Who are the new movers and shakers in the UK public affairs world?

Written by David Singleton on 13 May 2018 in Features

Revealed: the top 35 public affairs professionals who have recently started making a name for themselves in lobbying.

The question of what makes a mover and shaker in the modern public affairs industry in a live one. Some of the lobbyists featured here are best-known for their impressive contacts books and their networking prowess. Others have primarily impressed colleagues with their clear grasp of policy and their brilliant strategic brains. In many cases it's a mix of both.

As for what matters most, one leading agency boss is clear that "having a good network helps but the most important thing is a strategic brain". Another senior lobbyist veers the other way. "You don’t need to know everyone in Number 10 but definitely it helps," he says.

What unites the 35 lobbyists on our list is that all of them have recently become seen as big hitters in their fields. None of them have been what we at PAN would call ‘senior figures in public affairs’ for more than five years. Indeed some have only entered the industry in the last couple of years, usually after burnishing their credentials as a lobby journalist or a special adviser.

That five year rule means that the usual suspects from 15 years ago have been kept well out, along with a number of other lively lobbyists who made their names in the Gordon Brown and David Cameron years. Had this list been prepared last year then WPI Strategy boss and former Cameron adviser Sean Worth would have been allowed in. Had it been prepared a few years ago then agency high flyers such as Chris Rumfitt, now heading up fast-growing Field Consulting, and Alex Deane, now at FTI Consulting, might well have been let through the door. Cicero Consulting boss Iain Anderson would also have gained entry five or six years ago. All these public affairs professionals are still moving and shaking. They are still some way off industry veteran status. Yet in 2018, they can no longer be classified as new movers and shakers.

As for the 35 who have made it on to the list, there are 23 agency operators and 12 in-house professionals. There are nine former special advisers, two of whom used to work for Boris Johnson and only one of whom has a (New) Labour background. The number of certified Corbynites on the list stands at precisely zero, but only because they are not interested. As one Labour insider put it last year: "For those who believe in the Corbyn mission, this is the time to be on the bus - not to get off it and cash in."

Alongside various former spinners, there are three former lobby journalists in the top 35. Despite the rise of social media, one straight-talking agency boss (who is not a former journalist himself) is adamant that old-school political hacks still bring plenty to the public affairs table. "If you don’t know how the lobby works you’re missing a trick. You can get much more leverage from a story in the Mail than you can from boring the tits off a minister who’s only meeting you because they’re contractually obliged to," he says.

Finally, while the number of BME lobbyists featured here is pitifully low, there are 12 women on the list. So the public affairs industry can at least console itself with what appears to look like progress on the gender divide.

 

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1. Will Walden, managing director, public affairs, Edelman

 

 

Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser has a strong claim on the title of best connected Tory lobbyist, with one rival admitting that “he knows everyone”. Walden was Johnson’s director of communications at City Hall and he ran the former London mayor’s transition team at the Foreign Office. At Edelman he has overseen something of a mini public affairs revival, most notably by helping the agency to wrestle the Coca-Cola account away from rival agency Teneo Blue Rubicon last year. But how long will it last? “If Boris goes into Number 10 then Will is going there with him,” says a colleague. 

 

 

2. Joey Jones, head of public affairs, Weber Shandwick

 

 

The respected former Sky News deputy political editor headed into lobbying in late 2016 after a brief stint as an adviser to Theresa May in the Home Office. Speaking during last year’s party conference season, Weber’s corporate and public affairs chairman Jon McLeod asked: “Is there anybody that matters who he doesn’t know?” The Jones advisory style is described by one senior industry figure as “clear and no-nonsense”.

 

 

3. Katie O’Donovan, public policy and government relations manager, Google

 

 

A former Labour party head of briefings, O’Donovan was a special adviser in the New Labour years and is now seen as one of the key Blairite lobbyists in the private sector.  O’Donovan left Westminster in 2007 to work for Coca Cola but was lured back in 2010 to work on the doomed David Miliband leadership campaign. She then helped to establish the campaigns and communications function at Mumsnet. O’Donovan joined Google three years ago and is also a board member of the Internet Watch Foundation. 

 

 

 

4. Paul Stephenson, partner, Hanbury Strategy

 

 

Former Tory special adviser Stephenson is said to be the driving force behind lobbying’s most successful start-up for some years. Hanbury Strategy was set up by Stephenson and Ameet Gill in 2016 and has already grown to over 20 staff. As a protegee of Steve Hilton, Gill is known as an effective strategist. On the other hand, Stephenson is happy to get his hands dirty. As one pal puts it: "Ameet is Hilton’s guy. He likes to put his feet up and strategise. Paul is the opposite. He’ll be like: ‘How do we twist a few arms? How we get something in the Mail?’ He gets things done."

 

 

5. Jessica Lennard, director of regulation and public affairs, Visa Europe

 

 

A former energy specialist at Conservative party HQ who went on to join Edelman, Lennard is credited with transforming her old agency into market leaders in energy public affairs before leaving for Ovo Energy. “Jess is possibly the most intelligent person I’ve ever worked with,” enthuses one successful former colleague. She is also affectionately described as “a genius and a lunatic”. For good measure, Lennard’s mother is Bond actress Marilyn Galsworthy and her sister Jasmine is a reality TV star who appeared on Celebrity Big Brother. 

 

 

6. Nick Faith, director, WPI Strategy

 

 

Faith is known as a sociable and energetic lobbyist with excellent links to many ‘rising star’ Conservative MPs. A former director of communications at Policy Exchange, he set up WPI Strategy with ex-Tory special adviser Sean Worth in. 2014. The agency now has a reputation as one of the best-connected Tory lobbying shops, although Faith has insisted that they don’t just do traditional public affairs. Faith is also a board member of Onward, the new campaigning think tank which hopes to provide fresh intellectual firepower for the Conservatives. 

 

 

7. Allen Simpson, director of public policy, Barclays Bank

 

 

Simpson joined Barclays in 2012 having been public affairs manager at London Stock Exchange.  He stood as Labour’s candidate for Maidstone and the Weald in the 2015 and 2017 general elections, doubling his vote last time around. The smart and personable lobbyist is also a member of the Progress strategy board and chair of the Labour In The City group, making him well connected to various Labour front benchers. Talking to PAN about Labour’s relations with his group, Simpson asserted that “they have genuinely engaged with us”.

 

 

8. Jamie Lyons, joint head of public affairs, MHP Communications

 

 

A former News of the World deputy political editor, Lyons made the leap into lobbying in 2011 and has not looked back since. After taking a job at Bell Pottinger in 2013, he was top of many rivals’ wanted lists when the notorious agency collapsed last year. He opted for MHP and at least two of his old clients have followed him there. Experienced lobby journalists say it is no surprise that their “solid” and “highly professional” former colleague is now a big noise in public affairs.

 

 

9. Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns, Action for Children

 

 

Hussain started out in public affairs working for Refugee Council and cemented his credentials as a top voluntary sector lobbyist when stepped up to his present post at the end of last year. Previously he had spent eight years overseeing policy and advocacy at the Child Poverty Action Group. A former Labour councillor in Lambeth, Hussain - who shares his name with the Labour MP for Bradford East - is known by colleagues as a streetwise and good-humoured operator. "I imagine sometime in the next five to ten years he’ll be heading up a charity or NGO," says one admirer in the public affairs industry.

 

 

10. Kevin McKeever, founder, Lowick Consulting 

 

 

The former Portland lobbyist is known in Labour circles as a tireless and well-networked Blairite who received a death threat in 2016 following outlandish allegations about his old agency made by The Canary website. Since then, McKeever has set up his own shop and stood as Labour’s candidate for Northampton South in the 2017 general election, missing out on the Commons by just 1159 votes. He now claims to “fully understand how the party has changed in a way that some of the grandee generation do not”.

 

 

11. James Wharton, corporate and public affairs chairman, Hume Brophy 

 

 

A former Tory minister, Wharton entered the Commons in 2010 aged 26. When he lost his seat by just 888 votes in the 2017 general election, Tory peer Lord Ashcroft described him as “one of the brightest of the younger generation”. Wharton joined Hume Brophy last year as a part-time senior adviser, effectively replacing Esther McVey, and recently stepped up his involvement with the agency. It is too early to judge whether he has made a success of the role but one industry pal is sure he will. The source enthuses: “He is hungry, discreet, extremely well-networked and liked by colleagues – which is not always the case at Westminster.”

 

 

12. Ruth Porter, head of UK government relations, London Stock Exchange Group 

 

 

Porter is a popular and well-connected former Tory special adviser. She first became known to Westminster watchers as a leading light in wonk world, with jobs at Policy Exchange and the Institute of Economic Affairs. She then had various stints as a Tory special adviser before joining London Stock Exchange Group last year. In her most recent special adviser posting, Porter worked for Liz Truss at the Ministry of Justice before heading off on maternity leave. 

 

 

13. Chris Hogwood, partner and head of local government, Portland

 

 

A former media relations officer for London Councils, Hogwood has enjoyed a rapid rise up the ranks to his present job heading up Portland’s local government team. “He’s a real London specialist and an all-round nice bloke,” says one rival lobbyist. As the capital gets an increasingly distinct political identity, Hogwood’s expertise in London-wide local government is expected to stand him in increasingly good stead in the public affairs world.

 

 

14. Abigail Morris, head of public affairs & campaigns, Deliveroo 

 

 

A former public affairs manager for BAA and then for Heathrow, Morris joined Deliveroo at the start of this year. Former colleagues say that Morris has an especially good eye for detail. Writing on LinkedIn, one states: “She combines an instinct for identifying overlooked but crucial policy details with the ability to build relationships, which means she always knows what's happening before everyone else!”

 

 

15. Giles Kenningham, founder, Trafalgar Strategy

 

 

David Cameron’s former press secretary quietly set up his own Covent Garden-based agency last year with fellow ex-Tory aide Elliott Burton. Since then, Kenningham has not revealed much about how the agency is getting on, but he established himself as a sought-after political pundit who recently declared that Boris Johnson has not “got the balls” to seize the Tory crown. Kenningham is known by former lobby journalists as a gregarious and tenacious spinner.

 

 

16. Katie Martin, head of news, public affairs and campaigns, Citizens Advice

 

 

Martin was chief press officer in Downing Street during Gordon Brown’s time as prime minister. A popular and highly-rated political operator, she went on to spent two years as media director for the ONE campaign and then had a stint as The Guardian’s head of philanthropic partnerships. Among the many people congratulating Martin when she joined Citizens Advice last year was former home secretary Jacqui Smith, who told Martin: “They're lucky to have you.”

 

 

17. Tim Snowball, head of public affairs, FleishmanHillard Fishburn

 

 

Snowball is a former Liberal Democrat communications director and political secretary to Nick Clegg. He joined Clegg’s parliamentary office 2006 after meeting the Lib Dem leader during a lecture he was giving at the University of Sheffield and went on to be a key link person during the collation years. He took the plunge into public affairs in 2014 and was last year recruited by FleishmanHillard Fishburn as the agency sought to shore up its wobbling public affairs operation. A colleague calls him “bright, organised and focused”.

 

 

18. Kevin Pringle, partner, Charlotte Street Partners

 

 

A well-respected former special adviser to Alex Salmond, Pringle left the SNP to join Charlotte Street Partners three years ago and is now a key figure at the fast-growing Edinburgh-based lobbying agency. The bespectacled former spin doctor worked for Salmond during his time as first minister of Scotland and before that was strategic communications director for the SNP. He is currently a columnist for The Sunday Times in Scotland.

 

 

19 Robert Condon, EMEA head of government relations & public policy, VMWare

 

 

Condon is known as a dashing and affable lobbyist with a distinctive Irish lilt. He recently quit as managing director of Hume Brophy to join VMWare, an IT firm with 22,000 employees worldwide and a market capitalisation of about $55 billion. He has avoided aligning himself with any political party, but one of Condon’s biggest fans in the public affairs industry is well-known Tory lobbyist Peter Bingle. In a memo sent to pals a couple of years ago, the industry stalwart stated: “As I enjoy my dotage I look around the industry for the next generation of stars and big hitters. There were once so many consultants who combined strategic brilliance with a diary to die for. I am now hard pushed to think of anybody. The exception perhaps is Robert Condon.”

 

 

20 Martha Dalton, managing director, Lodestone

 

 

Dalton was a co-founder of public affairs firm Lodestone at the age of just 25. Six years later, she has helped make it one of the fastest growing lobbying agencies in the UK with revenues of well over £1 million. In 2015 she also launched RegistHERtoVote, a not for profit campaign encouraging women to engage with the political process in the UK. One public affairs pal enthuses about her “seriously effective pro-bono work”, while a senior industry figure describes her as an “old head on young shoulders” who is particularly good at dealing with stressed-out CEOs. “She’d be a brilliant Number 10 adviser,” adds the source.

 

 

21. Veena Hudson, head of public affairs and policy, Balfour Beatty 

 

 

Hudson spent four years as a special adviser to Nick Clegg during the coalition years, advising the then deputy prime minister in various guises before joining construction giant Balfour Beatty in 2015. One former colleague says: “Veena was definitely a crucial member of Nick's inner circle and justifiably so, considering her eye for good retail politics, cerebral policy advice and cool calm persona.”

 

 

22. Liam Parker, partner, Pagefield

 

 

Parker is a former special adviser to Boris Johnson who was picked up by Pagefield last year. He joined Johnson’s team as director of political communications in 2016 having previously spent two years as press secretary to the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. Slightly randomly, he has just been charged with heading up Pagefield’s new sports division. He is known by colleagues as a highly industrious operator who “thrives off juggling 20 balls at one time”.  One pal reckons that “he never realistically sleeps”.

 

 

23. Emma Waterfall, founder, Cascade Communications

 

 

Waterfall cut her teeth at Four Communications and Bell Pottinger (where she was the agency’s youngest director at the age of 27) before setting up her own aptly-named planning public affairs shop in 2011. She raised a few eyebrows last year when her shop saw off tough competition from a number of more established rivals to win consultancy of the year at the 2017 Public Affairs Awards. Waterfall is seen as a sharp, steely and relatively glamorous operator in the bloke-heavy world of planning public affairs.

 

 

24. Martha Mackenzie, head of government relations, Save the Children UK

 

 

Mackenzie has quickly risen up the ranks at Save the Children after joining the charity in 2015 from Shelter, where she was a public affairs officer who oversaw a campaign that resulted in legislation to ban ‘revenge eviction’ in the private rented sector.  Having been promoted from deputy head of government relations last year, she now leads a team of eight at Save the Children and volunteers as a mentor with the Prince’s Trust. One admirer on LinkedIn describes her as “a true leader” who “did not seem to realise how powerful her skills and abilities were”.

 

 

25. Michael Stott, head of public affairs, Lansons

 

 

Stott is a former Tory press officer and aide to shadow energy secretary Charles Hendry. He made the switch into public affairs with a role at EDF Energy, then joined the Energy & Industrials team at Hill & Knowlton before Lansons pounced for him this year. “He’s the sort of person you expect to set up his own energy public affairs firm in the very near future and completely disrupt that part of the market,” says one admirer in the industry.

 

 

26. Liz Lynch, head of public affairs, TSB Bank

 

 

A former Tory researcher, Lynch proved herself in public affairs by moving to Bell Pottinger and getting elevated to partner status. Former colleagues describe Lynch as a hardworker who also likes to play hard.  In 2015 she moved to TSB where she is described by one industry figure as “high energy and good fun”.

 

 

27. Anthony Marlowe, managing director, Weber Shandwick

 

 

A former researcher for Justine Greening, Marlowe spent many years quietly plugging away at Edelman before finally jumping ship this year. He is described by one senior public affairs figure as a “smooth all-round operator” who gets wheeled out to impress big corporate clients.  At Weber Shadwick, Marlowe reports to UK CEO Rachel Friend and has a brief to grow the firm’s political and government relations practice.

 

 

28. John Higginson, founder, Higginson Strategy

 

 

Experienced ex-lobby hack Higginson was political editor of Metro before he entered the public affairs world three years ago by joining Westbourne Communications. He set up his agency in 2017 with wife and fellow former lobby journalist Clodagh. The pair recently changed the name from Higginson PR to Higginson Strategy to reflect a greater focus on public affairs and earlier this year they opened a North of England bureau in a bid to capitalise on the opportunities created by the Northern Powerhouse. Higginson is described by former colleagues as an astute operator who “gets” both public affairs and media relations.

 

 

29. Neil Gadhok, head of healthcare government affairs, Bayer

 

 

Gadhok joined pharmaceutical firm Bayer earlier this year from Four Communications, where he was a director. The Conservative-supporting lobbyist previously worked at Insight Communications, Hanover Communications and the Royal College of Nursing. Former colleagues describe Gadhok as an “excellent networker” while well-connected Tory lobbyists say they have often spotted him at the right parties.

 

 

 

30. Daniel Gilbert, director, Hanover

 

 

Gilbert, a former special adviser to Jo Johnson in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, is known as a cool-headed Tory operator with a sharp business brain. At the end of last year, he was promoted to the management team for Hanover’s UK public affairs operation and in May’s local elections he successfully ran as a councillor in Milton Keynes, picking up a seat from Labour with a majority of 204. Could a parliamentary seat be next?

 

 

31. Owen Meredith, director of external affairs, Professional Publishers Association

 

 

A well-networked youthful Tory moderate, Meredith narrowly missed out on becoming a Conservative MP at the last general election. Standing in Newcastle-under-Lyme, he secured the highest vote share for the Conservative Party since 1900 but came up 30 votes short. He is now chairman of the Tory Reform Group, having previously served as deputy chairman. Meredith graduated from Keele University in 2008 and went on to work at the Institution of Civil Engineers before joining the PPA as head of public affairs.  “He’s very smart. I rate him very highly,” says one senior Tory lobbyist.

 

 

32. Naushabah Khan, associate director, Four Communications

 

 

Khan, who recently joined Four Communications from Field Consulting, is seen as a highly capable Labour lobbyist who is destined for bigger things in Westminster. She was Labour’s candidate in the 2014 Rochester and Strood by-election and has come close to getting the nod for the safe Labour seats of Slough and Tooting. “She’s politically ambitious and well-connected on what’s left of the New Labour wing. She has stayed true to her beliefs and not tacked towards the Corbyn wing on the party,” says one pal. “She’s bound to get selected at some point. She’s too talented not to.”

 

 

 

33. Gareth Morgan, director, Cavendish Place Communications

 

 

Labour activist Morgan is the de facto number two at Cavendish Place Communications, having risen up the ranks since joining as an account manager. In 2015 he helped to run Labour MP Catherine West’s general election campaign and since then has been an election agent for London Assembly Elections. He is also an occasional columnist on Labour matters for Total Politics. On Twitter, Morgan proudly describes himself as a “centrist dad” while colleagues describe his style as “no nonsense”.

 

 

34. Katherine Morgan, partner, Interel

 

 

A former policy adviser at the Treasury, Morgan is now making a name for herself as a top financial lobbyist. She spent two years as private secretary to the then paymaster general, Dawn Primarolo before entering public affairs as an account director at MHP. Morgan joined Interel in 2014 to head up its financial and business services practice and was made a partner last year. Colleagues applaud her drive and creativity.

 

 

35. Burhan Al-Gailani, head of public affairs, Brands2Life

 

 

Al-Gailani is a former researcher to Tory MP Maria Miller and an ex-vice chair of the PRCA Public Affairs Group. One industry figure says: "He’s from the corporate comms side of the public affairs world and a proper breath of fresh air. He’s someone who I think is just on the cusp of their time – soon he’ll move in-house and really start smashing it."

 

 

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