Conservative MP Robert Jenrick hit the headlines this week for allegedly supplying insider information on changes to planning regulations and overruling the Planning Inspectorate, actions said to have saved billionaire Richard Desmond around £40M. Jenrick has admitted that his actions were unlawful, however he retains his position as an MP, sent his junior minister, Chris Pincher, to answer questions over his conduct in Parliament, and continues to enjoy the “full confidence” of Boris Johnson.
This week we analyse the matrix of elite connections surrounding this incident. It seems especially important to focus on Jenrick as it is the anniversary of the horrifying Grenfell fire and he, as Secretary of State for Housing, is currently overseeing the delayed and deeply flawed response to the fire and the need for investigation into the risks posed to other properties, and their residents.
If we break down this story we can see three key players, Jenrick, Desmond and a public affairs company called Thorncliffe. When we dig deeper into the matrix of Establishment relationships concerning these players it exposes again how the elite appear more concerned with protecting and expanding their own private interests than those of the public.
ROBERT JENRICK MP
Jenrick was educated at the Independent Wolverhampton Grammar School and St John’s College, Cambridge. He is also, for the third week in a row, a Tory functionary who has been accused of breaking his own government’s lockdown restrictions and travelling to both his second home and that of his parents. This was after writing in the Mail on Sunday about the need for people to remain at home.
There are also questions about his property ownership and primary residences for purposes of expenses. He currently owns Eye Manor, a listed building originally owned by Ferdinando Gorges, founder of the Province of Maine and slave trader. His primary residence is in London, but he also has a constituency home in Newark that taxpayers contributed £100,000 towards.
Further questions surround Jenrick. The Conservative Party was fined by the electoral commission for contravention of spending rules in three incidents, one of which was Jenrick’s 2014 bye-election campaign. The Wikipedia entry on Jenrick was found to be one of a number of pages edited in 2015 by an unidentified source within Westminster to remove potentially embarrassing information.
As an MP he has worked for Michael Gove, Liz Truss and Amber Rudd as Parliamentary Private Secretary.
Jenrick is a member of the Parliamentary group Conservative Friends of Israel and was the UK envoy at the Israel-Palestine Peace Initiative Summit in January 2020, chaired by Jared Kushner, son-in-law of US president Donald Trump.
Annoyed yet? As if Robert doesn’t have enough murky connections we uncovered some further dubious links in his registered interests. One of his registered donors is Alex Knaster, a British billionaire with connections to Russia and a significant contributor to both the Conservative Party and individual MPs.
Another donor to both Jenrick and the Conservative Party is JCB Chairman Lord Anthony Bamford. As well as donating £3M to the 2019 Conservative election campaign, he also contributed £100,000 to Vote Leave. If you refer to last week’s article, we discussed Vote Leave CEO Mathew Elliot and Campaign Director Dominic Cummings.
A final name to note regarding Robert Jenrick is Mick Davis. There is no further detail on this donor, however, if you will permit us to speculate… Until last year, the CEO and treasurer of the Conservative Party, and one of their most significant donors, was Sir Mick Davis. This is the same Mick Davis that is quoted in the Jewish Chronicle praising the actions of the UK Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, for his actions over a controversial Holocaust Memorial planning decision.
Davis is a former chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council.
So who is the man whose interests Jenrick has decided to protect at the risk of his own, already tarnished, career?
Richard Desmond is currently worth £2.6 billion. He founded Northern and Shell which owned the Daily Express, Daily Star and OK! amongst other publications. The company also had a license to publish Penthouse and owned some pornographic TV channels, as well as Channel 5.
Desmond was a Conservative donor in 2017. He made a further personal donation of £12,000 two weeks after the approval of the planning deal, against the ruling of the Planning Inspectorate, made by Robert Jenrick. The Planning Inspectorate refused approval because the developers had not provided enough affordable housing in the plans for one of London’s most deprived areas.
Desmond also donated at least £1 million to UKIP in 2015.
Finally, we come to Thorncliffe Communications, a “political communications and community consultation agency”. It was Thorncliffe who arranged a behind closed doors meeting with Jenrick in which he briefed them on upcoming government plans to change aspects of property laws.
The current Managing Director of Thorncliffe is Richard Patient. His CV includes Chairmanship of Business for Britain, founded by Matthew Elliot (who you can read about in previous blogs!). Business for Britain was affiliated with the Vote Leave campaign as mentioned above! He is also a former account director for Saatchi&Saatchi. Thorncliffe used to be called Indigo Public Affairs before it was rebranded. Indigo Affairs was investigated by the Telegraph for a potential conflict of interest due to associations between the company and local councillors. Also, at the time of writing, Patient has also now claimed a professional relationship with Junior Housing Minister Chris Pincher.
This is a quote from an article on the Thorncliffe in-house website:
“Lots of developers fondly remember Ed Lister, now Sir Edward, at the GLA…Sir Ed, who is a great friend of Thorncliffe, is a great influence on Boris, some would say for the better. Critics say Boris doesn’t do detail – but advocates say Boris doesn’t need to, because he’s got people like Sir Ed” .
This refers to Ed Lister. He was Deputy Mayor to Boris Johnson and is now Chief Strategy Advisor to Johnson in Number 10. He is a former Director of the Think Tank Localis. He was also General Manager of ADT when it was under the control of Lord Ashcroft (also a familiar face from last week!) and then responsible for government relations under TYCO ownership.
One final quote that we found on Powerbase is also interesting to note here with relevance to Indigo/ Thorncliffe:
“In the background of Boris Johnson’s speech at a fringe event at the 2014 Conservative Party conference was a banner saying Thorncliffe. Solomon Hughes discovered that Thorncliffe were working for the Mount Pleasant luxury flats redevelopment in central London, and that within days of making his speech, Johnson had approved the redevelopment. The event, organised by Lord Ashcroft and his blog ConservativeHome, was listed online as being “In partnership with Thorncliffe”, however when asked about their involvement the firm appeared to deny that they were directly involved, saying “Thorncliffe sponsored the blogsite, not the Mayor of London, so any suggestion of impropriety is not only wrong but malicious.””
As we have seen in recent weeks, the Conservative government continues to protect its Establishment associates and to further elite interests at the expense of democracy. Boris Johnson’s leadership has laid bare the intersection between the media, politics and corporate agendas. In a week where we see the shops opening and the “Buy for Britain campaign”, it seems like high time for a challenge to those who value economic health above the health of their citizens.
This is the definition of praxis. Government by the rich for the rich.
 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9921344/Councillors-for-hire-who-give-firms-planning-advice.html -Indigo Public Affairs- managing director
 https://powerbase.info/index.php/Indigo_Public_Affairs – Solomon Hughes Boris Johnson and his luxury housing lobbyist bedfellows Vice, 15 October 2014, accessed 22 October 2014