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The Likely Labour MPs Who Lobbied Against Key Party Policies – Amid Concerns of ‘Whole New Raft of Scandals’

Prospective Labour candidates have worked as lobbyists for trade bodies and companies that will have a vested interests in shifting the party’s key election pledges in government

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks to party supporters in Bollington, Cheshire, while on the General Election campaign trail on June 27. Photo: PA Images / Alamy
Labour Leader Keir Starmer on the 2024 General Election campaign trail. Photo: PA/Alamy

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Several of Labour’s future MPs have worked as lobbyists for groups affected by, or opposed to, many of the party’s flagship election policies, Byline Times can reveal.

The findings have sparked concerns that companies or trade groups that have a vested interest in shifting those election pledges may have undue access to the next government.

One of Labour’s biggest pledges is to end tax breaks for private schools and the sector’s discount on business rates.

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) – a trade body for UK private schools – has been one of the most vocal opponents of the plan in the media, with its chief executive Julie Robinson saying: “Headteachers have been telling us that nearly every prospective parent is asking about VAT. The concern is palpable.”

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‘There is a long history of industry leaders and lobbyists becoming politicians. In principle, this can be beneficial – but rarely is’

Labour’s policy is estimated to raise £1.5 billion, and the party hopes to use it to help fund its plans for the state education sector, including recruiting 6,500 new teachers. The ISC has insisted that the policy will lead to a damaging exodus of private school pupils into the state system.

Olivia Bailey, the Labour parliamentary candidate in Reading West and Mid Berkshire, works for Public First. Jack Abbott, who is running for Labour in Ipswich, works for PLMR.

Both lobbying firms list the ISC among their clients. 

PLMR was founded by Labour super-donor and fellow election candidate Kevin Craig, who was suspended by the party last week after it was revealed that he had bet on himself to lose the election in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.

Another Labour policy is to extend and broaden the windfall tax on the oil and gas industries, a move that has been virulently opposed by industry figures who have said it would risk job losses.

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“We’ve heard a lot in the campaign about D-Day. If ever there was a time to fight them on the beaches, then this is it.”

At least two of Labour’s prospective MPs – Jade Botterill and Polly Billington – currently work for lobbying firms that represent oil and gas giants. 

Billington’s employer, Hanover, represents American oil giant Valero; while Botterill’s employer, Portland, represents BP, which recorded a profit of £11 billion in 2023, its second highest in a decade behind only the year before.

Portland’s clients also include Southern Water – the private water company that in 2021 recorded a record £90 million fine for deliberately dumping billions of litres of raw sewage into protected seas.

Meanwhile, former Labour MP and current Great Grimsby candidate Melanie Onn works for Blakeney, which, until recently, worked for Pennon Group – the parent company of South West Water.

Both companies would be heavily affected by the party’s announced plans to increase fines for sewage spills, ban executives from receiving bonuses, and end all self-monitoring of sewage outfalls by companies.

Motherwell, Wishaw and Carluke Labour parliamentary candidate, Pamela Nash, is on an election advisory board for lobbying firm, 56 Degrees North. Its clients include the private train sector group the Rail Industry Association, which would be heavily affected by Labour’s pledge to renationalise most UK rail services.

Susan Hawley, executive director of Spotlight on Corruption, told Byline Times that a “whole new raft of scandals around MPs” would occur if former lobbyist MPs allow their former clients to “get privileged access” to them or other government decision-makers.

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“New MPs will need to be especially mindful of the very real risk of conflicts of interest if they put their skills to the use of the private interests in their contact book rather than the public interest of their constituents,” she said.

“It will also be important that former lobbyists in a new Parliament use their experience to support the rapid roll-out of desperately needed lobbying reform and transparency, and don’t block it in the interests of their former trade.”

The Labour Party and the candidates mentioned in this article did not respond to a request for comment.


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