What will the reputational price be for Randox from the Owen Paterson scandal?

Randox Laboratories - one of two firms at the centre of the lobbying scandal which ended Owen Paterson’s political career - should take the PR offensive and cut its ties with the former MP, according to health comms experts.

Former MP Owen Paterson has been censured for lobbying government on behalf of Randox (pic credits: Randox and House of Commons)
Former MP Owen Paterson has been censured for lobbying government on behalf of Randox (pic credits: Randox and House of Commons)

Paterson stepped down as an MP last week, in the aftermath of a political row over the government’s attempts to prevent him being suspended for breaking lobbying rules.

Alex Davies, deputy managing director, Hanover Health, told PRWeek: “What shocks me most is the lack of any crisis management or PR from Randox to try and tell their side of the story. Diagnostic companies have played a pivotal role for all of us in the last 18 months and they could be making a strong case for why they were engaging with politicians on an issue of unprecedented national importance, but no – total silence.”

Paterson had been lobbying on behalf of Randox and Lynn's Country Foods, according to a damning report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. And the Standards Committee condemned Paterson for "egregious" lobbying and recommended that he be suspended for 30 days, in a move that ultimately saw him resign as an MP.

He has been on Randox’s payroll since 2015, in an association that has earned him £100,000 a year for devoting 16 hours a month to being an ambassador for the firm. Randox has received more than half a billion in Covid-19 government contracts to date.

'Stop hiding, start story-telling'

Davies said: “It might be too late, but the business needs to explain why its work with Paterson was important to patients, the NHS and the country’s fight back against Covid. For Randox, the PR diagnosis is a simple one: avoiding an issue doesn’t make it go away, it just means you fail to put your messages across. Stop hiding, start story-telling.”

Randox is represented by New Century, a comms agency that claims to be “one of the industry’s leading crisis and issues management consultancies.”

Jenny Ousbey, founder of OVID Health, said: “I doubt the vast majority of the public has ‘clocked’ Randox as part of this story, which I suspect is why Randox has avoided publicly denouncing their relationship in the press.”

'Part company with Paterson'

She added: “My advice would be for Randox to mutually part company with Paterson to protect their reputation amongst sector opinion leaders, once this immediate scandal has passed.”

And Shalon Roth, founder of virtual healthcare communications agency, PR-it, commented: “It is critical that the company reconnects with its core value of being “dedicated to improving health worldwide” to guide its response to the current situation.”

She warned: “No amount of messaging and PR can salvage a reputation if it is not underpinned by genuine intent to do the right thing, and reinforced with meaningful action.” 

Political pressure

The firm is under mounting pressure. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, during a debate in the House of Commons on Monday, said: “The Prime Minister must commit to a full and transparent investigation into Randox and the Government contracts. What do we know? We know that Randox has been awarded Government contracts worth over £600 million, without competition or tender. We know that the former Member for North Shropshire lobbied for Randox. We also know that he sat in on a call between Randox and the Minister responsible for handling the health contracts.”

Randox did not respond to a request for comment from PRWeek.

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