Labour drawn into Greensill row as it emerges key Starmer ally works for lobbying firm

Lucy Fisher
·4-min read
The shadow attorney general first joined the US company in 2008, a year after leaving Tony Blair’s Cabinet, in which he had served as Lord Chancellor -  Asadour Guzelian
The shadow attorney general first joined the US company in 2008, a year after leaving Tony Blair’s Cabinet, in which he had served as Lord Chancellor - Asadour Guzelian

The Conservatives on Sunday night attempted to draw Labour into the lobbying row engulfing Westminster by claiming an senior opposition frontbencher has questions to answer over his role at a firm that provides advocacy services.

Lord Falconer, shadow attorney general, is a partner at Gibson Dunn, an international law firm headquartered in the US, which has provided advice on “political lobbying” in the UK.

It says of its “public policy” lobbying practice: “Unlike a pure lobbying firm, Gibson Dunn’s work is grounded in traditional analytic and advocacy skills, combined with broad experience in US and international government operations.” It says its methods “achieve the desired result without fanfare or unwanted publicity”.

The Labour peer works for the firm’s litigation practice, rather than its lobbying arm. He is co-lead of the firm’s Covid Taskforce, which has published guidance to businesses on Covid support packages, including the Covid Corporate Financing Facility and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, via client updates on its website.

In January he also appeared on a webcast hosted by the firm to discuss the Brexit deal secured at the end of last year and “whether it is good or bad for business”.

The event focussed on the main structural changes of the deal and what it “means for trade (including supply chains and tariffs), financial services and competition law and what businesses need to do to respond and what to expect in the coming months”.

In another webinar for the firm, Lord Falconer called the Covid pandemic “the gift that keeps on giving” for lawyers, a comment for which he later apologised.

He first joined the leading US law firm in 2008, a year after leaving Tony Blair’s Cabinet, in which he had served as Lord Chancellor. Gibson Dunn marked his promotion to the shadow cabinet last April in a statement on its website.

A QC, his role at the company is understood to focus on giving advice on what the law means. He has declared his work for the firm in the Lords’ register of interests.

Labour leader Sir Keir has heaped criticism on an alleged “revolving door” between the Government and paid lobbyists in the wake of the row over the collapsed lender Greensill.

Amanda Milling, chairman of the Conservative party, said of Lord Falconer’s links to a firm that provides lobbying services: “Is this a case of one rule for Labour and another for everyone else? It’s clear that Labour’s have questions to answer.”

Tory MP Richard Holden said: “Labour London lawyers in their crystal palaces would be well advised against throwing stones.”

A source close to Lord Falconer said that any suggestion that his work amounts to lobbying is “an absurd claim” that he “emphatically denies”.

The source added: “Charlie Falconer is a lawyer, not a lobbyist. His work has all been properly declared. Since being employed by Gibson Dunn he has never lobbied any government minister from either Labour or Conservative governments.

“The Conservatives should stop wasting time on bizarre and misleading claims and instead answer questions about how Greensill Capital was given the run of Whitehall, putting taxpayer money and thousands of jobs on the line.”

David Cameron-Greensill lobbying scandal explained
David Cameron-Greensill lobbying scandal explained

It comes after fresh revelations over Mr Cameron’s lobbying of Government emerged on Sunday. It was revealed that he also lobbied Matthew Gould, the head of the NHS’s digital arm, for access to health staff data.

According to an email leaked to The Sunday Times, the former prime minister emailed Mr Gould in April last year about rolling out Greensill’s advance payment app, Earnd, for doctors and nurses across the NHS.

In the email, Mr Cameron claimed that Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, had been “extremely positive” about the proposal. Within months, Earnd announced a partnership to deliver rapid payment to up to half a million NHS staff.

It is claimed that the data requested was to make the process of delivering payments to workers who opted into Earned more efficient, and was done in a way that was compliant with data privacy rules.

Greensill fell into administration last month.

A spokesman for Mr Cameron told the newspaper: “These discussions were about the mechanics to ensure Earnd was delivered for NHS workers in an efficient way.”