the support of their prospective constituents. Most, however, work for private businesses, or organisations that represent them, or lobbying firms that take them on as clients.

The UK has one of the most lightly regulated lobbying environments of any advanced economy; only certain activities are regulated, and our lobbying rules are codes of conduct rather than statutory regulations. Trust in politics and politicians, as measured by both the British Social Attitudes survey and the Ipsos Veracity Index, is at a four-decade low. Any party wishing to return trust in its power structures should start by seeking to increase transparency, and here is a good place to start: on the dark side of the revolving door.

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