Tories in hot water over lobbying, but could ‘Teflon Boris’ evade blame again?

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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Forget revolving door – the door is wide open. A hole in the wall through which former and current ministers and political staff pass back and forth in pursuit of the shady romance between lobbyists and governments. Keir Starmer thoroughly enjoyed pointing out this “open door” to Boris Johnson in PMQs yesterday. Showing more personality than usual, the Labour leader even managed to slip in a Line of Duty reference. The party also used its opposition day yesterday to call for a parliamentary-led inquiry into the Greensill affair, which MPs subsequently voted down as the Tories whipped against. Labour is going heavy on cronyism and “the return of Tory sleaze”, levelling up from its frequent criticism of “cronyism”. The Tories are in hot water, with both David Cameron and Rishi Sunak expected to give evidence. But will it translate into electoral returns? Or will ‘Teflon Boris’ evade blame in the eyes of the British public again?

Despite the government having knocked back the demand from Labour for a 16-strong select committee, we can look forward to a potential six probes into lobbying. There is Johnson’s pet Boardman review, one from the treasury select committee, another from the public administration and constitutional affairs committee (PACAC), a review into lobbying from the committee on standards in public life and possibly one each from the business, energy and industrial strategy and the public accounts committees. BBC Newsnight’s Nick Watt told viewers last night that Tony Blair could come before PACAC in a “parade of former Prime Ministers”. His clients have included the Abu Dhabi investment fund Mubadala and the Kazakhstan government among others. Committee member John McDonnell could well make things awkward for Blair.

The Unite general secretary race formally kicked off yesterday as Len McCluskey officially announced his retirement. The draft timetable would see the nomination period held from May 6th to June 7th, with the ballot opening on July 5th and closing on August 23rd, before the result is announced on August 26th. Assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner, politics and legal chief Howard Beckett, executive officer for organising and leverage Sharon Graham and former regional secretary Gerard Coyne are all hoping to succeed McCluskey. The Labour leadership will be following the contest closely. Turner, who narrowly beat Beckett to secure the backing of internal group ‘United Left’, has been supportive of Starmer relative to Beckett who has been deeply critical. Graham did not seek United Left’s support but is supported by new organisation ‘Workers’ Unite’ and is being pitched as ‘the workplace candidate”. Coyne has pledged to “put Labour Party politics on one side” and focus the union’s efforts on “the challenges of the post-Brexit, post-Covid world”.

Starmer is visiting Gower today ahead of the Senedd election in May. It is his first trip to South Wales and only his second to Wales as Labour leader. We can expect more as the vote approaches. Ahead of the trip, the UK Labour leader praised the “jobs first recovery” plan outlined in the Welsh Labour manifesto. Also to watch out for today, MPs will be considering the Lords’ amendments to the domestic abuse bill. The government has no less than nine defeats suffered in the Lords to reverse in the Commons today. Included in the amendments backed by peers is one to create a register of serial perpetrators. The government is expected to vote against the measure, but Labour’s Yvette Cooper has warned that doing so would leave a “gaping hole” in the promised violence against women and girls strategy. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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