MP backs St Athan PR firm's Labour donation‎

MP backs St Athan PR firm's Labour donation‎  WalesOnline - James McCarthy 29 Sept 2010
A PR firm employed by the company behind the St Athan defence training college paid £2500 to the constituency party of project supporter, Labour MP Chris Bryant.
....A PR firm employed by the company behind the St Athan defence training college paid £2,500 to the constituency party of project supporter, Labour MP Chris Bryant, it has emerged.
Mr Bryant, who represents Rhondda, said the donation was the cost of a table at a fundraising dinner for the constituency Labour party and had nothing to do with his support for the £14bn academy.
Campaigners against the St Athan development, which is led by the Metrix consortium involving defence firms Qinetiq and France’s Sodexo, criticised the constituency party for accepting the donation.
The cash was paid after a fundraising dinner for the constituency party before the General Election by Bell Pottinger, the parent company of Cardiff’s Good Relations PR firm, which has also donated to Conservative party coffers.
Bell Pottinger is employed by Metrix.
Mr Bryant said: “Bell Pottinger came and made a contribution to the cost of their table.
“I have never received a penny from Metrix.
“I have only ever campaigned for St Athan because I think it will bring jobs to Wales.
Oh yeah?
“I have declared everything I am meant to declare.
“I have never received a penny personally from Bell Pottinger or from Metrix and St Athan is supported by the Conservative Party, Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems and Labour.“I have spent a huge amount of time campaigning for this to happen, otherwise it would go somewhere else.”
He said the party accepting money from Bell Pottinger did not constitute a conflict of interest.
The money only helped to fund his election campaign!
Lord Tim Bell – chairman of Bell Pottinger parent company Chime Communications – was an adviser in Margaret Thatcher’s three successful general election campaigns.
The Tory peer said: “It is not a reflection of political sympathies.
“It is a reflection of the fact that we run a public affairs business that has relationships with all the political parties. It is the issue about definitions. What the public thinks is a definition (of a political donation) is giving money to a political party to pursue political aims.
“Unfortunately because of the Electoral Commission’s and the media’s attack on political donations, all sorts of broad definitions have come into it.
“If you take a table at a conference it will be declared as a political donation.
Cash for access to you and me
“It is no longer any reflection of where political sympathies lie.”
He insisted Bell Pottinger did not “make any secret” of its political donations.
Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins claimed the money could be perceived as a conflict of interest.
She said: “I don’t know why Bell Pottinger has changed its loyalties. It may be that they have more to gain from Labour MPs.”
In 2008 Metrix itself gave £7,000 to the national arm of Labour.
Anne Greagsby, an anti-Metrix campaigner thought such donations should be outlawed.
She said: “I think it is appalling.”

An American lobbyist once quipped that: 'The way to a man's "aye" is through his stomach.'[1] This form of influence-peddling is often derided by parliamentary wags, who argue that there is indeed such a thing as a free lunch. But the use of expensive meals and evening entertainment is a common method to either extract information from or influence an MP - 'Gastronomic pimping', Aneurin Bevan called it.[2]

1 Schlozman and Tierney, 1986, p. 294. Quoted in Grant Jordan, The Commercial Lobbyists, p. 24.

2 Alan Doig, Westminster Babylon, p. 307.
2 Aneurin Bevan (1897–1960), British Labour politician. Quoted in Aneurin Bevan, vol. 2, ch. 6, Michael Foot (1973).

See also A raw deal for the taxpayer as trainee numbers shrink and costs spiral upwards

The latest edition of Private Eye report on the defence academy PR campaign in the run up to the party conferences: "The public relations operation behind the controversial plan to privatise military training under a £14bn. 30-year PFI deal at a new defence academy in South Wales (Eyes passim) is being ratcheted up, ready for the schmooze-fest that is the party conference season.
The Metrix consortium, which is lined up for the contract, has hired another PR agency, Citigate Dewe Rogerson, to help exisiting adviser Bell Pottinger (see Eye 1268) convince the government to go ahead with a deal that is already behind schedule and whose costs have escalated by around £3bn before anything has been signed.
Citigate is busy preparing guest lists for dinners to be hosted at all the party conferences, and has been in “continual contact” with Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams and Labour MP for Rhonda Chris Bryant and his Tory neighbour in the Vale of Glamorgan Alun Cairns, in whose constituency the academy will be sited."
The full Private Eye article can be viewed here

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