A letter to the Labour Party – serious concerns over lobbying interests
22 December 2023
I write to express my concern that Blair McDougall, the prospective Labour Party candidate for East Renfrewshire, is currently employed by Arden Strategies, a lobbying and public relations company. My concern is that there is a revolving door between politics and the lobbying industry. In the wake of the Greensill scandal involving David (now Lord) Cameron, the recent disciplinary action taken against Scott Benton, the Conservative MP for Blackpool South and the resignation of Owen Paterson after another lobbying scandal, what steps have the Labour Party taken in terms of due diligence related to Mr McDougall standing as an MP while employed as a lobbyist.
Will Mr McDougall be stepping down from his role with Arden Strategies if he succeeds in being elected in East Renfrewshire?
Will Mr McDougall recuse himself from any decisions involving commercial clients of Arden Strategies as an MP?
How can voters in East Renfrewshire conduct their own due diligence regarding any potential conflicts Mr McDougall may face as an MP who is also a lobbyist?
How can electors in East Renfrewshire access the Arden Strategies client list to ensure that Mr McDougall is representing the interests of his constituents rather than those of clients of Arden Strategies in any decisions involving private and commercial companies in East Renfrewshire?
The first lobbying scandal of devolved government in Scotland, ‘Lobbygate’ arose as a result of the overly close relationships between Jack (now Lord) McConnell who was a former employee of Beattie Media (who also employed the son of John Reid, the former Labour Secretary of State for Scotland amongst other roles).
There was also the Cash for Questions scandal at Westminster which was another lobbying scandal.
Jim Murphy, the former Labour MP and former Secretary of State for Scotland is the Managing Director of Arden Strategies and Ken McIntosh, the former presiding officer at the Scottish Parliament is another employee. What steps will Scottish Labour take to ensure there is no conflict of interest between Mr McDougall’s private business interests and the interests of his constituents in East Renfrewshire?
I write as a concerned, politically engaged citizen who has a particular interest in the increasing influence of the lobbying industry in British politics. I have attempted to engage Mr McDougall on Twitter as he is a frequent tweeter and commentator on Scottish politics, particularly in his Notes on Nationalism blog. Mr McDougall has not engaged with my questions, despite the fact that I am identifiable and tweeting under my own name.
It is my intention to pursue this matter, but I wish to allow the Labour Party in Scotland the opportunity to respond to the questions I have raised. I would appreciate an acknowledgement of receipt of this letter and a prompt response.