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How Mandelson played both sides of Brexit

Despite being a key architect of the Remainiac ‘people’s vote’ disaster, the Blairite was also ‘advising’ private equity firms on how to make bank on Brexit — with help from Tory minister Gove, reveals SOLOMON HUGHES

PETER MANDELSON, a key Labour figure and pro-EU campaigner, was in 2019 organising a caviar-and-oysters dinner for Tory cabinet minister  Michael Gove to meet “investors” and “corporates” to discuss “to what extent is Brexit an opportunity.”

Mandelson is currently a semi-official adviser to Keir Starmer’s team. Morgan McSweeney, who was Starmer’s chief of staff and is now Labour’s “elections director,” is particularly close to Mandelson.

Mandelson was one of the leaders of the “people’s vote” campaign, which persuaded Labour to run on a second referendum on Brexit policy in the December 2019 election.

Labour advanced in the 2017 election on a policy of respecting the EU referendum, but Mandelson’s policy contributed to deep defeat for Labour in 2019, as Boris Johnson made “get Brexit done” his central election  slogan.

Mandelson actually stood down from Open Britain, the main “people’s vote” campaign group he ran, in November 2019. Having persuaded Labour to take up the vote-losing policy, Mandelson’s group dissolved itself and did not campaign for the cause in the election itself.

Mandelson also runs a lobbying company called Global Counsel. Mandelson was one of the key — and controversial — architects of New Labour, shifting the party in a right-wing, pro-big business direction. He was Labour’s campaign director in the 2010 election: Labour lost that election, so, out of a job, Mandelson set up Global Counsel, which he co-owns with former Blair-era communications director Ben Wegg-Prosser.

Global Counsel promises to help big businesses with “navigating politics, business and policy-making” and charges corporate clients for advice on how to “manage risk and see opportunities in politics, regulation and public policy.”

I attained documents under Freedom of Information that show how Mandelson’s Global Counsel help with “navigating politics” — by inviting Tory ministers to fancy dinners to meet their clients.

In February 2019 Global Counsel wrote to then environment secretary Michael Gove to invite him to a “Global Counsel dinner for investors and corporates engaged in sustainability challenges.” Both Gove and his special adviser Declan Lyons went.

The Environment Department redacted the letter, scrubbing out all the other names of dinner attendees, but it is most likely that Mandelson himself personally hosted the dinner, as he is the co-owner and chairman of the company holding the dinner — and it’s not often a cabinet minister comes to the firm’s events.

The Global Counsel letter to Gove says “the dinner pulls together investors, corporates and entrepreneurs who are currently addressing new commercial solutions to tackle sustainability challenges.”

These big money investors in “green” business wanted Gove to “kick-off the discussion with an overview of what HMG [Her Majesties Government] is currently prioritising to support this agenda.”

They wanted tips from Gove about which investments would be most favoured by government policy — the “outlook for regulations around sustainable investing in the UK” — and whether “the government will do more to ensure that investors are taking environmental sustainability into account when allocating assets” — which seems to be a question about possible tax breaks for “green” investments.

The vast majority of the firms Mandelson’s Global Counsel brought to dinner with Gove were private equity and other finance firms that invest in many different companies rather than actual “green” businesses.

Global Counsel does not publicly list their British clients, but it is likely that these private equity firms are either clients of Global Counsel or companies that Global Counsel would like to have as clients.

Firms with a seat at the Global Counsel/Gove table included well known investment firms KKR, Bridgepoint, BNP Paribas, as well as Ares Management, August Equity, EMK Capital, Palatine, and Synova Capital.

Also invited were packaging firm DS Smith. They also boasted of a 2018 visit by Mandelson to their paper mill in Kent, so I think they are a Global Counsel client.

While the dinner was dominated by investment firms, there were some more “green” businesses at the event, including insect-farming firm Entocycle and reusable cup company CupClub.

Norwegian oil-to-renewables giant Equinor, renewable energy investor Greencoat Capital and “environmental” consultancy Resilience Brokers also had seats at the table.

According to the Invite, Global Counsel wanted to discuss “to what extent is Brexit an opportunity” for green investment with Gove. At the same time, Mandelson was helping lead the “people’s vote” campaign, which called a major demonstration weeks later, in March 2019.

So Mandelson was publicly claiming he wanted to stop Brexit, in a campaign that caused a great deal of difficulty to Labour’s left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn, while he or his representatives were privately hosting discussions between Tory Minister Gove and many investment firms treating  Brexit as a done deal and a business opportunity.

The dinner was held on February 28 at Wilton’s, the historic West End caviar-and-oysters restaurant. The invite said “7pm for 7:15pm.”

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