Labour’s Jones took donation from fossil fuel PR lobbyists

There’s more than a sniff of sleaze about a donation accepted by one of Croydon Labour’s parliamentary candidates from lobbyists for vested interests in the fuel industry, reports STEVEN DOWNES

Decarbonisation, you say? How about a donation from lobbyists who work for Big Oil? Yes, you say? Good to have you on board…

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Blanked: Labour’s Sarah Jones can’t find time to speak to constituents tomorrow night

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What a gas: Sarah Jones is Labour’s decarbonisation spokesperson

We have no idea whether such a conversation has ever taken place, but there is more than a sniff of sleaze surrounding a report overnight that Croydon Labour’s Sarah Jones accepted thousands of pounds in sponsorship for a fundraising event from a public affairs company that includes among its client list BP and British Gas.

Jones, the MP for Croydon Central since 2017, is seeking re-election on July 4 in the new constituency of Croydon West. Jones is Keith Starmer’s shadow minister for industry and decarbonisation, and is tipped for a cabinet job after the expected Labour landslide in next month’s General Election.

Jones’s official parliamentary declarations record show that last month, just days before the General Election date was announced, she received food and drink for a fundraising event worth £2,500 from Beyond 2050, a PR firm that represents some of the country’s biggest gas producers and distributors.

While this may not be among the most egregious examples of lobbyists seeking to influence the country’s lawmakers, it is hardly a good look for Jones, who before she became an MP worked in PR for… [checks notes]… Gatwick Airport.

Under Starmer, Labour has significantly watered down its environmental policies, to the point where they are almost indistinguishable from Rishi Sunak’s Tories, who have spent the past two years crapping themselves as they have appeased Farridge and the far right on ecological measures to reduce carbon emissions.

In February, Starmer and Robotic Rachel Reeves, his shadow chancellor, announced that they would be halving Labour’s £28billion green investment plan, prompting an angry response from environmental groups, unions and some in the energy sector.

The Unite union said Labour risked “outsourcing their policymaking to the Conservatives”, while the energy industry’s trade group said it was concerned about the reduced ambition for “the future of our sector in the UK”.

So the fact that Starmer’s decarbonisation spokesperson is taking donations from fuel industry lobbyists will reassure no one about Labour being any different, in policy or in ethics, to the long-discredited Tories.

Jones’s connections with lobbyists Beyond 2050 were reported last night by DeSmog, an independent investigative and research website that specialises in covering the climate emergency.

They have found that PR firm Beyond 2050’s official register shows that they have represented British Gas’s parent company Centrica, as well as global oil giant BP and the Northern Gas Networks. Beyond 2050 describes itself as the “leading strategy and political relations agency on hydrogen”, working with “some of the UK’s most innovative hydrogen businesses and entrepreneurs”.

Beyond 2050 coordinated a “Hydrogen Zone” at both Labour and Conservative conferences last autumn.

“Given that hydrogen can be blended into gas pipelines, there has been an extensive lobbying campaign from fossil fuel companies to advocate for the switch to hydrogen – despite concerns from scientists about the green potential of the technology,” DeSmog reports.

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On the record: how the Beyond 2050 ‘donation’ appears on Jones’s parliamentary declarations

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On the record: how the Beyond 2050 ‘donation’ appears on Jones’s parliamentary declarations

Labour’s manifesto, published last week, says that the party will invest in hydrogen power: “Labour’s National Wealth Fund will directly invest in ports, hydrogen and industrial clusters in every corner of the country.”

Beyond 2050 is co-owned by Jo Bamford, the heir to the JCB construction vehicle business. Bamford’s family and business have donated more than £10million to the Conservative Party over the past 20 years. Official records show that Jo Bamford has personally donated £82,000 to the Conservatives since 2019.

DeSmog reports: “Jo Bamford is the owner of Ryze Hydrogen, a firm which ‘transports and distributes green hydrogen… for powering our transport systems, industries and homes’.

“He also set up a £1billion hydrogen investment fund, known as HYCAP, in 2021.” DeSmog says that Ryze Hydrogen and HYCAP are both represented by Beyond 2050.

In common with many lobbying firms, Beyond 2050 seeks to influence policy-makers, in a well-funded ploy that bypasses the ballot box and anything as old-fashioned as democracy. And they even boast about it.

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Vested interests: JCB heir Jo Bamford co-owns Beyond 2050 and has significant holdings in hydrogen companies

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Vested interests: JCB heir Jo Bamford co-owns Beyond 2050 and has significant holdings in hydrogen companies

Beyond 2050 claims to be able to “influence… short- and long-term policy decisions” with “an unrivalled network among politicians, advisers, officials and industry” that gives the firm a “unique insight into policy decisions and how to influence them”. Cosy.

In 2022, Beyond 2050 provided staffing support worth the equivalent of £18,000 to the Labour Party.

“It is totally unacceptable for Labour to accept any donations from the hydrogen lobby and put their climate policies at risk of being distorted by false solutions,” Carys Boughton, Fossil Free Parliament campaigner, told DeSmog.

“It’s no secret that the hydrogen lobby is the gas lobby in disguise, pushing for hydrogen as a way to preserve its polluting business as usual. If Labour is serious about making Britain a ‘clean energy superpower’ then it needs to treat the hydrogen lobby with extreme caution, not cosy up to it.”

Inside Croydon approached Sarah Jones for a comment on her involvement with Beyond 2050 and the hydrogen lobby. But in keeping with Croydon Labour’s aversion to accountability to the public, the party’s decarbonisation spokesperson did not respond.

Inside Croydon had already approached Sarah Jones to participate in our Election Questions interviews, where candidates from across the political spectrum, and across Croydon’s four parliamentary constituencies have been invited to answer a series of questions, the first of which is “Why should we trust you, or your party?”

We have not had the courtesy of a response. Perhaps Sarah Jones feels she is unable to answer such a question about integrity.

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