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Police spies: The Met wants my help - I want a properly public investigation PDF Print E-mail
evel - spin.off
Eveline Lubbers, 23 January 2013

Last week, I received a letter from the Metropolitan Police. Presuming I have important information on the infiltration of London Greenpeace back in the 1980s, the Met wants me to get in touch to discuss the matter further. Indeed, my book Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark, corporate and police spying on activists (Pluto, 2012) includes a case study titled McSpy, detailing the infiltration of this group before they were brought to Court for leafleting McDonald’s. I have also been blogging about the case of the women against the Metropolitan Police on state-sponsored abuse at SecretManoeuvres.org

This open letter is my reply, with a proposal towards a properly public investigation.

Dear Chris Robson,

Thank you for inviting me to contact you about police infiltration of campaigning groups. I am open to discuss an exchange of information but not behind closed doors, hence this open letter.

To begin with, your letter is rather short on information. You write that the Metropolitan Police ‘is conducting a review of Policing methods used to gather information relating to people involved in campaign groups’, but it was unclear to me at first which of the many ongoing reviews it was.

The clue was the ref in your letterhead, which said ‘Op Herne’. Grilled on the issue of undercover officers having sexual relationships by Jenny Jones  in the the London assembly, deputy commissioner Craig Mackey explained that Operation Herne is the internal review into the undercover unit of the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a unit that existed for 30 years. The review into ‘covert deployments’ between 1968-2008 was announced by Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe in October 2011, and is led by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons. You want to talk to me about ‘the organisation called ‘London Greenpeace’ and events that led up to the ‘McLibel’ case between 1990-1997.’
An initial statement by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency on the Leveson report PDF Print E-mail
Tamasin Cave
Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, 29 November 2012
Lord Leveson was never going to uncover a ‘deal’ between the government and News International over the BSkyB bid. That is not how lobbying works.
What The Leveson Report does show however, in forensic detail, is the discreet, yet sustained lobbying campaign undertaken by NI through a deliberate network of personal relationships, what the report describes as the “serious hidden problem” of NI’s lobbying, “where the informal, ‘off-record’ and ‘personal’ is seen as an obvious and effective means of conducting lobbying”.
Leveson clearly states:

There is of course no evidence at all of explicit, covert deals between senior politicians and newspaper proprietors or editors; no-one should seriously have expected that there would be. These very powerful relationships are more subtle than that…. But there can be no doubt that within these relationships… there have been exchanges of influence on matters of public policy which have given rise to legitimate questions about the confidence the public can have that they have been conducted scrupulously in the public interest.

The pattern which emerges is one in which senior press / political relationships have been too close to give sufficient grounds for confidence that fear or favour have not been operative factors in the determination and implementation of policy.
What The Bankers Did Next... a short film PDF Print E-mail
Tamasin Cave

15 Oct 2012

A year ago today the first tents started appearing outside St Paul’s Cathedral. The Occupy protest was directed at the actions of the City – the greed and corruption – that led to the current economic crisis and massive, growing financial inequality.

Since the crash of 2008, British taxpayers have shelled out an incredible £1.2 trillion on bailing out and propping up the banks. Nearly five years on, the UK’s banking scandals seem never-ending. Money laundering, interest-rate rigging, product mis-selling, IT meltdowns, tax dodging, sanctions busting – few big names remain untainted.

Despite all this, the City continues to enjoy a cosy relationship with our politicians and policymakers. Its intense lobbying alongside big business has helped rewrite corporate tax laws in its favour and push back against new regulations designed to prevent another crisis.

The Conservative Party gets over half its funding from City financiers. Behind closed doors, government ministers such as ex-banker Lord Sassoon, the Commercial Secretary, make no secret of where loyalties lie.

“This is a right of centre, market-driven government … a government with a number of bankers in its ranks, led by a Prime Minister who is proud to say he comes from a stockbroking family,” he recently said.

Spinwatch has produced this short film on lobbying by the City. ‘What The Bankers Did Next…’ takes a look at the government’s close relationship with the finance industry, some of the key players involved, and their efforts to manage public opinion and shut down debate.

We have also created a new Finance Lobbying Portal on our wiki Powerbase, which aims to guide you around some of the companies, lobbyists and think tanks involved in finance sector lobbying in the UK and Brussels.

Generals-for-hire, the denial continues PDF Print E-mail
Tamasin Cave

13 October 2012

A Sunday Times investigation has caught them out again. This time it secretly filmed top-ranking retired generals boasting about their lobbying ability when it comes to helping arms firms secure multi-million-pound defence contracts. 

It is an open secret that commercial companies buy access and influence by hiring insiders.

But in this instance the government will find it extremely difficult to spin the line, as it has repeatedly, that these particular lobbyists – all ex military chiefs – are deluded Walter Mitty types, claiming influence and access they don’t have.

This kind of secret deal-making between insiders is routine. In the MoD it's endemic.

The already weak rules, which are designed to prevent ex-officials from flogging their public sector contacts and knowledge to the highest private sector bidder, are clearly bust and held in contempt.

We know this, they know this. Yet nothing is done.

David Cameron’s statement that lobbying was the ‘next big scandal waiting to happen’ was prophetic. His government has been the source of such scandal again and again. We’ve had the Tory ex-defence secretary, Liam Fox and his secret aide-cum-lobbyist Adam Werritty; Tory peer Lord Bell’s firm boasting of the highest access and use of ‘dark arts’; Peter Cruddas, ex-Tory treasurer offering access to the PM for cash. And now generals secretly lobbying over arms contracts.

Lobbying is legitimate. But in secret, with no public scrutiny and no government accountability, it can result in crony capitalism. With the current state of the public finances, we need to know that contracts are awarded on merit, and not because somebody went to school with the guy holding the purse.

Lobbyists score another own goal PDF Print E-mail
Tamasin Cave

23 September 2012

The UK Public Affairs Council, the vehicle set up by the lobbying industry to try and avoid a statutory register of lobbyists, appears to have scored yet another own goal.

On Friday, it announced that registration to its voluntary register of lobbyists – originally restricted to members of the lobbying trade bodies that set it up – is now open to all. This is in response to widespread criticism that the UKPAC register has so far only included a fraction of the UK's lobbyists.

In announcing the move, UKPAC welcomed two new, non-member lobbyists to the register: Rt. Hon. Sir Geoffrey Pattie and Caroline Flynn-MacLeod of Terrington Management LLP.

Terrington Management is 'a government relations consultancy based in Westminster', offering among other things 'Political Intelligence'. Its website claims: "The experience of the Partners in Government (both national and international), in Parliament, in NATO, in business and in the military offers an unrivalled added value opportunity to clients."

And yet, no mention of these clients on the UKPAC register. Both Pattie and Flynn-MacLeod are registered as individuals employed by Terrington Management. Neither lists their clients.

Proudly presenting: a book and a blog PDF Print E-mail
evel - spin.off

Eveline Lubbers, 21 September 2012

Mybook cover SpinWatch blog was originally set up to share bits & pieces and interesting stuff I came across while working on my PhD, hence the name: evel - spin.off! That project resulted in a new publication.  

Today, I am finally ready to announce my book and new blog: Secret Manoeuvres.org. Take your time to have a look around, there are previews of the book, the research I’m working on now, and there will be more.

Of course, the book is available in the Spinwatch bookshop - at a special price for you!

If you like what you see, please forward the announcement below to whoever you think might be interested, mail servers that I don’t know of - anything to help spread the word!

Proudly presenting a book and a blog:

Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark,
Corporate and Police Spying on Activists

Eveline Lubbers

A deceitful way to govern PDF Print E-mail
Tamasin Cave

7 September 2012

The BBC reports today that the government is increasing the amount it spends on advertising and PR next year "to help it sell NHS changes and other policies to the public."

The government's 2012-13 marketing budget is £285m, according to the Cabinet Office.

But what's most concerning is not so much the vast amount of money the government is still spending on PR, but where that money is going.  

PR and lobbying firms, which predominantly act on behalf of corporate interests, are seeing growth in government contracts for something called 'stakeholder   engagement'. In plain English this means spending on campaigns to persuade the public of the wisdom of the government's reform programme.

Take Grayling, the industry leader in public sector communications. It saw its income from government communications contracts decline last year. But it's predicting that it will be able to cash in from the government's need to sell its unpopular reforms to a skeptical public. James Ford of Grayling says: Those organisations that need to undergo some degree of service change need to talk to the public about it, and that's where we're using our comms expertise." It's even launched a new division, Grayling Engage to provide "public consultation and engagement" work.

Exposing Shell’s Blood Money in Nigeria PDF Print E-mail
Andy Rowell
Andy Rowell: 28 August, 2012

Hats off to our friends at Platform, the oil industry watch-dog. For the last few years, they have been digging around Shell’s dirty dealings in the Niger Delta. Last week they released a briefing paper, co-published by SpinWatch, which showed that Shell is still at heart of the vortex of violence that continues in the Delta.

The briefing paper, called Dirty Work, examined Shell’s security spending in Nigeria. It revealed that the oil company spent $383m over three years protecting staff and installations in Niger delta region. This represents about 40 per cent of the $1 billion Shell spends globally on security.

Shell’s vast operations in the Niger Delta are guarded by over 1,300 government forces, including 600 police and Mobile Police,  known locally as the ‘kill and go’ and 700 soldiers from the Joint Task Force (JTF), a combination of the army, navy and police.
Mark Kennedy in Corporate Intelligence PDF Print E-mail
evel - spin.off

Eveline Lubbers, 16 July 2012

Mark Kennedy is now selling his experience as an undercover agent within ‘extreme left political and animal right groups’ to the highest bidder.  His apparent move into corporate spying is yet another sign of the increasingly blurred boundaries between public and private forces in undermining protest.
Kennedy’s LinkedIn profile -  first spotted by Indymedia early June - is clarifying in many ways.  On a personal front, it strips away any last doubt about his position. He is not a turned agent, as he suggested just after he was first exposed in the mainstream media. Nor is he a lonely soul longing for his true love and missing his activist friends, as he claimed in a documentary devoted to his double play.


We must fight back against these City lobbyists PDF Print E-mail
Tamasin Cave

Comment in the Guardian: 11 July 2012

'Angela, the country owes you a debt of gratitude," said Treasury minister Lord Sassoon, referring to the outgoing head of the British Bankers' Association, Angela Knight. He was speaking at the inaugural BBA summer lecture last month, just as the RBS computer balls-up was freezing customers' money, and only days before the scandal broke over Libor, a system overseen by the BBA.

Gratitude for what, exactly? As the Guardian and Bureau of Investigative Journalism exposed today, the BBA has used a multimillion-pound fighting fund to successfully lobby for policies that benefit the big banks. It's only logical that it should, after all. But, as business secretary Vince Cable says, the interests of the financial sector, particularly the banks, "are often not the same as those of the real economy".

The £92m lobbying budget available to the financial sector as a whole means that it can afford to lobby for the drafting of amendments to new rules; it can pile on the pressure for lower taxes like the 50p rate (producing report after report in the runup to the budget); it can fund thinktanks to push the line on its behalf; it can fill policymakers' lives with conferences and seminars to discuss and shape reforms; and it can pay for the private dinners, banquets, champagne receptions and country estate awaydays that all allow its representatives to casually bond with our legislators.

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