Weber Shandwick Public Affairs

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Formerly known as Weber Shandwick GJW Public Affairs, Weber Shandwick Public Affairs (WSPA) is part of Weber Shandwick Worldwide, one of the largest PR companies in the world and largest in the UK, whose ultimate owner is Interpublic, one of the big three global communications conglomerates.

Described in PR Week as a “thrusting public affairs agency on the cutting edge of politics and lobbying , WSPA has absorbed many other lobby firms including GJW, Shandwick Public Affairs, Charles Barker Public Affairs. WSPA describes its staff as “spanning the political spectrum and including former special advisors, election aides and election candidates.”


Conservative Lord Chadlington, aka Peter Gummer, younger brother of John Gummer, founded Shandwick in 1974. [1] WSPA was launched in 1997 under the guidance of Lord McNally, now leader of the Lib-Dems in the Lords, and a friend of WSPA CEO, Colin Byrne (according to Byrne). [2] Lord Tom McNally joined Weber Shandwick in 1993, became non-exec vice-chairman of Weber Shandwick in 2003 a position he left in November 2004 on his appointment as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. [3]

Friends in the right places

CEO Colin Byrne is described as a key figure in the interface between big business and New Labour. [4] Byrne worked for Labour and used to be Peter Mandelson’s flatmate. Andrew Brown, brother of Prime Minister Gordon, was also a Weber Shandwick employee (director of media strategy) before moving to nuclear energy company EDF. Former employees also include ex William Hague press aide and now Conservative MP for Witham, Priti Patel; Lib Dem MP for Winchester, Mark Oaten; and Graham Brady, Tory MP for Altrincham and Sale West and Shadow Minister for Europe.

According to Electoral Commission's register of donations, the company gave Labour £17,000 in August 2004 and a further £19,500 in September 2005. [5]

Revelations that former cabinet minister David Blunkett was paid £15,000 by Weber Shandwick to speak at a dinner convened by the agency in March 2005, prompted trade body the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) to review its code of conduct. Blunkett was introduced to Tariq and Lucy Siddiqi of DNA Bioscience, the firm at the centre of his downfall, at the dinner. [6]

In a recent post on his blog CEO Byrne said: “Perhaps it is time for lobbyists and politicians to accept the need and benefit of some form of formal registration and a total ban on politicians giving favoured access to political friends in lobbying roles. I think this is how it works in Washington.” [7]

Weber Shandwick Scotland

Weber Shandwick has three offices in Scotland: Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow. It provides a range of PR and lobbying services to 'businesses, charities and other organisations' to help them 'navigate the new political establishment in Scotland'. Its team in Scotland is made up of 'former political staffers, journalists, government officials and others'.

Weber Shandwick in Scotland has employed people with backgrounds from all four of the major Scottish parties, which it said, 'ensured that clients have access to the best insight and expertise whatever political communication challenge they face.' This includes Niki Birrell, a former senior researcher for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and Moray Macdonald, former Director and Head of Research for the Scottish Conservatives. Conor Magowan is Director of Public Affairs in Scotland.

In June 2015, Luke Skipper - ' the SNP’s Lynton Crosby' - joined Weber Shandwick's Scottish lobbying team. Skipper was chief of staff of the SNP Westminster Group for the eight years to 2015, working closely with the SNP leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson MP and was 'deeply involved in the strategic planning behind recent SNP campaigns including the 2015 General Election landslide'.

His 'insight and experience' were described by Weber Shandwick 'crucial as we guide clients through our new political landscape'.[8]

Relationship with the Bahraini Government

According to a posting on the website of the Bahraini government’s Tender Board, Weber Shandwick has made a bid of 1.9 million US dollars to win a new PR contract. [9] Advocacy group Bahrain Watch called the bidding PR companies not to play a role in the Bahraini government's attempt to whitewash its image amidst its repression of pro-democracy protesters. [10]


  • Colin Byrne
  • Jon McLeod Chairman of UK Public Affairs at Weber Shandwick, McLeod went into public affairs in 1994 from financial and legal journalism. Clients he’s worked with include Microsoft, Shell, Coca Cola, Barclays, Mars, Clifford Chance, and NTL. McLeod is a Board Member of the East Midlands Development Agency and a council member of the Nottinghamshire Learning & Skills Council. In 2004, responding to a report showing politicians lack of trust in lobbyists, McLeod said: “I don't think anyone could swallow the idea of lobbyists going on a charm offensive. It would be a bit much to stomach.” [11]
  • Priti Patel Now the Conservative Party’s first Asian female MP, Patel won the newly created constituency of Witham in Essex in the May 2010 UK elections. Patel had rejoined Weber Shandwick in December 2007 from drink company Diageo, (where she'd shaped a global strategy on responsible drinking). She previously worked at Weber Shandwick from 2000 to 2003 and has also been deputy press secretary to ex-Tory leader William Hague.
  • Luke Akehurst Akehurst has been a Labour Party activist since 1988, and a staunch Blairite. He was Parliamentary candidate for Aldershot (2001) and Castle Point (2005), and since 2002, has been Hackney Councillor (Chatham Ward) and chief whip of Labour in the London borough. He specialises in advising defence and aerospace companies. He has a Blog[12] which has been spoofed.[13]


Weber Shandwick took on BNFL as a client in 2002 [14]




Edinburgh: 9 York Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AB
Glasgow: The Hub, 70 Pacific Quay, Glasgow, G51 1EA
58 Queens Road, Aberdeen, AB15 4YE



  1. Deborah Ross, "Interview-lord Chadlington: Lord, what a nightmare at the opera", Independent on Sunday, 08 December 1997.
  2. Colin Byrne's blog, 'Byrne Baby Byrne', 26 Oct 2007.
  3. Lib Dem website, Who's who
  4. Mark Hollingsworth, An infestation of lobbyists, The Guardian, 06 June 2001.
  5. Joe Murphy, “As Nuclear Power Gets Go-Ahead, The Links With Brown's Lobbyist Brother; Government Accused of Caving in to Industry”, Evening Standard, 11 July 2006.
  6. Ravi Chandiramani, "APPC to toughen code of practice" PR Week, 10 November 2005 (requires subscription).
  7. Byrne Baby Byrne, "More on Lobbying" 18 July 2007.
  8. Weber Shandwick hires Luke Skipper to join Scottish Public Affairs team, Weber Shadwick press release, May 2015
  9. Kingdom of Bahrain Tender Board, 10/10/2013, accessed 26 November 2013.
  10. Fahad Desmukh, Western PR Firms Compete for Fresh Multi-Million Dollar Contract with Bahrain Govt, Bahrain Watch, October 14, 2013, accessed 26 November 2013.
  11. "Public Affairs: A matter of trust", PR Week, 05 November 2004
  12. blog
  13. spoofed.
  14. P. Simpson (2002)WSW Picks Up BNFL Public Affairs Work, PR Week, 22 April
  15. APPC Register, 1 June- 31 August 2011, Weber Shandwick, acc 6 Oct 2011

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