Tories choose lobbyists to fight for Labour seats
Conservative candidates for the general election include FTI director Daniel Hamilton.
A handful of public affairs operators have been selected as Conservative candidates in seats that the party hopes to steal off Labour.
The Tories have selected Antony Calvert in Wakefield, Caroline Squire in Birmingham Edgbaston, Clark Vasey in Workington and Daniel Hamilton in Stockport.
Calvert 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. The agency specialises in public affairs and community consultation, but Calvert has claimed: “We are a different beast to typical public affairs or political lobbyists in that our goals are to be advocates for the property industry.”
The public affairs boss is up against former Labour leadership contender Mary Creagh in Wakefield. Labour has a majority of 2,613 and the coming general election will be Calvert’s second bite at the cherry after he stood against Creagh in 2015.
Squire is the great-great granddaughter of Joseph Chamberlain. She spent six years in the political and regulatory team at the well-known City-based lobbying firm Finsbury before a brief stint as a public affairs adviser at Sainsbury’s. In 2014 she became a self-employed public consultant, using the title Chamberlain Consulting. Squire is seeking to overturn a Labour majority of 2,706 in Birmingham Edgbaston where current MP Gisela Stuart is standing down.
Vasey is a former lobbyist for Bell Pottinger Public Affairs and Jefferson Communications who is now head of corporate affairs for Fujitsu UK. He is also founder of the Blue Collar Conservatism group. He will try to overturn a Labour a majority of 4,686 in Workington, with the seat currently held by shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman.
Hamilton is a director at FTI Consulting who previously worked as a senior lobbyist at Bell Pottinger. He faces a tough battle to win Stockport which he was selected for in 2015 and where Labour’s Anne Coffey has a majority of just over 10,000.
Other public affairs figures doing battle for the Conservatives include James Wild and Chris Donnelly.
Wild is a former public affairs manager at T-Mobile and account director at Hanover Communications, who went on to be a special adviser to defence secretary Michael Fallon. He has been selected to fight North Norfolk, which is held by Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb with a majority of 4,043.
Donnelly is government and policy analyst at Rugby Football Union. He is standing in Midlothian which is held by the SNP and not expected to turn blue.
A number of other lobbyists were shortlisted to be Tory parliamentary candidates but failed to get selected. They include Novartis government affairs manager Louise Nathanson in Oldham East and Saddleworth and Remarkable Group consultant James Bird in Birmingham Northfield.
Meanwhile, Airbus UK public affairs chief Kathryn Bennett was shortlisted for the safe Tory seat of Saffron Walden but dropped out at the last minute.