The 2018 Stakeholder Awards: Full list of winners
The only awards that don't matter for the lobbying industry are here! So who's not celebrating this year?
The annual Stakeholder Awards celebrate the highlights - and lowlights - of public affairs. As usual, the awards have been judged by a one-strong panel comprised of the UK's leading public affairs industry gossip columinst...
Account win of the year
PAN revealed in 2017 that Heathrow had placed Portland on alert. At last eight top agencies were hoping to steal the big-money account, said to be worth over £250k a year in fees. One agency boss with his eye on the business told us that Portland was at a “tipping point” and whether they could hang on to Heathrow was a “big test” for the agency after a turbulent year in which a number of senior partners left. In January we revealed that Portland has passed that test, beating off Burson-Marstellar, Edelman, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Teneo Blue Rubicon and Weber Shandwick to keep the big-money account.
Tory hire of the year
Winner: Ben Mascall / Headland
Corporate communications specialist Headland swooped for Downing Street’s head of strategic communications in the summer, with the hire sending out the latest signal that the corporate and financial specialist was seriously build up political clout. Having previously been a Tory spad, Mascall moved to Number 10 in 2016. In a statement distributed by the agency, he enthused: “Headland is a fresh, bold company, set up perfectly for the kinds of communications challenges that organisations face as we head towards the 2020s. Like the many new clients that are turning to it for ideas and solutions, that’s why I’m joining.”
Labour hire of the year
Winner: Teneo Blue Rubicon / Simon Jackson
Jackson joined Teneo Blue Rubicon a few months after quitting as Labour's director of policy and research, following reports of a row with Team Corbyn. When he walked out, a senior source told HuffPost political editor Paul Waugh: “In the 18 years Simon Jackson worked for Labour he essentially became the eyes and ears of the party. He could spot mistakes a mile off on policy and knew how they would play out in the media. His quiet self assured style, political judgment, policy expertise and advice has made him indispensable. He is one of the hardest workers and without him I worry what will happen to the Labour Party’s output”.
Departure of the year
Winners: Jon McLeod / John Lehal (joint)
PAN revealed in May that Weber Shandwick corporate, financial and public affairs chairman Jon McLeod was quitting the agency after a whopping 21 years. Labour activist and former Weber Shandwick lobbyist Luke Akehurst called it the “end of an era” while Portland partner Chris Hogwood agreed, “Weber will never be the same again,” he said.
Lehal became CEO of Four’s public affairs arm in early 2017 when he sold he firm Insight Consulting to them for an undisclosed fee. Just 18 months later he sent an email to colleagues announcing that he was off to chill out and do a bit of anti-Brexit campaigning: “Right now, I want to drop down work commitments to spend time focussing on political campaigns (stop / soft Brexit); charity advice; writing; and being at home more.”
Retirement of the year
Winner: Kevin Bell
After nearly 30 years in public affairs, Bell stood down from his post as worldwide president at Burson Cohn & Wolfe. The heavyweight lobbyist was well-known in the industry as a staunch and often outspoken Conservative with a taste for the high life. In recent years, he was best known for telling PAN that “anybody who comes to my flat knows I like Bollinger”. Meanwhile Tory lobbyist Peter Bingle once heaped praise on Bell, writing: “My next teacher was Kevin Bell at Westminster Strategy. The experience was like moving from Mozart to Bruckner. My knowledge and appreciation deepened to new level. I was like Tamino in The Magic Flute.”
Email of the year
Winner: Robbie Macduff
The debate over the APPC-PRCA merger took a while to get going. It was eventually fired up by former APPC chair Macduff in an explosive to email to 29 colleagues that was leaked to PAN. He argued that APPC bosses overlooked a ‘strategy review paper’, that lobbyists were being “short changed” by the plans for a merger and that that the APPC would become "a tiny voice, even assuming it still had a voice, in the ICCO, the umbrella body for PR associations in 55 countries".
Tweet of the year
Winners: Luke Skipper and Iain Anderson (joint)
SNP operative-turned-Weber Shandwick Scotland lobbyist Skipper was appalled by what he witnessed at PMQs in June. He tweeted: “There will a horrible moment of realisation in the public affairs world, probably in a few decades, that getting politicians to wear buttons or having a picture in front of a sign isn't actual public affairs.”
Meanwhile Anderson seized on the departure of the Brexit secretary and his pal in July: “So with @DavidDavisMP and @SteveBakerHW resigning - it's @DExEUgov’s midnight runners.”
Mea culpa of the year
Winner: Paul Bristow
A few weeks after the APPC-PRCA merger plan was first unveiled, Bristow admitted that there should have been more consultation with members: “I don’t think everything has been done in the way that perhaps it should. I’ll be honest, no. I don’t think everything has been done in the way that perhaps it should. If I had my time again during this process I would have put this out to consultation as an idea to the members earlier than we did, rather than as a fait accompli.”
Claim of the year
Winner: Jon McLeod
During a PAN lunch with Francis Ingham, McLeod took the opportunity to talk up his new agency, claiming that they are the Manchester City of public affairs. The newish Brunswick public affairs supremo enthused: "The two things I’d say about Brunswick are that the people and the clients are pretty awe-inspiring. The bench is awesome. When people ask what’s the appeal of Brunswick, I say that it’s like Man City.”
Best attack of the year
Winners: Gemma Doyle / Neil Coyle
In one of the strongest attacks on the PRCA-APPC merger plan, FTI consultant and former Labour MP Doyle told a question and answer session: “I really do think sounds like a real mess to be honest… If this were a government department behaving in this way I think many of our clients would have extremely strong criticisms.” Doyle was also deeply unimpressed when Francis Ingham and Paul Bristow made references to her boss Alex Deane when responding to her.
In October, PAN revealed that current Labour MP Neil Coyle was fed up with JustGiving refusing to remove its 5% fee for donations. He had written to JustGiving CEO Jerry Needel saying it was “disappointing to have been sent ill-informed representatives” for a meeting earlier this year. He also complained that Just Giving never sent information that he had requested.
Worst attack of the year
Winner: Scott Colvin
As 35 lobbyists basked in the glory of being named as one of our ‘new movers and shakers in lobbying, baby-faced Finsbury public affairs boss Colvin lashed out at them all. In a nasty dig at everyone featured – including public affairs chiefs from Google, Deliveroo, Barclays, TSB Bank, Visa Europe, Balfour Beatty and London Stock Exchange Group – hot-headed Colvin raged on social media that the list was “absurd”. Other agency bosses were divided on whether it was brave or stupid of him to take aim at so many respected in-house public affairs figures.
Conference dinner of the year
Winner: WPI Strategy
During Tory conference, our mole at Marco Pierre White’s The Cube restaurant in Brum reported seeing WPI bosses Sean Worth and Nick Faith breaking bread with top Tory MPs Oliver Dowden, Neil O’Brien and John Hayes. Also said to be at the dinner were No 10 adviser Raoul Ruperel, Philip Hammond’s special adviser Tim Pitt and Matt Hancock’s spad Jamie Njoku-Goodwin. A source involved with the dinner told us that “lots of wine” was consumed…
Performance of the year
Winner: Jo Tanner
The legendary iNHouse Communications 'rockaoke' party on the last night of Tory conference saw various MPs and lobby journalists murdering the classics… and iNHouse Communications co-founder Tanner teaming up with Tory MP Bim Afolami for a duet to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ with Tory MP Bob Seely playing guitar on stage.
Boast of the year
Winner: Paul Stephenson
Hanbury Strategy has been building up its Labour credentials, with two former Labour staffers joining as consultants in recent weeks. “I think we have now hired 30% of the 2016 Labour policy unit,” Hanbury co-founder Stephenson told PAN.
Mixed message of the year
Winners: Grayling / Shanker Singham
When Grayling signed up ‘hard Brexit Svengali’ Singham, chairman Richard Jukes enthused that “Brexit and trade are knotty areas, and there is no one better placed than Shanker to help our clients cut throught the noise and articulate a considered position that stands up to scrutiny”. But Singham had a different message a couple of weeks later when The Times wrote about a potential conflict of interest. He told the paper: “I am not lobbying for Grayling. It is a small part-time role in an advisory capacity only.”
Whistleblower of the year
Winner: Dirk Paterson
Seasoned public affairs man Paterson wrote for PAN on how influencing is not about cash for access anymore and recalled: “In one corporate job I was told to use the firm’s box at the National Theatre to entertain MPs and special advisors.. In one agency it was cited that I should emulate the PR team who could buy access to top footballers with champagne and a box at the match for their clients.” Paterson previously worked at Royal Mail, Lansons and Hill & Knowlton among other places…
Luncher of the year
Winner: Sean Worth
In a speech at the WPI Strategy Spring party, Sunday Times political editor Shipman told the crowds what he thought about WPI co-founder Worth: “The worst thing you can say about Sean is even when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about you will get a good lunch out of him.”
Party of the year
Timing is everything. This year, the always-fun Westbourne bash took place at the Mall Galleries – just days after the merger with Cicero - one of the biggest mergers of two UK public affairs agencies in recent years - was announced. The canapes included quail mini-kievs and the guests included MPs such as Matt Hancock and Liz Truss, Number 10 spads and half the lobby. And David Davis who turned up half way through James Bethell’s big speech and then grabbed the mic from the Westbourne founder.
Photoshoot of the year
Winner: Iain Anderson / James Bethell
A few eyebrows were raised when PAN reported that Cicero Group had acquired Westbourne. Even more were raised when it became clear that there were some excellent snaps of the two beaming bosses looking like they were always destined to get together.
Launch of the year
Winner: Gawain Towler
In February we learned that Ukip press chief Gawain Towler was quitting the once-somewhat influential party after 13 years. Towler was said to be setting up a "reputation management consultancy", provisionally named CWC, which stands for 'Crisis, What Crisis?' Lobby hacks were aghast to learn about the imminent departure of the man known in SW1 as a resilient and good-humoured spin doctor who once hauled a candidate off the beach in Margate.
New parliamentarian of the year
Winner: James Bethell
This summer, Bethell succeeded in his latest bid to become a lifetime member of the House of Lords. The Tory-supporting lobbyist saw off competition from ten other hereditary peers in a by-election to replace the retiring Lord Glentoran. He then promptly resigned as senior counsel at Cicero.” In his pitch for the gig, Bethell took the radical approach of backing Theresa May and explaining that he had quite of lot of time on his hands: “With the full and complete sale of my communications company, I will have left my professional life in PR and have the time and resources to fulfil an energetic role in the legislature.”
Philanthropist of the year
Winner: Kevin Craig
Some lobbying firms are more generous than others. Firmly on the more generous side is PLMR which has always donated 5% of net profit to charitable causes every year. This year, PLMR’s boss also helped to save a vital community project from overnight closure. St John’s Community Project was about to be shut down due to lack of funds - until Craig stepped in with a donation of £10,000.
Feud of the year
Francis Ingham and Chris Whitehouse
A month after the PRCA-APPC merger got the green light and everyone looked like they would play nicely, Whitehouse expressed his pleasure at getting blocked on Twitter by Ingham and dug up an image of Ingham mocked up as a leper for good measure. Then the Whitehouse Consultancy boss Chris threatened to leave the PRCA. PRCA boss Ingham told us: "It’s just Chris being Chris. I'm sure in due course that he’ll apologise for the tweets – and in particular for the really rather vulgar leper allusion.”
Coded remark of the year
Winner: Stephen Day
When Burson Marsteller director Meg Powell Chandler left the agency after a few months to be a special adviser to the new education secretary, then UK CEO Stephen Day told PAN how the agency was looking forward to having one of its people on the inside to spill the beans. Or as Day put it: “Meg… is now returning to the Whitehall corridors of power. Like any first-rate public affairs team, Burson-Marsteller always maintains close contacts and relationships with the government of the day.”
Cheeky dig of the year
Winner: Jacqui Smith
Maitland’s Razi Rahman was assistant political secretary to Tony Blair between 2000 and 2007. But don’t call him a heavyweight. When we did on Twitter, none other than former home secretary Jacqui Smith, now an adviser at Westbourne, interjected: “Well done @razirahman but I’d have a word about the use of ‘heavyweight’ [wink emoticon].”
Suggestion of the year
Winner: Richard Heller
After the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments gave former Tory minister Nicola Blackwood the go-ahead to take up the part-time post at Lord Mandelson’s secretive Global Counsel consultancy, transparency campaigner Richard Heller sent a letter to the body’s chair Baroness Browning. It said: “I suggest that as a matter of policy your committee declines to approve any appointment with a public affairs consultancy which does not publish its clients in full, either voluntarily or through the APPC." Alas, Acoba did not jump at the idea…
Correction of the year
Winner: Marjorie Ellis Thompson
Thompson, a media adviser at Coram, wins this award for setting straight Peter Bingle. The Tory lobbyist had written on LinkedIn: “If I were to draw up a list of the real movers and shakers in the public affairs world only two people in the PA News list would feature.” To which Thompson responded: “Dear, dear Bungle: you didn’t read the criteria carefully enough. It’s about the ‘emerging’ movers and shakers in public affairs. If you were a Booker Prize winning novelist you most likely would not be on Granta’s 25 young writers to watch list.”
Corporate film of the year
Winner : Hanover
How to climb up the greasy pole of public affairs? Does the answer lie in having a great strategic brain? Or having a forensic eye for detail? Or knowing the right people in Number 10? Or being able to come up with convincing corporate waffle when the occasion demands it? Take a look at the snazzy film put out by Hanover and make your own mind up!
Questionable comment of the year
Winner: Andrew Lansley
Former health secretary Andrew Lansley was one of three senior Conservatives filmed talking to representatives of a fictitious Chinese company about the UK government’s approach to Brexit. Among other things, her discussed Low Europe, the public affairs firm run by his wife Sally Low. He said: If you have a contract with Low then basically I come with Low. So if you have a contract separately with me, it would have to appear on the transparency register as a contract with you. But if it’s with Low then it’s covered by the Low contract.”
Bad lobbying joke of the year
Winner: Jesse Norman
Getting enthused in the Commons about the lobbying prowess of James Cleverley, the Tory MP declared: “My honourable friend has been indefatigable. In fact, few parliamentarians in any Parliament could have matched his energy and zeal in pressing the case for the A120. He has been terrier-like in his lobbying and he can take it from me that the Minister has been duly terrierised.” John Bercow enjoyed the lobbying banter. He said: “I hope that the honourable gentleman will have that tribute framed and erected in a suitable location in his home.”
Crap response of the year
Winner: Cabinet Office
This year, the APPC expressed its unease about lobbying firms hiring MPs and peers. Tory MPs Bob Neill and James Duddridge, and Tory peer Andrew Feldman, are said to be the “worst offenders”. Does the Cabinet Office think its ok for these lot to be lobbyists? In response to that question, a Cabinet Office spokesperson avoided it entered and instead provided the following guff: “The Transparency of Lobbying Act has increased transparency around the work of consultant lobbyists. The legislation complements the existing framework of industry-led regulation such as subscription to industry codes of conduct, alongside the publication of details of Ministerial meetings, gifts and hospitality.”
Bad spin of the year
Winner: Robert Halfon
Boris Johnson faced an angry backlash over a four-letter anti-business outburst aimed at his Brexit critics. But Tory MP Halfon explained that the foreign secretary did not really hate businesses. Just lobbyists who work for businesses. He told the BBC’s Daily Politics programme: “From what I understand about the Boris comments, that was directed at lobbyists rather than business itself.” PRCA boss Francis Ingham was unimpressed. "While lobbyists may make a convenient group to hide behind, this assertion is probably - to coin a phrase - an inverted pyramid of piffle," he said.
Moan of the year
Winner: Richard Holden
In 2017 former Conservative special adviser Holden was wrongly accused of sexual assault and lost his job at Newington Communications. In July he wrote about his ordeal, recalling the day the story broke: “Newington fire me by email that afternoon, before the story is published, and issue a statement citing their ‘highest ethical standards’. It doesn’t seem to matter that I haven’t done anything unethical.”
Athlete of the year
Winner: Lionel Zetter
Industry doyen Zetter ran the London Marathon in aid of WhizzKidz, raising more than £2,000 for the charity. With just over a week to go, the Shepherd’s proprietor told us: “My training regime consists of lots of Sancerre (and the occasional gin and tonic) and Shepherd's pie.” After finishing in six hours 26 minutes, Zetter told us he “really struggled” in the heat and the Sancerre was "certainly a contributory factor” to his slower-than-expected time.
Hipster of the year
Winner: John Higginson
Over lunch with Francis Ingham, the Higginson Strategy boss revealed that he has “a large skull and crossbones tattoo” on his arm. Apparently, he got in when he was 18 and he has no regrets. “My belief in general is that making decisions is the difference between people who do well in life and people who don’t,” he explained.
Bungler of the year
Winner: Peter Bingle
According The Guardian, Bingle “used a direct communication channel to the leader of a Conservative council to help push through planning applications for luxury apartment developments”. The Guardian revealed how the Tory lobbyist once emailed his mate Ravi Govindia to moan about a pesky planning officer wanting to know what he was up to: “This wouldn’t have happened under the old regime. Your help would be appreciated in sorting things out.” Bungle also thanked his Tory mate when an application for 104 flats in Putney by Berkeley Homes was approved, signing off an email: “Many thanks for a great result.”
Disruptor of the year
Winner: Simon Gentry
Newgate Communications public affairs chief Gentry who committed a flagrant breach of the black tie dress code at the 2018 Public Affairs Awards - by sporting a Steve Jobs-eque black roll neck and blazer combo. When PAN confronted Simon about his behaviour he shamelessly tried to pin the blame on his 16-year-old son for pinching his outfit…
Baller of the year
Winner: Ben Roback
Cicero Consulting’s head of trade picked up man of the match during the Lobby XI v MPs football match at Tory conference. Roback was playing for the losing Tory MPs team but celeb footballer manager John Barnes gave him man of the match “because if wasn’t for Ben it would have been ten”.
Endorsement of the year
Winner: Jon Craig
This year's Public Affairs Awards were presented by Sky News chief political correspondent and Total Politics columnist Jon Craig, who got a loud cheer from the top table when he started quoting extensively from Public Affairs News. Or as Jon called it, “the bible for your industry”.