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Attack of the spads

Big Tech is building its very own ‘new boys’ network’ out of former special advisers, reveals SOLOMON HUGHES

LAST month I wrote about Google lobbyists being all over the Tory conference, showing how Big Tech is lobbying against tax rises and more regulation.

Google was following the three basic techniques for big corporates to persuade and pressure government. They are: (1) hire political insiders, (2) promise self-regulation to head off real regulation and (3) promise/threaten to give/take jobs and investment.

Soon after I wrote that, Google’s fellow Big Tech firm Facebook did a big “insider hire,” buying former deputy PM Nick Clegg.

You might think Clegg is a loser, who helped break his party by getting into a coalition bed with the Tories, but Clegg is one of the group that wrote the pro-market, pro-privatisation “Orange Book” in 2004. The “Orange Book” LibDems shifted the party rightwards until they went into coalition with the Tories. It screwed their party  but opened up their careers.

Thanks to his politics and time in government, Clegg has good connections with Tories, with New Labour pro-privatisation types and with European centrist politicians and regulators. He is especially useful to help Facebook face of Euro-level regulations.

Clegg is one of many who hitched their wagon to political parties and are now riding off to help the big corporations fight off regulation and taxation.

Clegg is joining Baron Allan of Hallam, who is Facebook “vice president, policy solutions.” Baron Allan used to be plain old Richard Allan, the LibDem MP who sat in the same Sheffield seat Nick Clegg later won and lost. Clegg is also joining Karim Palant, who is Facebook’s “UK public policy manager.” Palant was Ed Ball’s “head of policy” from 2011-2015.

Another David Cameron special adviser, Rishi Saha, was Facebook’s “head of public policy”. However, he left to become Amazon’s “director ofpublic olicy” just as that firm faces charges over low taxation and poor workplace rights.

All the Big Tech firms are trying to buy “likes” and get those smiley emoticons from politicians by hiring political insiders to become their lobbyists and spokespeople. They are equally happy to buy New Labour, LibDem and Tory faces.

Consider what happens to New Labour special advisers when they don’t feel so special or wanted any more.

Labour was solidly New Labour for a couple of decades. There was a solid career path for the bright young Brownites and Blairites to bounce along — special advisers (SpAds) could look forward to becoming MPs, then ministers and then leaving to join corporate boards, but the rise of Corbyn has made a great big fissure open up along that career path. So how to cash in? Join Big Tech.


Alex Belardinelli was SpAd and head of communications for Ed Balls for a decade up to 2015. He also worked for Tom Watson MP and other Labour figures.

Since October 2015 he has been the UK & Northern Europe “head of communications” for Uber. While trade unionists are trying to get app-based cab firm to treat its workers right and stop the phoney “self-employed” status that keeps them out of the minimum wage and all kinds of other regulation, former Labour head office man Joe is their top spin doctor.

Most of the Big Tech firms buy a pick‘n’mix of ex-Tory and ex-Labour staff, so Alex Belardinelli works alongside Lottie Dominiczak, UK “head of communications” for Uber. Dominiczak is a long-term Tory staffer, most recently SpAd to Matt Hancock at the Departments of Health and of Culture.


Joe Carberry was head of research for the whole Labour Party from 2015-7. Before that he was a SpAd for David Miliband. Since June 2017, Carberry has been “director of corporate communications” for Deliveroo.

While trade unionists are trying to get the app-based food delivery firm to treat its workers right and stop the phoney “self-employed” status that keeps them out of the minimum wage and many other regulations, former Labour Head Office man Joe is their top spin doctor.

Carberry is in a Labour-Tory coalition at Deliveroo. He works under Thea Rogers, Deliveroo’s “vice president of global communications.” Previously, Rogers was SpAd to Tory chancellor George Osborne. Robert Oxley, who was SpAd to defence secretary Michael Fallon and then head of “comms” for the “Vote Leave” campaign works with them both as Deliveroo’s UK “head of corporate communications.”


Google has hired Tim Chatwin as its “director of communications EMEA” (EMEA means Europe, Middle East and Africa).

He was previously David Cameron’s SpAd and “head of strategic communications.” It also hired Naomi Gummer, who was SpAd to Jeremy Hunt when he was health secretary and has many family connections throughout the Tory Party as its “head of policy UK & Ireland.”

From Labour, Google hired Theo Bertram as its “senior manager, Public Policy EMEA.” Bertram was a SpAd for Blair and Brown in the New Labour years. Google also hired Katie O’Donovan, a SpAd for Blair and David Miliband as UK “public policy manager.”

Big Tech might try to look modern and disruptive, but its buying of friends is the oldest trick in the book.


Boris’s latest Sugar Daddy

BORIS JOHNSON has a new sugar daddy — Hedge fund multimillionaire Jon Wood has given him £50k to run his office. Boris needs a well-funded office to do all the hard work and he just lost his ministerial support.

Wood tells you all you need to know about the kind of “capitalism” behind Boris. Jon Wood invested heavily in Northern Rock just before the building society collapsed in 2008, at the start of the financial crisis. Northern Rock had to be nationalised to save it and Wood’s bad investment was written off. So he has tried to sue the taxpayer not once but three times, demanding we refund his failed investment.

All three of the legal cases – one at the European Court of Human Rights – failed. Thankfully the courts don’t think we should pay millions for his mistakes.

Wood argued that the Bank of England should have offered huge loans to Northern Rock so his investment would have been safe. He says the Bank of England governor did not because of an "obsession with moral hazard."

Moral Hazard is when investors try make money on ridiculously risky stuff because they think they’ll always get bailed out, but it also sounds like a good alternative name for Boris Johnson himself.


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