Without any great fanfare and not even an acknowledgement on the company website, Ben Elliot, co-chair of the Tory party under his fellow Old Etonian Boris Johnson, has rejoined the board of directors at PR firm Hawthorn Advisors.
For a public relations outfit, Hawthorn’s own image leaves a lot to be desired. It has lobbied for the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which was banned from operating the UK’s 5G network on security grounds, and also the troubled sub-prime lender Amigo. With Elliot’s links to Russian donors who are close to Vladimir Putin, and allegations that he fixed it for rich clients to meet with the prime minister of the day as well as the then Prince of Wales, it’s little wonder that PR Week reported that Hawthorn was “distancing” itself from Elliot, who stepped down as a director in 2020.
Hawthorn has on its board Sarah Sands, the former editor of the Today programme, who has been working on the image of Akshata Murty, the wife of Rishi Sunak. This is certainly a challenge given how it’s emerged that her father’s firm Infosys – which enriches her household by £11.5m in annual dividends – is still operating from Russia, eight months after claiming it was pulling out.
Happily for Elliot, former party workers are not required to seek permission to take on jobs in the way that ministers and special advisers are after relinquishing their posts.
Elliot, the nephew of the Queen consort, remained on the board of Quintessentially (UK) during his period working for the Tories. The company is still behind with its accounts. Its latest figures to April 30 2020 make grim reading with a £17,973,000 deficit. Meanwhile, ties between Hawthorn and Johnson’s government appear to be a touchy subject. The Cabinet Office has just seen fit to correct the official records to state that when Andrew Griffith met Hawthorn Advisors in June when he was head of the No 10 policy unit and minister for policy, it was a “personal meeting.”
After declaring that Kwasi Kwarteng’s budget was “the best I have ever heard a British chancellor deliver, by a massive margin” only to see what happened next, the Sunday Telegraph editor and Daily Telegraph columnist Allister Heath now appears to have succumbed to deep depression. “What has been the point of the Tory-led governments of the past 12 years?” he wailed the other day.
In the Torygraph this amounts to nothing short of sacrilege, but Heath – fabled in his papers’ offices for his Rees-Moggian slumping in the furniture during meetings – is not in any mood to apologise for backing the succession of losers. Notwithstanding the Tories’ huge majority, he feels it’s “the power of dominant left-wing ideology” that’s to blame for everything going pear-shaped.
Heath, born in Alsace, France, to what his Wikipedia entry stresses was “a part-British family,” suggests the way forward is more referendums. We saw how well that went last time.
The hilarity on Twitter is not confined to watching Elon Musk tank the already tarnished reputation of his $44bn purchase. Guardian columnist Owen Jones has added to the merriment by declaring his admiration for a fellow Guardian writer with the words “Every single Adrian Chiles column is a corker, without exception… his writing is a little ray of sunshine”.
It is unusually high praise for Chiles, whose recent takes include high-minded thoughts on supermarket loyalty cards and the issue of spectacles sliding down one’s nose. What merits such a random declaration of fandom? Surely the news that Chiles has married Kath Viner, Guardian editor-in-chief, is entirely incidental.