Andrew Gifford prepares to enjoy another year as chairman of the APPC
The first thing you notice about Andrew Gifford, founding director of
leading lobbying firm GJW and chairman of the Association of
Professional Political Consultants for the second year running, is that
he seems to be having an immense amount of fun.
He giggles mischieviously, cracks jokes and name-drops with abandon. But
the laid-back manner is, as John Deacon, director general of the British
Phonographic Industry, observes, rather deceptive. ‘He can come across
as an amateur....though he’s not really - I’ve always found him to be
Now one of Britain’s top lobbying firms, with a fee income of more than
pounds 3 million in the UK last year, GJW’s origins go back to 1980 when
its three founding directors, Gifford, Wilf Weeks and Jenny Jeger (who
left in 1992), met as researchers in the House of Commons.
As PA to Liberal leader David Steel during the days of the Lib Lab pact,
Gifford was unimpressed by the lobbying activity he observed. ‘Lobbying
at that stage just didn’t seem to occur,’ he says. ‘There was hugely
controversial legislation like the aircraft and shipbuilding
nationalisations but we didn’t get any lobbying in our office even
though we were, in a sense, holding the strings of power.’
Gifford’s connections are legendary. He was a key figure for the
Liberals in three general election campaigns and still helps out ‘with
ideas and looking at what other political parties are doing’. Brother
Patrick is chairman and chief executive of Fleming Investment Trust
Management and he counts Brian Keelan, MD of SG Warburg’s corporate
finance department, among his friends.
At GJW he is renowned for his habit of coming back from a weekend’s
shooting with another piece of bid work from his City friends.
Certainly, until the launch of Lowe Bell Political, Gifford had
established a virtual monopoly in this area. He has worked on more than
100 bids and is now advising both sides of the agreed bid by MAI for
He is also one of the first people that companies turn to when the
Office of Fair Trading comes knocking. Among them was the BPI - one of
GJW’s first clients.
Despite his reputation in some quarters as a ‘fixer’, Gifford says his
role is more one of co-ordinating political and press activity and
reading the signals. ‘It’s a matter of identifying [the MMC’s] likely
remedies and then thinking what the political consequences of those
might be,’ he says.
Gifford’s triumphs have often relied as much on his skill at press
relations as pure lobbying. A breakthrough campaign for the fledgling
GJW - GEC’s bid to retain an MoD contract for heavyweight torpedoes was
swung, according to Gifford, by a well-timed headline in the Observer
which said ‘Government to buy US torpedo, 5,000 British jobs to go’.
Some criticise Gifford for being good at identifying problems but weak
on solutions. Others as ‘an ideas, not a detail man’. It would, however,
be dangerous to underestimate a man whose company managed the neat trick
of selling out for pounds 5 million (to Lowe Howard-Spink in 1987) and
then buying itself back for less than pounds 1 million five years later.
Apart from a turbulent period immediately after the buy-back, when
Gifford admits GJW ‘took its eye off the ball’ and the firm struggled to
bring in new clients, it has pursued a path of steady growth by
building up semi-autonomous specialist units in areas such as local
government, defence and healthcare. Both Gifford and Weeks, who own 51
per cent of the equity between them, are, on paper at least, multi-
millionaires. GJW is just one of Gifford’s business interests - he is
also a director of Heritage Oil and Fourth Estate, and sits on the
board of two investment trusts: London American Growth and Fleming
Commenting on the working relationship with Weeks, Gifford says: ‘He’s
nasty to people, I’m nice to them’. As for the future, Gifford insists
he is not looking to sell, though he ‘is happy to look at any options’.
A move into financial PR is also on the cards. Gifford may not be at GJW
for ever but he appears to be having too much fun to want a quick exit.
1980 Forms GJW with Wilf Weeks and Jenny Jeger
1987 GJW acquired by Lowe Howard-Spink and Bell
1992 GJW buys itself back from Lowe Group
1994 Launch of the Association of Professional Political consultants
with Gifford as chairman
1996 Gifford is re-elected as APPC chairman