Keir Starmer is a friend of corporate lobbyists and big business. The Labour leader embraces Bloomberg boss Constantin Cotzias at Labour conference last year (Picture: Keir Starmer/Flickr)

Keir Starmer vowed on Thursday to end the “revolving doors between government and the companies they regulate”. In fact he has decided to prop the door wide open.

He announced a “crackdown on cronyism” and said Labour was no longer in “thrall to gesture politics”. The reality is that the party is in thrall to big business.

So last September, Labour’s internal policymaking body promised, “We will ban former ministers from lobbying, consultancy or any paid work relating to their former job.” It said the ban would last “for at least five years.”

This week Labour say the ban is less than a ban, adding, “We’re looking at what is practical to implement.” Some crackdown.

Starmer has accepted more corporate freebies over the past two years than every other Labour leader since 1997 put together. Sometimes it is transparent. For example, when Labour shadow cabinet members and their staff accepted luxury gifts from Google worth nearly £10,000 before they announced a policy U-turn on taxing digital companies.

These included tickets and accommodation for the Glastonbury festival, as well as a £380 dinner from Google for Keir Starmer.

Businesses with policy agendas buy nice things for politicians and their staff because it works.

Commercial lobbying exists to help those with money get extra influence over governments. That means by definition the rest of us get less.

But the transaction isn’t always retail—it’s usually wholesale. And it goes both ways. At least ten current staffers for shadow cabinet ministers previously worked as corporate lobbyists.

And Labour now takes on staff who are still employed as corporate lobbyists—seconded from their usual work to the Labour Party. So much of the shadow cabinet is working with people who are paid to sell access to them.

Meanwhile, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper all have bosses paying for staff in their offices. There is no suggestion of impropriety. Their belief in policies that are good for their banker backers is genuine.

Meanwhile, the offices and bars around Westminster have been filling in recent months with new bespoke “Labour units” being set up by lobbyists.

According to one PR executive, “At times it can seem like consultant gigs are available to anyone who has ever touched a Labour leaflet.”

Former Labour minister Tom Harris joined Instinctif Partners as a senior advisor to its “Navigating Labour” hub. Harris argues the relationship between Labour and business shows a “mature, realistic approach” to policymaking.

“You want to bring that to potential and existing clients, so a good way to do that is to set up a new unit,” Harris says. “Give it a name and reintroduce the people in that unit to prospective clients. I think that’s a perfectly legitimate way of doing business.”

A survey from Bloomberg in September found that two thirds of money managers and traders in the city believed a Labour government would be the “most market friendly outcome”. Last month Labour announced it was backed by “10 City grandees” as advisors because it has “stopped sneering at business”.

And next month sees the Labour Business Conference. To be a headline partner costs £50,000, but does include three guests attending a pre-conference welcome dinner with MPs. To be a Networking Drinks partner was a mere £35,000. Readers will be unsurprised that the £995-a-ticket event is a sell-out.

The Labour spin doctor behind Lexington PR

Lexington PR was founded by Mike Craven. Craven was an advisor to the then Labour deputy prime minister John Prescott and a leading spin doctor for the Labour Party.

Its website is clear, “We understand the Labour Party better than anyone else. Lexington’s expertise and public affairs team is grounded in years of advising the Labour Party at the most senior level, including former advisers to Keir Starmer and the shadow cabinet.”

Current clients include United Utilities, the private water firm putting sewage into Lake Windermere. They also represent pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer, Tesco and the multinational Mars.

Former Labour MP Mary Creagh runs Lexington’s “responsible business” market and Joe Vinson, a former aide to Labour’s Wes Streeting, is there too.

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