Skip to main content

The Labour Party becomes the Lobbyists Party

SOLOMON HUGHES probes the reprised role of Lexington Communications – key player in the 1999 cash-for-access scandal

IF YOU want to see an example of how the Labour Party under “moderate” leadership becomes the Lobbyists Party, there are plenty you could pick.

Let’s take Lexington Communications. It is a useful example because it was also involved in the New Labour government’s 1999 “cash-for-access” scandal. It seems very likely we will see a repeat of this scandal if/when a new Labour government forms in 2024.

Lexington is a lobbying firm that promises to help corporations “influence decision-makers and stakeholders, and shape the world in which our clients operate.”

To help it “influence decision-makers” for its clients, Lexington has been hiring former advisers to Tory ministers and other key Tory insiders for some years.

With the prospect of a Labour government becoming much more likely, Lexington has been hiring Labour “insiders.” It offers clients help from a “team including former Conservative and Labour advisers.”

The Labour “moderates,” the pro-market rightwingers who now have a hold on the Labour Party, are supplying Lexington’s new staff.

Ben Nunn was Keir Starmer’s chief of staff, and a key figure in his sound-left-shift-right party leadership. Nunn joined Lexington back in October 2021.

This January Joe Vinson, a former aide to Labour shadow minister Wes Streeting, also joined Lexington. Vinson also spent quite a lot of time working for Progressive Britain — the Labour right organisation formerly known as Progress.

Vinson has also worked as a lobbyist for other companies before joining Lexington. His online CV on the LinkedIn platform gives a good idea of how he sees lobbying working. 

He says he has “utilised networks across Parliament to secure important meetings for clients with ministerial, shadow ministerial, select committee chairs, and MPs,” claiming his lobbying has resulted in “policy changes.”

Vinson describes one of his pre-Lexington lobbying campaigns as having “created and delivered a crisis stakeholder engagement plan for a UK water company facing increasing criticism of its performance on sewage spills from the public, regulators, and politicians” — so he has stood up for a private water firm, most likely South West Water and its owner Pennon, as they are rightly lambasted for squeezing cash out of the water system while pouring filth into British rivers. Working for reviled private water operators is something of a rite-of-passage for key Labour “moderates.”

Mary Creagh, a Labour MP who lost her seat in 2019, also joined Lexington in April 2020, to run its “responsible business” market — meaning helping corporations look like they are socially responsible.

Lexington is now telling corporate clients: “There is now the very real prospect of a change in government at the next general election and the first Labour administration in nearly two decades,” and it can help corporations influence any new government because “we understand the Labour Party better than anyone else.

“Lexington’s expertise and public affairs team is grounded in years of advising the Labour Party at the most senior level, including former advisers to Keir Starmer and the shadow cabinet. We can help you to shape a Labour tomorrow.”

What corporations will Lexington help “shape a Labour tomorrow”?

Their current clients include United Utilities, the private water firm paying a £300 million dividend to shareholders while pouring sewage into Lake Windermere. 

They also represent drug giants like Pfizer, supermarket giant Tesco and sugary confectionery maker Mars. 

Lexington also represents several private housebuilders — including those whose owners are Tory donors like Bloor Homes and Berkeley Homes, or who have senior Tories on the board, like Taylor Wimpey. Housebuilders who back the Tories also seem to believe they can get some Labour influence by hiring Lexington.

Lexington was actually created by a former Labour member of staff Mike Craven in 1998. Craven was John Prescott’s adviser and the Labour Party chief media spokesperson. 

With a New Labour government, Craven set up his lobbying firm Lexington in 1998. Craven was named in relation to the “cash-for-access” scandal that hit the new government, as he and many other former insiders became lobbyists offering to help corporations influence the Labour government. 

Back then his clients included BA, Serco and Metronet, a firm in the massive, failed Tube privatisation. His clients got help winning over the government, we got stuck with their dismal privatisations. 

All the signs are  this scandal will very quickly repeat itself if and when Starmer’s corporate-friendly, lobbyist-linked Labour government is elected.

Water UK and Ruth Kelly

RUTH KELLY, head of Water UK, the trade body for private water industry, was widely criticised for her crocodile-tears apology over unchecked pollution by the firms. Especially when people read the small print on her promise that water companies would now invest £10 billion fixing sewage overflows.

The water firms were going to borrow the cash they should have spent on infrastructure years ago and charge it back from higher bills for customers, not from the dividends they keep extracting for shareholders. 

Kelly is a former “New Labour” minister. Water UK was likely attracted by two strengths this gives her when she was appointed this March to represent the increasingly criticised companies. 

First, she has the “New Labour” skill of appearing to offer business-led reform which actually ends up charging the public, a la PFI. 

Second, her new job makes clear that if an (increasingly likely) future Labour government goes easy on water, ministers can expect  post-government careers with the industry. Kelly doesn’t walk alone on the Labour-to-private water path. 

Former “New Labour” environment minister Ian Pearson still sits on the Thames Water board, while anti-Corbyn “rebel” MP Angela Smith got a job on  Portsmouth Water after her Change UK breakaway party collapsed.

However, while hiring Kelly has advantages for Water UK, she does come with other political baggage. As well as representing private water firms, Kelly is on the board of Tory MP Danny Kruger’s “socially conservative” think tank the New Social Covenant Unit. 

This is the group that put out a manifesto with wacky warnings about “cultural Marxism” taking over and the need to guard against “an unregulated sexual free-for-all” because “love and sex” is “what we think about and care about most.” 

Going by the New Social Covenant Unit’s writing, when Kelly isn’t representing the firms pouring sewage into our rivers, she seems to be spending a lot of time worrying about the dangers of “Marxism” and “oral sex.”


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.



Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 12,481
We need:£ 5,519
7 Days remaining
Donate today