Winning here: the Lib Dems' links with China

13 August 2021

9:28 PM

13 August 2021

9:28 PM

Earlier this week Mr S brought you news of the latest interminable row splitting the Lib Dems: what to do about Vince Cable? The ex-leader has alienated his party’s youth wing with his comments about the Chinese Communist party and Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims. Cable has denied that genocide is taking place in Xinjiang and also defended the Hong Kong government’s crackdown on protesters on the grounds that ‘there’s got to be order.’ Bull in the China shop stuff indeed.

Now Mr S has been delving into the links of some of Cable’s colleagues from the Coalition government. Back then, it was the so-called ‘golden era’ of UK-China relations with Sinophilia all the rage in SW1 – a phenomena from which the Lib Dems were by no means exempt. After being dumped out of Parliament at the 2015 election, Cable’s fellow Cabinet minister Danny Alexander went to work as the number two man at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank based in Beijing – an institution used to front the country’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative.’

Joining Cable and Alexander around the Cabinet table was Ed Davey who registered a £5,000 donation for his (successful) leadership campaign from Michael Rake when he was an adviser of Huawei. Still employed at the same company is Ashley Lumsden, a former special adviser to Cable, who now does PR and government relations for the controversial Chinese tech giant. Others at similar firms include Ben Rathe, who was press secretary to Cable’s successor Jo Swinson, and who now works as a corporate communications manager for Tik Tok alongside Sara Mosavi – Swinson’s head of office during her (brief) tenure at the top.

Nick Clegg’s own special adviser, Ryan Coetzee, ran the party’s disastrous 2015 election campaign and now brings such expertise to his current role at Consulum. The Hong Kong government awarded a £5m public relations contract to the Mayfair-headquartered Consulum as part of its Relaunch Hong Kong campaign, shortly before Beijing introduced a new security law designed to crush pro-democracy protests in the territory. Coetzee was reported to be leading on that account.

James Gurling meanwhile is a long-time party stalwart who ran the party’s 2017 election campaign and was awarded an OBE for political service in the 2015 Birthday Honours. His PR firm, MHP communications, ran campaigns for Huawei and hired Ed Davey as a paid advisor after he too lost his seat. Appropriate, perhaps, as Davey was the minister who approved the Hinkley Point C nuclear deal, a project which involved the state-backed China General Nuclear and French firm EDF – one of MHP’s clients.

Steerpike wonders if such skilled political operatives will have more success in their current roles than they did in breaking the two-party British political system.

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