The 2017 Stakeholder Awards: Full list of winners

Written by David Singleton on 22 December 2017 in Features

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: Bell Pottinger/James Chapman

As most people were still digesting the general election results, Bell Pottinger announced that it had snared former Mail political editor and George Osborne aide James Chapman. Tim Collins, chairman of Bell Pottinger’s political team called it “a very significant hire”. Which sounded like code for very expensive. Chapman then set Westminster alight with a series of astonishing claims about various politicians and never went back to work. Bell Pottinger is no more but the hire well be forever be remembered as one which did not quite work out as planned…


Account win of the year

Winner: Portland

After a long-running competitive pitch, EDF Energy split from MHP and Brunswick and appointed Portland to handle UK both public affairs and corporate communications. When the public affairs account first went out to pitch last year it was said be worth around £50,000 a month to MHP, while Brunswick were probably paid more for the corporate work. Portland narrowly beat off Edelman to win the massive combined account.




Damaging departure of the year

Winner: Oliver Pauley

Portland has lost a whopping five partners in the last 12 months, but Tim Allan was particularly gutted to lose UK public affairs chief Oliver Pauley in April. "He’s their secret weapon," said a source at the time.” He may not be a big name but he's been the lynchpin of the public affairs operation in the UK." Pauley quietly is setting up his own shop, called Bunhill.


Stunt of the year

Winner: Francis Ingham

"I’ll have what he’s having," said none of the diners at Shepherd’s restaurant as Ingham got stuck into his first course. The PRCA boss ate the lobbying register (or at least some it). Read about why he did it and watch him in action here.




Understatement of the year

Winner: Alison White

Two years after the lobbying bill was famously described as a “dogs breakfast” by select committee chairman Graham Allen, the lobbying registrar finally acknowledged that the government’s lobbying register is not much cop. Or as White told an ‘annual stakeholder event’ at the Radisson Blu Edwardian: “I’m well aware of the doubts about the effectiveness of the register.”




Revelation of the year

Winner: Kevin Craig

The PLMR boss donated £16,400 to Jeremy Corbyn’s 2017 general election campaign coffers. He also recently told PAN that he first backed Corbyn to be Labour leader a year earlier: "I voted for Jeremy Corbyn in the Owen Smith leadership challenge. And I did that because I thought that Jeremy Corbyn deserved a chance to take Labour into the election."



Bad lobbyist of the year

Winner: James Duddridge

Runner-up: Lord Feldman

Sitting Tory MP and former Africa minister Duddridge was widely criticised for taking a job as an adviser to Brand Communications, a UK public affairs firm targeting businesses in Africa. One senior lobbyist toldPAN: "This and other recent appointments make me concerned that the PA industry is sliding back to a dangerous place. More regulation may follow." A few months later, David Cameron's old mate Andrew Feldman joined Tulchan Communications as a senior adviser. Feldman also happens to be a life peer and former Conservative party chairman.



Shock winner of the year

Winner: Luke Pollard

As various Tory lobbyists failed to find their way into the Commons, one public affairs pro who did make it in was Field Consulting director and former ABTA head of public affairs Pollard. He is now Labour MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport. Pollard is known to pals as a New Labour man who voted for Yvette Cooper in 2015. He is also someone who has made repeated efforts to get a seat in the south west. So the man who was a paid-up Blairite back in the day finally got elected thanks to Jeremy Corbyn…




Shock loser of the year

Winner: Owen Meredith

Professional Publishers Association external affairs chief Meredith had topped the list of Tory lobbyists expected to breeze into parliament this year. As the Conservative candidate for Newcastle-under-Lyme, the 31-year-old lobbyist only had to overturn Labour MP Paul Farrelly’s tiny majority of just 650. In the event, Meredith was 30 votes short.



(Bad) prediction of the year

Winner: Lionel Zetter (and everyone else)

The PRCA surveyed 112 of the country’s leading PR experts, including a majority who focus on public affairs. It found that 49% of respondents expected to see a Conservative majority of over fifty in the 2017 general election, while 36% said the Tories would get a majority of more than 100 seats. Oops.

Even Zetter - who had winning bets on Trump, Brexit and May becoming Tory leader - came unstuck. He predicted: “It will be a comfortable victory for the Tories - but no landslide.”



Action man of the year

Winner: Alex Bigg

Since he joined MHP Communications as CEO a year ago, the ever-energetic Bigg has waved goodbye to seasoned lobbyists Nick Laitner and Jonathan Lomax and brought in a host of new characters including Nick Barron from Edelman as deputy CEO, Mike Robb from Cicero Consulting as head of financial services and former lobby journalist and Bell Pottinger partner Jamie Lyons as (joint) head of public affairs. Apparently it’s all part of a drive to "better define MHP’s offering and strengthen its position in the market".


The lobbyist done good award

Winner: Jo-ann Robertson

‘Red Robertino’ will start 2018 as the new CEO of Ketchum’s London business, having joined the agency in 2011 as MD of corporate and public affairs. Previously she spent eight years at Weber Shandwick, rising up the ranks to become head of public affairs. Upon getting the job, she said: “"A few people have asked what will be different about Ketchum London in 2018 and I think the most visible thing will be our swagger. For too long we have been modest and a little shy. But we have got a lot to shout about."





Unfortunate launch of the year

Winner: Nicholas Paget-Brown

The former Tory leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council set up a consultancy to advise on working with local authorities. To the anger of many people, the launch came not long after he had stood down following continued criticism of the council's handling of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Paget-Brown then offered his services as a consultant advising on ‘financial austerity’ and the ‘green agenda’ – the very issues feared to be to blame for the deaths of at least 80 residents in the disaster.



Nearly man of the year

Winner: James Bethell

Westbourne boss Bethell – who is son of the hereditory peer, historian and Tory MEP Baron Nicholas William Bethell - was narrowly defeated in his quest for lifetime membership of the House of Lords. The Tory-supporting lobbyist had put his name forward to fill a vacancy among the 92 elected hereditary peers in a by-election triggered by the death of Lord Lyell. There were 27 hereditary dukes, earls, marquesses, viscounts or barons in the running and Bethell came second with 108 votes.



Coded attack of the year

Winner: Kevin McKeever

“I think there’s a sense that many of the long-standing names in the industry, the stars of public affairs, have personal politics that are firmly rooted in the 97 generation,” McKeever told PAN. “We’ve still got some people pushing out materials and advice from the 1997 general election when people like me were still at school. I think the industry has some really impressive elements to it and other who are perhaps trading on former glories.” Whichever Blairite agency boss could the former Portland director have been thinking of?



Moan of the year

Winner: The Earl of Caithness

The hereditary peer told the House of Lords that the environmental lobby only wanted to "criticise, criticise, criticise". He added that ministers should not expect any thanks from the green lobby for introducing measures to improve air quality. “As soon as you do what it wants it will not thank you - it will go and find something else to berate you about,” he moaned. In response, Anna Jones, a clean air campaigner at Greenpeace, insisted that her organisation had put forward constructive proposals on air quality.



CV boast of the year

Winner: Carl Thomson

When Interel appointed Thomson as a director, they did not miss the chance to stress that he had worked for Theresa May when the Tories were in opposition. Meanwhile, on his LinkedIn Thomson made it clear that he had not forgotten his roots. It stated that he also spent four years working in "food preparation" for Burger King before heading into the world of Tory politics.




Brexit insight of the year

Winner: Anonymous (you know who you are)

Over a good lunch, one leading lobbyist spoke candidly about his work advising disgruntled clients on Brexit and how he was having to practice new skills. “It’s more like therapy than consultancy,” he said.



Unlikely alliance of the year

Winner: Friends of the Earth and the Taxpayers' Alliance

These two do not normally see eye-to-eye on anything. But this year the Greens united with the right wingers in (somewhat belated) opposition to HS2. Friends of the Earth called on supporters to urge their MP not to “waste our money” on the project, while the Taxpayers' Alliance stepped up the fight against HS2 by publishing new research showing what would happen if it goes over budget.



Gaffe of the year

Winner: Peter Cuthbertson

Runner-up: Anthony Calvert

As the public affairs industry continues to fight to improve its reputation, the battle was not helped helped by two of its number who were standing as Tory candidates in the 2017 general election.

Cuthbertson has worked at Chelgate and Maitland and was standing in Darlington. He was forced to disown bone-headed comments he made in 2002, including writing that a woman's sexual past should be included in rape trials and that women of "low morals were more likely to consent to sex and to lie".

More amusingly, Calvert was accused of “sneering” at voters – after he ridiculed a man for visiting Costa Coffee while claiming to be working class. He is a planning public affairs specialist who held senior roles at lobbying firms Curtin and Co, Redwood Consutling and HardHat before setting up his own shop, Calvert Communications, in 2015.



Upset lobbyist of the year

Joint winners: Iain Anderson and James Bethell

Many industry figures were taken aback by the news that Orso restaurant was closing its doors. The Covent Garden eatery had long been an industry favourite and so Cicero boss Anderson took to social media to thank it "for some wonderful times over the past 25 years at my fav table - goodbye - you will missed". To which Westbourne boss Bethell responded: "This is heart breaking news. (BTW, Iain, that's MY table)."



Badly timed party of the year

Winner: Hanover

The Hanover summer party has long been one of the best lobbying bashes. But Theresa May may have slightly jeopardised this year’s event. Shortly before May announced her snap election for 8 June, Hanover was busy inviting guests to this year’s bash. On 7 June. As a result the MP headcount was slightly lower than usual…



Bizarre lobbying ban of the year

Winner: Katie Perrior

After the general election, Theresa May’s communications director returned to her old PR and lobbying agency iNHouse Communications to “streamline the business” - and to schmooze clients at parties. Giving Perrior the official go-ahead, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments stated: “Other than at drinks events, she will not meet or work with clients face-to-face.” It’s not clear how the ban was enforced during Tory conference where Perrior was a constant presence in the firm’s popular ‘London lounge’…




Tribute of the year

Winner: Phil Smith

ISBA’s director of public affairs Ian Twinn hung up his lobbying boots this year after 18 years of service at the body fighting the corner for British advertisers. In his speech, the former Tory MP thanked old pals Guy Black and Peter Bingle for getting him the job after he lost his seat Edmonton seat in 1997. Then ISBA director general Phil Smith said: “I'd really like to list his achievements, but that's really difficult when his main achievements are making things not happen….”



Fake news of the year

Winner: APPC

In a shock revelation, the APPC register published in March stated that Portland did not have any public affairs clients from December 2016 to February 2017. It also suggested that the agency had no staff. Curiously, Interel Consulting also appeared to have lost all of its clients and every member of staff in the same period…



Recollection of the year

Winner: David Aaronovitch

When Jeremy Corbyn signed up Freshwater founder Steve Howell as his deputy communications director, Times columnist Aaronovitch recalled his first meeting with the lobbying boss some 40 years ago: “We were both active student members of the Communist Party of Great Britain. But we belonged to two different wings… I saw him as an arch ‘tankie’, who was equally adamant that we strap ourselves to the grim semi-corpses of Brezhnevite Russia and Honecker’s East Germany.”

His column concluded: “In 2017, once marginalised forces, folk who must have thought their day would never come, have made it, blinking, into the highest counsels of the lands.”



Award for services to the hipsterisation of lobbying

Winner: Higginson PR

When ex-Westminster lobby journalists John and Clodagh Higginson set up their new agency, they avoided SW1 and instead based their PR and lobbying shop in the heart of newly-trendy Peckham. In Peckham’s top hipster landmark, the Bussey Building, no less. Sources suggested it was only a matter of time before John grew a beard and Clodagh got a sailor tattoo.



Editor’s special award for honesty and pathos

Winner: Mark Adams

PAN reported in April that former Lansons public affairs chief Mark Adams was advising The Apprentice winner Michelle Dewberry as she attempted to become an MP. When we called up Adams (who also set up a campaign for higher professional standards in lobbying, Standup4lobbying), he initially tried to deny that he was still a public affairs man. So we pointed out that his website said he offered political consultancy. The poor chap then replied: "But nobody calls me any more."






The 2016 Stakeholder Awards

The 2015 Stakeholder Awards

The 2014 Stakeholder Awards



Share this page