The appointment follows a competitive tender that stipulated the requirement for a ‘personal relationship’ with a consultant. Former Weber Shandwick vice-chairman Lord Tom McNally serviced the account until his election as Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords in 2004.
A Sovereign spokesman said the contract covers ‘strategic political advice’ to ‘help retain the Corporation’s status as London’s pre-eminent financial centre’. It involves representing the body’s interests on matters of tax, regulation and improving transport and education in the capital. Tony Halmos, director of the Corporation’s PR office, oversaw the hire.
As well as fighting off Canary Wharf to retain its role as London’s financial heartland, the Corporation has been urging developers to bring in retailers to transform the Square Mile into a 24/7 shopping destination.
Sovereign’s appointment, however, is bound to raise eyebrows. As well as attracting controversy over its employment of existing peers, the firm has been hit by allegations of sleaze over its links to the nuclear lobby.
A Sunday Times report last month alleged that Sovereign had paid £2,000 to refurbish the constituency HQ of Environment Secretary David Miliband.
A former Cabinet minister, Cunningham co-chairs the Transatlantic Nuclear Energy Forum.