The road to No.10 is paved with advisers, they lead you in, they open doors. Often for themselves. Previous advisers include Alastair Campbell, Ed Balls and the Miliband brothers. Until they’re in the door they generally don’t command the political spotlight. That is, unless they’re on the way out like Andy Coulson. What they do command is fine wining and dining.
The Cabinet Office publishes Special Advisers’ gifts and hospitality in various Excel sheets that are filled-in depending on how much coffee the civil servant had that morning i.e. inconsistently. They weren’t even consistent with the appointed minister the adviser falls under. So I scraped it and put all the files into one download which covers May to September 2010. You can get it all by hitting the ‘Download spreadsheet (CSV)’ link here.
Here are the advisers listed according to the amount of hospitality they received:
Note that Nick Clegg’s chief adviser, Jonny Oates, has been taken out the most followed by the then PM’s communications chief, Andy Coulson. Most hospitality is provided by media organisations (see table below) and by using Google Refine I dug deeper into the data to look for a bias between advisers for the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (seeing as there’s a party split). It turns out the BBC only court Cameron’s advisers (15 times in 5 months). The same is true of the Daily Mail. Whereas The Financial Times dine only with those close to Clegg. The Guardian similarly enjoy Lib Dem company, inviting them to their table twice as many times as they did the Tories.
What’s very noticeable from this information is that Special Advisers are wined and dined mostly by media organisations. Here is a list of the top 10 hospitality givers:
If you add up all of Rupert Murdoch’s empire, they account for 20 occasions split 13:7 Cameron’s to Clegg’s.
The close relationship between advisers and media organisations (this is all within a five month period) makes me wonder: when a ‘No.10 insider’ or ‘someone close to the Prime Minister’ is quoted, how often is that piece of information plucked from the lips of these well-fed advisers? A lot I imagine.
In fact, media and PR are so predominant in hospitality for advisers, I’ve decided to list the rest of the givers in order of how many times they appear in the data: Bell Pottinger (mostly business clients, Airbus, Sky, Unilever, etc), News Corporation, Tetra Strategy (clients include the Government of Dubai and the jailed Russian billionaire,
Mikhail Khodorkovsky), The Daily Telegraph, The Mail on Sunday, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, Alexander Kutner, Baron Wolfson of Aspley Guise (Conservative life peer and CEO of Next), Business in the Community, Center for Court Innovation (New York think-tank), Citi, Connect Communications (lobbying), Demos (think-tank), General Sir Richard Dannatt, ITN, ITV, Ian Osborne and Partners, Institute for Public Policy Research (think-tank), Islamic Relief, James Kempton, Lansons Communications (clients include J.P. Morgan, Lloyds TSB and Barclays), London Palladium (Whoopi Goldberg), Malaria No More, Martyn Rose, Medley Global Advisors (“provider of macro policy intelligence service for the world’s top hedge funds, institutional investors, and asset managers”), News International, Lawn Tennis Association, Not to Scale, Open Road, Pakistan International Airlines, Policy Exchange (think-tank), RSA, Ramesh Dewan, Richard Thaler, Royal Bank of Scotland, SAB Miller (De Klerk Foundation Event), Save the Children, Taxpayers’ Alliance, The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mirror, The Economist, The Evening Standard, The Spectator, The Sun, The Sunday Express, UK Music, Wall Street Journal and Wellington College.
Only six entries weren’t lunch or dinner dates. Steve Hilton was given champagne from Not to Scale, Steve Chatwin received concert tickets from Malaria No More, Naweed Khan got his flights upgraded by Pakistan International Airlines, Andy Coulson was given theatre tickets by Whoopi Goldberg and a bottle of wine by a one Alexander Kutner.
Now the only Alexander Kutner I can find happens to have been the Vice President and Principal Engineer of Software Development at Electronic Evidence Discovery. They reduce the risk of electronic discovery, a process which involves digital forensics analysis for recovering evidence. See comment below regarding the identity of Alexander Kutner
Also, Ian Osborne and Partners, who dined Tim Chatwin, has no existence according to Google.
What’s missing is what went on at these meals. Who attended. What was said, or agreed upon. Who was being represented. What goes on is not an entry in the data sheets and it never will be. But this data should make you more aware of the existence of these meals on deals.
You can find a list of Special Advisers and their salaries here.