Deal that broke down after request for Blunkett was rejected

A LEADING left-of-centre think-tank was asked to try to secure David Blunkett's presence at a public meeting during negotiations over a pounds 20,000 education project, it was claimed last night.

The allegation came as the extent of links between Labour and the lobbying industry were uncovered by The Independent. Not only does almost every major political consultancy now employ staff with close links to Labour, but the party's fundraisers have been wooing lobbyists to milk sponsorship from their clients.

The request to bring the Secretary of State for Education into the launch of a joint project between the Fabian Society and the Edexcel Foundation exam board was made by a lobbyist who used to work for Labour.

Paul Wheeler, who at the time worked for a firm called the Public Policy Unit, was helping to negotiate a project including educational research, a series of seminars and an essay competition. However, when he asked the Fabian Society's senior officials if they could secure Mr Blunkett's presence at a public launch with Sir Michael Lickiss, Chairman of Edexcel, the answer was "no".

A Fabian source said last night: "We told them, 'We can't guarantee Blunkett. We are not in that game, and we can't do it anyway." The deal had broken down for a number of reasons including the non-involvement of Mr Blunkett, he added.

The Fabian Society has recently issued funding guidelines to its supporters which state: "The Fabian Society's work frequently involves ministers, advisers or senior Labour Party personnel ... We do not provide access to such figures simply in return for funding. We are not a lobbying organisation.'

Last night, Mr Wheeler said the pounds 20,000 grant had never been contingent on Mr Blunkett's presence. Nor had the collapse of the deal been due to that aspect. "There were a whole range of people's names mentioned. David Blunkett might have been one of them but I don't think that was very practical and we weren't saying that if David Blunkett doesn't come we are not doing it."

In a letter to Edexcel, the Fabians' general secretary Michael Jacobs said he felt the amount of work involved was not commensurate with the level of sponsorship and the seminar subjects needed more rigorous definition.

Gordon Tempest-Hay, head of corporate affairs for the Edexcel Foundation, said it had no need to offer money to meet ministers. "We have regular day-to-day contact with the frontbench team. If David Blunkett had got involved and had been there, that would have been great, but at no stage did we say 'We must have David Blunkett standing under an Edexcel banner'," he said.

A senior figure in the lobbying business said last night that the involvement of ministers in deals was common practice. Although most lobbyists would never be so crude as to specifically offer money for a meeting or appearance, the link would be implicit, he said.

"It is like sponsoring any conference. You only want to sponsor it if you can get good people coming."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea