Priti Patel

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Priti Patel has been the Conservative MP for the newly created constituency of Witham in Essex since the 2010 general election.[1] She is a former Deputy Press Secretary to William Hague MP (1997 to 2000). [2] [3]

Patel worked at PR firm Weber Shandwick from 2000 to 2003. Patel rejoined Weber Shandwick in December 2007 from drinks company Diageo, (where she'd shaped a global strategy on responsible drinking).


Patel worked at Weber Shandwick Public Affairs from 2000 to 2003. Weber Shandwick’s website says that she was a policy, media and campaigns adviser to the Meat & Livestock Commission, IKEA and the Bar Council. She also worked for another of their clients, British American Tobacco.[3]

Lobbying and PR for the Tobacco Industry

Numerous internal tobacco company documents reveal Patel’s involvement with British American Tobacco (BAT), while she was working for Weber Shandwick.

  • In August and September 2000, Patel attended BAT's ‘Operational Planning Meetings'. [4][5]
  • In October 2000, she provided summaries of media articles on BAT’s involvement in tobacco smuggling.[6]
  • A memo from Shandwick to BAT in October 2000 set out roles on ‘Project Sunrise’ and said that Patel was responsible for “day to day account co-ordination, project management” and “assists on media relations”.[7] Two documents name Patel as "day to day Account Co-ordinator, project management, assists on media relation [8] and responsible for “UK media”, as part of Project Sunrise.[9] The documents are unclear what this project was, but Philip Morris ran a project with the same name which “laid out an explicit divide-and-conquer strategy against the tobacco control movement”.[10])
  • In the same month, she was part of a group sent a letter lobbying MEPs on a proposed EU tobacco control directive.[13]
  • A letter from Weber Shandwick to BAT in January 2001 outlined Patel’s role, including interacting with the Conservative Party: "Priti will be responsible for day-to-day activity on the account, including drafting advice notes and assisting you in preparing briefings, mailshots or the like. She will also provide strategic advice on the account, with a particular focus on the Conservative Party." It added that she would work for “15 hours in total” each month for BAT, “including principal responsibility for execution on day-to-day account activity, drafting documents, and attendance at monthly client meetings". [14]
  • A memo from March 2001 shows Patel “working with BAT External Communications Team” and also responsible for “social reporting” and a “global events calendar”.[15]

Seconded to BAT's press office?

Four documents suggest that Patel may have been seconded to BAT's press office.

  • On 30 October 2000, the Department for Trade and Industry announced an investigation into BAT’s involvement in tobacco smuggling. [16] Priti Patel’s name appeared in a BAT media release about the investigation as a contact at the company's press office.[17] For more information see BAT Involvement in Tobacco Smuggling.
  • On 6 December 2000, her name again appeared again as a media contact on a BAT press release about the Government’s Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill.[18]
  • On 20 December 2000, a fax to Patel suggests that she was working for BAT in the company’s London headquarters, Globe House.[19]
  • On 13 March 2001, Colin Byrne from Weber Shandwick wrote: "Priti is now working with the communications team as an integral part of the team ... working on developing communications ideas for projects such as the Marketing Standards and the Nigerian announcement and also sharing information/insights with the team on overall issues that come up while also dealing with press office requests when based in the press office." [20]

Backing the Industry in Parliament

As a parliamentarian, Patel has been supportive of tobacco industry positions on two occasions:

  • In October 2010, she voted for the smoking ban to be overturned.[21]
  • In December 2010, she signed a letter demanding the tobacco display ban be reconsidered.[22]


According to several accounts of Priti Patel's career she is said to have worked for Diageo as a corporate relations director between 2003-2007. [23] Some Diageo documents state that Patel's role was as an Alcohol Education Manager within the corporate relations team. [24]

Promoting the City's interests

In April 2009, Weber Shandwick UK was hired by International Financial Services London, now known as TheCityUK to promote the interests of the financial services sector in the City of London, for example on "key issues such as keeping markets open in the [then] current global crisis".[25] IFSL's press release announced that the account would be supported by Priti Patel, then "Director, Weber Shandwick Public Affairs" who will "provide additional counsel". Patel is now a Conservative MP. The then CEO of IFSL said: "Bringing the team at Weber Shandwick on board will help us establish IFSL's voice in the public debate on how financial services companies can best navigate the currently troubled economic waters." (Note the link to the IFSL press release is broken; Weber Shandwick's press release was changed in the run up to the 2010 general election, with Priti Patel's name removed. Patel's election campaign focused on her support for small business. According to her campaign website: “Her career outside of politics means she has an innate understanding about the issues faced by small businesses”).

External Resources

Profile of Priti Patel on TheyWorkForYou website.



  1. Priti Patel,, accessed 5 November 2012.
  2. Priti Patel, TheyWorkForYou website, undated, accessed 19 December 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 Weber Shandwick Website, What we are up to, undated, accessed 19 December 2011
  4. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Operational Planning Meeting - 30th August 2000 Main Points and Actions, 30 August 2000, accessed 19 December 2011
  5. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Operational Planning Meeting 27th September 2000: Agenda, 27 September 2000, accessed 19 December 2011
  6. Priti Patel, Wire/On Line Media Coverage So Far, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 30 October 2000, accessed 19 December 2011
  7. Shandwick International, Shandwick and BAT: Project Sunrise, 11 October 2000, accessed 19 December 2011
  8. Shandwick and BAT, Project Sunrise, 11 October 2000
  9. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Project Sunrise, undated, accessed 19 December 2011
  10. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, ‘Philip Morris's Project Sunrise: Weakening tobacco control by working with it’, 2006, accessed 19 December 2011
  11. Andreas Vecchiet, WHO-FCTC - Outcomes of First INB Session, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 10 November 2000, accessed 19 December 2011
  12. Andreas Vecchiet, WHO: Outcomes of First FCTC Intergovernmental Negotiating Body, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 10 November 2000, accessed 19 December 2011
  13. Andreas Vecchiet, Letter to MEPs, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 30 November 2000, accessed 19 December 2011
  14. Stephen Doherty, UK Public Affairs Support, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 22 January 2001, accessed 19 December 2011
  15. Colin Byrne, BAT, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 15 March 2001, accessed 19 December 2011
  16. ‘‘The Guardian’’, ‘DTI to investigate BAT smuggling claims’, 30 October 2000, accessed 19 December 2011
  17. BAT, ‘Response to Today's DTI Announcement’, News Release, 30 October 2000, accessed 19 December 2011
  18. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill, 20 December 2000, accessed 19 December 2011
  19. Paul Decam, Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 20 December 2000, accessed 19 December 2011
  20. Colin Byrne, Memorandum to James Blakelock and Adrian Marshal Weber Shandwick Public Affairs, 13 March 2001
  21. Jonathan Isaby, ‘David Nuttall's attempt to relax the smoking ban falls at the first hurdle - but 77 Tory MPs vote for his Bill (with 38 opposing it)’, ConservativeHome website, 14 October 2010, accessed 19 December 2011
  22. Paul Goodman, 'Fifty Conservative MPs demand a free vote on shop tobacco display ban', ConservativeHome website, 18 December 2010, accessed 19 December 2011
  23. Diageo of marketing practice for alcohol beverages accessed 5th November 2012
  24. IFSL press release, 3 April 2009, link broken