For those who ask: ‘what are the Occupy protests about?’ oil and gas lobbyists are a great example of the business elite’s hidden power inside government.
Take the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). To get around public anger, the company behind the UK’s first fracking project, Cuadrilla, generate behind-the-scenes political support through Guildford District Councillor and lobbyist Nick Sutcliffe. As well as bearing a striking resemblance to Peter Mandelson, Sutcliffe also performs as Cuadrilla’s ‘Prince of Darkness’.
Freedom of Information requests reveals Caudrilla met Department of Energy and Climate Change an extraordinary eleven times between April 09 and June 11.
In April Charles Hendry (Minister for Energy) and Simon Toole (Director of Oil and Gas Licensing, Exploration and Development) visited Cuadrilla’s sites inBlackpool.
Was Nick Sutcliffe involved in setting these meeting up? It would certainly seem so. Sutcliffe moonlights for PPS Group whose website states: ‘we work on securing support from key politicians for shale gas exploration for Cuadrilla’.
Getting clients into Westminster is a normal part of a lobbyist’s job. It’s a revolving door – many PPS staff members have been – or are currently – involved in politics. Founder Stephen Byfield is a former staffer for a Labour MP. Director Charles StGeorge is an ex-Tory councillor. Staffer Donald Anderson was leader of Edinburgh City Council from 1999 to 2006.
It also helps to have developed political expertise in a specific area. Nick Sutcliffe serves on the planning committee at Guildford District Council. As such he’s well placed to understand the ins and outs of planning permissions. And this certainly brings in the business. Sutcliffe’s biography on the PPS website states: ‘He has represented some of the most controversial industry sectors including energy-intensive industries, construction and development, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, private health insurance and medical devices. He has successfully used front-page media coverage to shift perceptions and achieve a step change in politicians’ views and rapid shifts in public policy.’
Sutcliffe’s bio also reveals how he reconciles lobbying with his democratic responsibilities: ‘Nick also serves as a District Councillor in his spare time’.