2016 Stakeholder Awards: Full list of winners
The annual Stakeholder Awards celebrate the highlights - and lowlights - of public affairs.
As usual, these highly prestigious awards were decided by a heavyweight one-strong judging panel comprised of the UK’s leading public affairs journalist....
The full list of the lucky (and not-so-lucky) winners is as follows:
Hire of the Year
Winner: Weber Shandwick / Joey Jones
Why choose between hiring a senior political journalist and an adviser to the prime minister when you can have both? Joey Jones served as deputy political editor of Sky News and then became a senior media adviser to Theresa May when she was home secretary. Powers that be at Weber Shandwick will be hoping that Jones does as good a job as the last top political hack to head up the public affairs machine, former Sunday Times political editor Michael Prescott. According to agency supremo Colin Byrne, Prescott is “a formidable strategic mind”. No pressure, though.
Toughest Gig of the Year
Winner: Field Consulting/Southern Rail
Chris Rumfitt’s outfit pick up this gong for their ongoing work for a client who has been slammed by just about everybody, whose industrial action is estimated to cost the economy £11m a day and whose latest planned strike could result in ministers calling in 4,000 soldiers to drive rail-replacement buses. We hope the fees are good…
Rebrand of the Year
Winner: Ally Vivona
Normally this award would go to an agency. But no agency could rival the remarkable rebrand by the lobbyist previously known as Alexandra Paterson. After a hellish 2015, the former chair of Conservative Future picked up Falling Star Of The Year in last year’s awards. Then she went a bit quiet. But in October this year, it emerged that the ex-Curtin & Co consultant was back. She had left London and quietly joined PPS Group in Manchester as a consultant. And having got married, she now uses the name Ally Vivona!
Party of the Year
Joint winners: Hanover and Westbourne
Hanover and Westbourne both threw stylish summer parties in the heart of Westminster with copious amounts of Champagne, top quality canapés, the odd Labour rebel and more ministers than you could shake a cocktail stick at. If there had been less bubbly at each bash it might have been easier for me to make a decision about which was best…
The Unexpected Fame Award
Conspiracy theorists had a field day when Portland was accused of orchestrating the Labour coup against Jeremy Corbyn. The claim originated on faux-Corbynite clickbait-tastic website The Canary –which claimed to have discovered “the truth behind the Labour coup, when it really began and who manufactured it”. Then Len McLuskey told Andrew Marr that Labour MPs had “been seduced by sinister forces” and advised that the BBC “do an investigatory programme of a company called Portland”. Yes, really.
The Ex-Lobbyist Done Good Award
Winner: Fiona Hill
Hill is now widely known in Westminster as Theresa May’s closest adviser and most ferocious defender. But just a few months ago she was one of the top lobbyists at Mike Craven’s Lexington Communications (she won spad hire of the year in these very awards in 2015, dontachknow). Of course, Hill is not the only ex-lobbyist in May’s top team. Ex-agency boss Katie Perrior is the PM’s director of comms and former Bell Pottinger consultant Jimmy McLoughlin is also a No 10 spad these days. And there are also three former lobbyists in the cabinet - in the form of Priti Patel, Liz Truss and Damian Green.
Optimist of the Year
Winner: Mike Love
Former Tory insider Mike Love quit his post as chairman of Burson-Marsteller in 2016 and marked his departure with an upbeat piece for PAN stating that: “The public affairs industry is alive, well and thriving in the UK. Despite what a few old dinosaurs might think.” Whoever could he have in mind…
Commentator of the Year
Winner: Pete Digger
MHP director Pete Digger did not pull his punches in a forthright piece for Total Politics with a month to go before the EU referendum: “Let’s not beat about the bush, the campaign for Brexit has, so far, been toe-curlingly, embarrassingly, awful. Against it, Michael Foot’s 1983 bid for Downing Street looks like a masterclass in deft campaign management. Miliband’s similar effort in 2015 appears almost Obama-esque in its organisational dexterity. The message discipline in the current Parliamentary Labour Party is impressive by comparison.” A few weeks later the Brexiteers were celebrating their stunning victory - but Digger still stands by his call: "It's just that Remain's campaign was worse!"
Tweet of the Year
Winner: Francis Ingham
As this year’s prestigious Public Affairs Awards were taking place, one naysayer took to Twitter calling them “a classic case of mostly unknown or second tier agencies engaging in a collective act of self congratulation”. Fast-fingered PRCA boss Francis Ingham responded to Peter Bingle with a cutting four letter tweet: “So why aren't you here?”
Lobbying Defence of the Year
Winner: Phillip Collins
In the summer, various Corbynite forces found Labour leadership contender Owen Smith guilty of the heinous crime of being a pharmaceutical lobbyist. But Times columnist Phillip Collins was having none of it. “Denouncing his leadership challenger Owen Smith for having worked for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Mr Corbyn suggested that all medical research should be carried out by the NHS,” he wrote. “Nobody but an incurious fool could show so little understanding.”
Coded Attack of the Year
Winner: Eben Black
Lobby journalist-turned-lobbyist Eben Black’s new ‘bite-sized’ book – called Lies, Lobbying and Lunch – states that that effective lobbying "is not wearing the most expensive suit money can buy". Until recently, Black worked at Newgate with Simon Nayyar who PAN profiled in 2013 under the headline ‘Sharp suits and plans to blaze a trail in lobbying’.
Most Vilified Lobbyist of the Year
Winner: Craig Oliver
Plenty of people have taken potshots at David Cameron’s former director of comms, but it comes to something when even the prime minister is joining in. At the Spectator’s Parliamentarian of the Year awards, Theresa May told guests: “I’m particularly pleased to see that Craig Oliver… sorry Sir Craig, is here tonight. In his book he said that when he heard the result of the referendum, he walked out of the office and as he walked into Whitehall started retching violently. I have to say that I think we all understand that feeling, most of us experienced it too when we saw his name on the resignations honours list.” The man known in Westminster as the Crazy Olive is now a managing director at Teneo Blue Rubicon.
Climbdown of the Year
Winner: Cicero Consulting
In March, Cicero was revealed to have been buying punchy Google adverts targeted to appear when someone searches the name of one of their rivals. ‘Bell Pottinger but better’, stated one. ‘Unhappy with Edelman,’ said another. Shock, horror: agency reckons they are better than the competition! But when the TechnoGuido website reported on the ruse, Cicero suddenly changed their tune. The agency’s marketing head Andrew Hickley grovelled: “This is not the Cicero approach and we apologise.”
Excuse of the Year
Winner: Teneo Blue Rubicon
In November there were some concerns among lobbyists that the APPC had cut a ‘sweetheart deal’ for Teneo, allowing them to remain members even though Tory peer William Hague is on the books. But Teneo insisted that the former foreign secretary didn’t do any real work so there was nothing to worry about. Or as they put it: “William does not do what you would call public affairs or government relations advice to UK clients about UK matters.”
Selfie of the Year
Winner: Peter Bingle
On the first night of Labour conference, Tory-loving Terrapin Communications MD Peter Bingle tracked down leading Corbynite Diane Abbott in the conference bar and persuaded her to pose for a picture. It was sent to pals via text message along with Bingle’s trademark caption: “Public affairs is never dull…"
Mystic Meg Award for Accurate Political Predictions
Winner: David Wild
This one was a close fight between the Lodestone Communications boss and Shepherd’s proprietor Lionel Zetter. Both men correctly predicted the 2016 horror shows that were Donald Trump and Brexit. And both made lots of cash at the bookies. But Wild edges it for also advising clients that a Brexit could be on the cards. “I did this about two weeks out from the poll day,” he says. “My actual advice was that they should start to devote serious management bandwith to the strategic possibility that Leave might actually win and prepare accordingly.”
The Peter Mandelson Award for Secrecy in Lobbying
Winner: Andy Coulson
Former Tory comms chief-turned-jailbird Andy Coulson declared in January that he was setting up a communications consultancy to provide “clear, discreet and effective strategic advice”. A few months later, he popped up in ES Magazine to declare that Coulson Chappell “offers discreet corporate strategy and communications advice”. Naturally, the firm’s website does not reveal any clients, but states: “Coulson Chappell provides discreet corporate strategy and communications advice…”
The Inspector Clouseau Award for Bad Detective Work
Winner: Alison White
In August, the lobbying tsar revealed the results of her investigation into whether some law firms were secretly doing lobbying and so should be on the lobbying register. “The outcome of my work has resulted in my assuring myself that where those organisations do not currently appear on the Register that this is entirely appropriate in the circumstances of the services they provide for their clients,” she said. To which, one agency chief responded: “Lawyers are lobbying left-right-and-centre and yet they are unable to find any evidence of it. They’re clearly not looking very hard.”
The ‘What Could Have Been’ Award
Portland was rightly pleased with itself for getting Michael Gove to contribute to a series of essays under the title Britain Votes Leave: What Happens Next? The document emerged just as the Gover was looking like he could possibly win the Tory leadership race. A Portland source enthused: “This is the only detailed written answer to the biggest question of our day, by the man who could be the next PM.”