If you want to see just how cosy politicians, nuclear companies and lobbyists can get, just take a look at this from the UK’s Guardian newspaper. With Prime Minister Gordon Brown launching the UK’s nuclear ‘renaissance’, the nuclear power companies are obviously desperate to get a slice of the action. So, they hire lobbyists to put their case to the politicians.
The Japanese-American nuclear company Westinghouse have recruited lobbyists Sovereign Strategy. It looks like a very smart choice – in hiring Sovereign, Westinghouse have bought themselves some excellent connections. According to the UK’s Electoral Commission which records donations made to political parties, Sovereign Strategy made donations to Brown’s ruling Labour Party totalling nearly £124,000 between 2002 and 2007.
Alan Donnelly, Sovereign’s chairman is a former Labour member of the European Parliament. He also happens to be the chairman of the local Labour Party in Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s constituency. How’s that for access?
Sovereign Strategy specialise in ‘relationship building and stakeholder engagement support’. That’s a euphemism that could cover a multitude of sins. Last year, the then UK Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett was asked about meetings with representatives of Sovereign Strategy:
[T]he Minister for Europe has met Alan Donnelly, Executive Chairman of Sovereign Strategy, on a number of occasions as they have been personal friends for a number of years. Mr. Donnelly is well known to many Ministers and is likely also to have met others on a number of occasions.
Isn’t that nice? Of course there’s no suggestion of corruption here, it’s just an illustration of how these things work. Who has never asked a friend of a friend for a favour? Just scale that up to asking a favour about a business deal worth billions of dollars.
We shall be watching Westinghouse’s progress in the UK's nuclear industry with close interest.