Sir Lynton Crosby’s CT Group was lobbying ministers on behalf of a coal trader, a tobacco company, and property firms at the same time as providing political advice to Boris Johnson, the Guardian can reveal.
The Australian election guru returned to provide “strategic political advice” to Johnson and his party after the Partygate scandal earlier this year, with the then prime minister promising discontented Conservative MPs in February that Crosby would be playing a bigger role.
Crosby’s CT Group said his role was purely advising the Conservative party, and dismissed the potential for a conflict of interest with his private commercial interests. However, there are persistent questions about the crossover between Crosby’s political and private work since he returned to advise Johnson as Conservative leader, with Labour at the time querying his presence at some of the former prime minister’s political 8.30am meetings.
Recent filings 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 civil servants on behalf of Philip Morris, the tobacco company, this year at a time when the government was considering a new smoking strategy and raising the smoking age to 21.
One of his CT companies also lobbied on behalf of Javelin Global Commodities, a commodities trader, which has entered into a deal to buy coal from the controversial West Cumbria coalmine if it is given permission to proceed. Johnson suggested he supported domestic production of coal in answer to a question about the proposed mine over the summer, despite concerns about its compatibility with the UK’s net zero goals. A CT Group representative went along with Javelin to a meeting in June with Greg Hands, a business minister, to discuss supply of liquified natural gas at a time of concern around the rising gas price and potential for shortages.
Crosby himself also accompanied a property tycoon, Giles Mackay, with whom he had been a co-investor in a property data company called Outra, to a meeting with Johnson’s policy chief, Andrew Griffith, in May to discuss “extension of homeownership”.
Crosby’s companies also lobbied ministers or permanent secretaries on behalf of Vesa, the company backed by a Czech billionaire seeking to avoid a government veto over its increasing stake in Royal Mail. In addition, they are listed on the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists as conducted lobbying work for several property companies and Parkingeye, a parking enforcement firm for NHS hospital sites and other clients, earlier this year.
Questions were raised at the time over allowing a lobbyist to play a major role advising Johnson, especially after it emerged Crosby had attended some of Johnson’s 8.30am political meetings in Downing Street.
It comes after Mark Fullbrook, who has a 10% stake in CT Group, went to work in No 10 as chief of staff for the government of Liz Truss in September and had to recuse himself from policy discussions on a number of topics.
In June, CT Group said “engaged to provide strategic advice to the Conservative party and its leader”.
Asked about what form its lobbying of government ministers has taken on behalf of its clients, CT Group said Crosby was advising the Conservative party and not Johnson in his capacity as prime minister or the government, and that he had no role in formulating policy.
CT Group had no response to questions from the Guardian about what discussions took place between its companies and ministers in relation to its clients.
A spokesperson said: “Sir Lynton was 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 wrong and aimed to deliberately mislead your readers. To be clear, there is no conflict of interest, as you try to claim, as he was not advising Boris Johnson as prime minister nor advising on government policy. Further, Sir Lynton did not raise any issues relating to his company’s clients with Mr Johnson.
“CT strictly adheres to all relevant laws and regulations. This includes ensuring all the relevant public disclosures under the lobby register … Any claim to the contrary would be wrong, damaging and aimed solely at misleading your readers.”
Asked about CT Group’s work for Philip Morris, a spokesperson for Philip Morris said: “Sir Lynton Crosby does not consult for Philip Morris International. PMI adheres to regulations relating to engagement and reporting of meetings with government officials.”
A spokesperson for Giles Mackay said: “Mr Mackay attended the meeting as a property data information expert. He is regularly consulted by private business and people at all levels of government for his views on the market.
“Mr Mackay has the most extensive data on the UK property market through his data science company Outra and he provides this to anyone interested in understanding the market better. This was the purpose of his meeting with Mr Griffith.”