The decision by Brown and Co to go ahead with the building of an unlimited number of nuclear power stations will have delighted a lot of people, but none more so than Sovereign Strategy, a lobbying group that has some pretty hefty nuclear players as clients, together with some equally well-known political dignitaries on its executive payroll. Indeed, our own deputy council leader, Ian Malcolm, is described on the companies own web site as Chief Executive/Deputy Chairman.
With £36 billion in construction contracts alone up for grabs (and this is just a starter) many firms are expressing an interest, including the French companies EDF and Areval, the German E.ON and RWE, and our very own British Energy and Centrica.
However, let’s not forget our American cousins, who with an active nuclear industry of their own will be greedily eyeing the chances of penetrating the expanding UK market. A major player will be the multi national company Fluor.
Who better to look after all these people’s interests and lobby on their behalf than Sovereign Strategy? No stranger to the nuclear market, Sovereign has a proven track record in this area. One of the company’s major clients is Tanef (Transatlantic Nuclear Energy Forum) whose sole purpose in life is to foster good relationships between nuclear power companies and governments i.e. they lobby on behalf of the nuclear industry. Tanef currently lists its European Honorary Chair as Lord Cunningham of Felling. Could this be the same Lord Cunningham of Felling who has held a position of Non Executive Director of Sovereign? The link starts to become even more intriguing when we consider that Tanef was set up originally with the help of Alan Donnelly, the same Alan Donnelly who is founder and Executive Director of Sovereign Strategy.
Let’s throw another couple of facts into the equation. Sovereign strategy has donated £122412 to the Labour Party, even paying for David Milibands offices in the north east. So what we have is the following:
Nuclear lobby retain Sovereign Strategy as lobbyists
Sovereign Strategy donate money to the Labour Party
Labour party announce extensive nuclear power expansion plans.
So far so good for all concerned and you know what, it’s entirely legal!
Before we go, let’s have a quick look at the Sovereign “people” and their political links.
Alan J Donnelly, Executive Chairman Founder of Sovereign. Was Labour Party Leader in the European Parliament, and served as President of the Parliamentary Committee for Relations with the US Congress.
Lady Olga Maitland, Associate Director Former Member of Parliament for Sutton and Cheam (1992-1997) Lady Olga Maitland is respected in the areas of both Politics and Journalism. Lady Olga is a specialist on the Middle East and International affairs in general. Founder and chair of Families for Defence and President of the Defence Security Forum.
Baroness Billinghamm, Non-Executive Director. Prominent member of The House of Lords and former MEP for Northampton and Blaby. Informal spokesperson for the Labour party on culture, media and sport. Was a member of the European Select Committee until 2005.
Mark Nellist - Head of North East Operations Former Head of Communications to the Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party.
Alan Davidson Associate Director After working in the Labour Party's Corporate Relations and Fundraising unit, Alan was asked to set up the London public affairs operation of a US law firm. As well as establishing the UK company and office, he oversaw the press monitoring for clients' European matters and advised senior executives on political and media issues.
Rt Hon The Lord Cunningham of Felling. Non Executive Director. As a senior Member of Parliament Jack Cunningham has held many prominent positions within both Opposition and Government. He joins the Board to advise the Executive Management Team on international, commercial affairs.
Now that’s what I call networking. This list includes some pretty influential people in politics.
Over the next few months and years even, journalists and commentators will be looking very closely to see if any familiar names crop up in the nulcear expansion programme, together with the sources of labour Party donations.
After I completed the Sovereign Strategy post, a couple of interesting issues cropped up. The Times (10th Jan) carried an article on two ex Labour ministers who have taken up lucrative employment contracts with nuclear industry based forms. Ian McCartney, ex Labour Party Chairman and an ex trade minister, is now a senior adviser to the management team at Fluor, the multinational nuclear company. McCartney will touser at least £110000 for his “work”. Richrad Caborn, ex Sports Minister, will work with Amec, a company currently trying to secure the Sellafield operating contract, worth £5 buillion, a piece of business Fluor is also after. Caborn will also need big pockets in his trousers, though his salalry has yet to be decided.
Caborn, of course, is no stanger to Sovereign Strategy, who he had extensive dealings with over Formula One motor racing.
Other intersted parties in the Sovereign equation also include Alan Duncan, Tory Shadow Energy secretary, who has spoken at Sovereign sponsored events. This is how the Time’s parliamentary sketch writer, Ann Treneman, described Duncans reaction to the news of Brown’s nuclear expansion plans.
“The Tories are sentimental about nuclear and they looked on, eyes welling with tears (for politicians have been quick to take on board the Hillary lesson). Alan Duncan, the Tory shadow, isn’t known as Hunky Dunky for nothing: he immediately declared his approval. He would do whatever he could to help – open champagne, shower confetti, change the planning laws, whatever.”
It is against Parliamentary rules for MP’s to act as lobbyists, and both McCartney and Caborn will be hauled in front of the Public Administration Committee in two weeks to have their appointments vetted.