Jess Phillips Day Job Moonlighting for a Tory Peer

Leading Corbyn-sceptic Labour MP Jess Phillips has an £8,000-a-year sideline working for top Tory donor and former Conservative deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft.

Jess Phillips is ‘not the answer to what’s wrong in British Politics,’ she is part of the problem.

The notion of “speaking truth to power” is odd when you think about it. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, “power” already knows the truth; Well here is a little bit of truth about Jess Phillips.

The centrist MP announced her Labour leadership bid on Friday night. The tabloids heralded her as the “outspoken Birmingham Yardley MP Ms Phillips who calls for “a different kind of leader.” 

Well, she is certainly outspoken but not quite in the way she would like herself portrayed, to many working class people she is just loud crass and obnoxious. Her middle class upbringing would lend itself to think her actions are working class. However, the working class have much more decorum than to be so loud for no good reason.

Despite Jeremy Corbyn being the first Labour leader in our generation’s lifetime to offer a socialist vision for a government that works “for the many, not the few”, like many MPs across the party, Jess has been clear in setting her stall out as a Corbyn. In an interview with political commentator Owen Jones in 2015, Jess said:

“I would do anything that I felt was going to make the Labour party win the next election” and that she wouldn’t “knife” Jeremy Corbyn in the back, but instead, in the front. 

Her comments about Jeremy Corbyn suggesting she would knife him in the front gave an immediate social media backlash and rightly so they are hardly words of diplomacy or a leader.

Jess Phillips did gain some support for her words, longtime Corbyn critic John Mann, former Labour MP, now made Peer by the Tories for services rendered declared Jess Phillips would make “an ideal Labour leader”. He said she had been a “breath of fresh air ever since she arrived and an antidote to the internalised battle between New Labour and Momentum”. 

John Woodcock, another anti-Corbyn former Labour MP who again has been rewarded by the Tories with his appointment as ‘special government envoy to tackle violent extremism’. Said at the time:

“A test for the new politics Jeremy says he wants to build will be how his supporters respond to this left-wing, straight-talking new MP speaking honestly about the situation the party is in.”

You can often measure a person by the company they keep, or as we the working class like to say “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas” and Jess Philips is not averse to lying with dogs.  

54c040de remember she pulled this exact same face the night we lost the election just before she laughed....let that sink in
Remember she pulled this exact same face the night we lost the election, just before she laughed…Let that sink in

Jess Phillips plays a great role in pretending to be working class

BRENDAN O’NEILL from Spiked writes “Labour MP Jess Phillips has once again got the liberal elite in a lather with her ‘woman of the people’ schtick. They fall for it every time. Because these fawning newspaper columnists and time-rich tweeters rarely meet actual working-class people, they really believe that Phillips, daughter of an NHS executive, brought up in the kind of middle-class privilege most people can only dream of, is the working-class made flesh. So every time she gives one of her voice-wobbling parliamentary speeches against the evil elite, they’re like: ‘Wow, that was so authentic. This must be what Real People think too.’”

Okay, cards on the table. I come from a working-class background and I can honestly say that in my childhood I never met anyone, literally anyone, whose parents had chief executive positions in the NHS (or anywhere else).

Those sorts of people were as alien to us as… well, aliens. For Phillips to have been brought up in such a household and to claim now to be a working-class MP is a genuinely mad stretch of the imagination. And yet her alleged working-classness is lapped up by liberal-broadsheet observers. They view her as earthy, gritty, real.

It is so fantastically condescending and embarrassing. They think she’s working class because she has a regional accent. ‘Isn’t she marvellous?’, they say as they clink their Pinot Gris, and I seriously don’t know who should be more mortified: these folks who think everyone outside of London is working class, or Jess Phillips for playing the working-class card despite having being brought up by parents with salaries most people would give their left eye for.

8b9f3b38 jess phillips sunday times magazine
Jess Phillips Murdoch Sunday Times magazine

The most perverse thing about the Cult of Jess Phillips is that it has led to Phillips becoming something actually quite grotesque: a caricature of a working-class woman.

The gobbiness, the screaming-mouth photos that people keep taking of her, the expletives – this is what she and her supporters think working-class women are like. It reminds me of those people who would watch Shameless back in the day and think, ‘Wow, the working classes are so colourful!’ Guys, the working classes aren’t really like that.

They don’t scream and shout and swear and vomit all day long. Some of them are articulate, I swear. But even articulate working-class people are never permitted into the mainstream because their views are often just too… difficult. Phillips makes it because she sounds working class – to London poshos – while espousing exactly the same political and moral views as London poshos. Perfect! Let her in.

Laying with dogs, that’s one thing but working for them! Now that’s a different ball game.

Britain’s right-wing press has been routinely vicious to so many in the Labour Party in recent years. But they’ve always had a soft spot for MP Jess Phillips. Perhaps that’s because they know her PR-driven politics poses them no threat.

Solomon Hughes for the Morning Star highlighted MPs moonlighting on second jobs Leading Corbyn-sceptic Labour MP Jess Phillips has an £8,000-a-year sideline working for top Tory donor and former Conservative deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft’s firm.

Phillips has been deputy editor of The House magazine, a glossy weekly aimed at MPs which has been owned by Ashcroft since last October. Phillips says the work takes two hours per month.

The House is “Parliament’s very own ‘in-house’ magazine” which is “delivered directly into the pigeon-holes” of every MP.

The glossy magazine specialises in publishing positive profiles of MPs illustrated with attractive, well-lit photographs of them. It appeals to MPs’ vanity while also appealing to advertisers who want to reach them, promising corporations or lobbyists it is “closer than any other political magazine to the most powerful people in UK politics.”

While The House generally publishes entirely friendly profiles of Tory ministers or Labour MPs, it has recently carried unusually negative pieces about Corbyn-supporting MPs like Chris Williamson.

Ashcroft bought The House in around 2012 when he took over the Dods Group, a parliamentary events and information service. The Dods Group publishes The House and the PoliticsHome website and runs a very extensive set of meetings at party conferences which bring together MPs and corporate sponsors.

Both The House and Dods meetings have a cash-for-access feel to them, offering corporations a route to reach MPs.

Ashcroft bought the Dods Group when he was losing influence in the Tory Party because of a feud with David Cameron. It looks like he bought the Dods Group to build his political influence and increase his political connections.

Phillips, who was first elected in 2015, has become one of the media’s favourite Labour critics of Corbyn. Asked by Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy, whether she thought “Jeremy Corbyn would be a good prime minister,” she said: “I’d have to say no.”

I asked her if a Labour MP working for such a prominent Tory activist’s firm was a good idea but got no response.

Ashcroft bought Dods, the publisher of The House magazine, after he fell out with Cameron in 2010. Ashcroft was enraged Cameron would not make him a minister because of his offshore tax arrangements.

Ashcroft suspended his donations to the Tory Party and began expanding his media interests. As well as buying Dods he also bought “grassroots” Tory website ConservativeHome and helped set up a company called Biteback Publishing.

Ashcroft’s media expansion looks like an attempt to keep political influence when his spat with Cameron reduced his Tory position. He used Biteback to publish his “biography” of Cameron, which repeated bizarre and almost certainly untrue rumours about Cameron and a stunt with a pig.

Ashcroft uses ConservativeHome to have a platform inside the Tory Party. He hasn’t used Dods and The House in such a naked way, but it does look like a means to keep a hand in with politics.

Since Cameron exited, Ashcroft has also become a big Tory donor again, dining with Theresa May at Chequers.

For Phillips, Corbyn’s rise has reduced her career path inside Labour, so a media presence helps build her profile.

She is deputy editor of The House, while the editor is Tory MP Sir Graham Brady — he gets £26,000 for the job.

Brady is a powerful Conservative MP because he is chair of the 1922 Committee which represents the interests of all Tory backbenchers.

David Warburton MP, who is a parliamentary assistant to Education Secretary Damian Hinds, also moonlights with a job running a PR firm whose recent clients include Burger King and Murdoch’s News International.

Since 2015 Warburton has been the Tory MP for Somerset and Frome. This January he was made a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to the Department for Education. A PPS is not a ministerial role, so avoiding such a strict conflict of interest role, but it is an important job shaping Department for Education policy. The main job of a PPS is to liaise between ministers and backbenchers — Warburton says, as PPS, he will “keep ministers in touch with back-bench opinion on education policy.”

Warburton also says, as PPS, he “serves as a channel of communication between the government department and relevant organisations outside the House of Commons.”

This June Warburton announced he had a new job, being paid £1,000 a month to be chair of a “strategic consultancy connecting global brands” called Vouch, working eight hours per month.

Vouch puts on corporate events and does business-to-business marketing. Its clients include firms with an interest in education policy. Vouch says its recent clients include Burger King, food giant Mondelez, which owns Cadbury’s, Oreo cookies and other foods aimed at schoolchildren, Disney and Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp. Murdoch has made a number of failed attempts to run British schools.

Warburton is chairman of Vouch. The firm uses his position as an MP in its marketing. On its website, it describes him as “a British politician” who is “the Conservative MP for Somerton & Frome.” It even points out that “in 2018, he was appointed as parliamentary private secretary to the Department of Education.”

I asked Warburton if there was any conflict of interest in his Vouch job and his PPS role. He responded: “I’d say that no, Vouch happily has nothing whatsoever to do with education in any form or in any way. And I suspect they mention me being a PPS on their website because I am one, so it’s my job and would be a bit weird if they didn’t!”

Vouch likes to splash out in a way that is a million miles from schools. This June he ran events at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity — this is an advertising festival at the glamorous south-of-France city.

Vouch ran events on a “three-level 30m superyacht” in the Cannes marina it called the “Vouch Voyager.”

It charged clients a minimum £20,000 to run events on the yacht, with “rosé, beers, soft drinks and buffet included.”

The notion of “speaking truth to power” is odd when you think about it. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, “power” already knows the truth; what matters is whether you can bring it to the attention of the wider public. But the expression has a righteous ring to it, and it crops up a fair bit in activist literature, where it is used loosely to mean something like, “standing up for what’s right.”

If the Labour Party become so dysfunctional and Jess Phillips does become leader all we can hope is that Parliamentarians and members show her exactly the same loyalty as she showed the incumbent Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn.


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