Transparency call for Cameron strategist

LONDON: Leading public affairs professionals have called for Lynton Crosby to declare his agency's clients and dedicate himself full-time to advising UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

LONDON: Leading public affairs professionals have called for Lynton Crosby to declare his agency's clients and dedicate himself full-time to advising UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron was dogged by questions over the weekend about whether his campaign strategist, who co-founded agency Crosby Textor, has influenced policy decisions.

The scrutiny began after a perceived government U-turn on banning branding on cigarette packets after it emerged that Crosby Textor's clients included tobacco interests.

Alex Deane, head of public affairs at Weber Shandwick, has worked with Crosby previously and said that the party has been given a “focus and edge” by the strategist and “needs” him.

He called on Crosby to take “a leave of absence” from his firm to dedicate himself to the Conservative role full-time and to help silence questions about undue influence. He added that another critical step was for Crosby's agency to disclose its clients.

“As agencies, we declare our clients through the [Association of Professional Political Consultants] and [Public Relations Consultants Association] as we believe in transparency, and it's not helped Crosby's case that they have not declared theirs,” said Deane. “Transparency would help salvage the situation and lance the boil.”

Cameron defended his relationship with Crosby on Sunday's Andrew Marr Show. The prime minister strenuously denies that he has been “lobbied” by him.

However, stories have continued to emerge about Crosby Textor clients, including The Guardian revealing a presentation it claims was created by the agency for private healthcare firm H5 Private Healthcare Alliance on opportunities involving the UK National Health Service.

The issue of lobbying transparency has also been in the spotlight following the government revealing its widely criticized register of lobbyist proposals last week.

Interel director Lee Whitehill agreed with Deane's call for greater transparency.             

He said the story was mainly of interest “within the Westminster bubble” but added it threatened to have new potency as criminal trials begin on phone hacking at News International, which involves the prime minister's former comms director, Andy Coulson.

“They will want to nail the story before that trial, so [the prime minister's office] also needs to be more open to change the perception that it is being shifty,” he added.

This story originally appeared on the website of PRWeek UK.

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