Sir Lynton Crosby’s CT Group lobbied ministers on behalf of a coal trader, a tobacco company and property companies while providing political advice to Boris Johnson, the Guardian can reveal.
Australia’s election guru returned to provide ‘strategic policy advice’ to Johnson and his party after the Partygate scandal earlier this year, with the then Prime Minister promising disgruntled Tory MPs in February that Crosby would play a role most important.
Crosby’s CT Group said its role was solely to advise the Conservative Party and ruled out the possibility of a conflict of interest with its private business interests. However, there are lingering questions about the crossover between Crosby’s political and private work since he returned to advise Johnson as Tory leader, with Labor at the time questioning his attendance at some of the political meetings of the former Prime Minister at 8:30 a.m.
Documents recently filed by CT Group and related companies, of which Crosby is a director and co-owner, reveal that one of his companies was lobbying ministers or senior officials on behalf of Philip Morris, the tobacco company, this year at a time when the government was considering a new anti-smoking strategy and raising the smoking age to 21.
One of his CT companies has also lobbied on behalf of Javelin Global Commodities, a commodities trader, which has struck a deal to buy coal from the controversial West Cumbria coal mine if allowed to continue. Johnson suggested he supported domestic coal production in response to a question about the mine project over the summer, despite concerns about its compatibility with the UK’s net zero targets. A CT Group representative accompanied Javelin to a meeting in June with Greg Hands, a business minister, to discuss liquefied natural gas supply at a time of concern over rising gas prices and the potential for shortages.
Crosby himself also accompanied a real estate magnate, Giles Mackay, with whom he had been a co-investor in a real estate data company called Outra, to a meeting with Johnson’s policy chief, Andrew Griffith, in May to discuss “extending home ownership”.
Crosby’s companies have also lobbied ministers or permanent secretaries on behalf of Vesa, the Czech billionaire-backed company seeking to avoid a government veto over its growing stake in Royal Mail. In addition, they are listed with the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists as having carried out lobbying activities for several property companies and Parkingeye, a parking monitoring company for NHS hospital sites and other clients, earlier this year .
Questions were raised at the time about allowing a lobbyist to play a major role on Johnson’s board, particularly after it emerged that Crosby attended some of Johnson’s 8 a.m. policy meetings 30 at Downing Street.
It comes after Mark Fullbrook, who has a 10% stake in CT Group, went to work at No 10 as Liz Truss’ government chief of staff in September and had to step back from political discussions on a number of subjects.
In June, the CT Group said it was “committed to providing strategic advice to the Conservative Party and its leader”.
Asked what form his lobbying of government ministers on behalf of his clients takes, the CT Group said that Crosby was advising the Conservative Party and not Johnson in his capacity as prime minister or government, and that he had no no role in policy formulation.
The CT group did not have a response to questions from the Guardian about the discussions that took place between its companies and the ministers in relation to its customers.
A spokesman said: ‘Sir Lynton has been engaged by the Conservative Party to provide strategic political advice to the party. Your claim that he was advising Boris Johnson as Prime Minister is false and was intended to deliberately mislead your readers. To be clear there is no conflict of interest as you are trying to claim as he was not advising Boris Johnson as Prime Minister or on government policy. Furthermore, Sir Lynton did not raise any issues about his firm’s customers with Mr Johnson.
“CT strictly adheres to all applicable laws and regulations. This includes ensuring all relevant public disclosures in the Lobby Register…Any claim to the contrary would be erroneous, prejudicial and intended only to mislead your readers.
Asked about CT Group’s work for Philip Morris, a Philip Morris spokesperson said: “Sir Lynton Crosby does not consult for Philip Morris International. PMI adheres to regulations regarding engagement and reporting of meetings with government officials.
A spokesperson for Giles Mackay said: “Mr. Mackay attended the meeting as an information expert on real estate data. He is regularly consulted by private companies and people at all levels of government for his views on the market.
“Mr Mackay has the most comprehensive data on the UK property market through his data science company Outra and provides it to anyone interested in better understanding the market. That was the purpose of her meeting with Mr. Griffith.