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Ex-Labour minister to lead advisory group Flint Global

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Political advisory group Flint Global has appointed former Labour minister James Purnell as its new chief executive, as the lobbying industry bolsters its ranks with Labour specialists ahead of next month’s election.

Purnell, who served as culture secretary in Gordon Brown’s administration, will join Flint Global in October.

He will take over the executive leadership of the business from co-founders Sir Simon Fraser, former permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, and Ed Richards, who previously led media regulator Ofcom.

UK lobbying outfits and professional services businesses are increasingly hiring staff with links to the opposition party, as the industry beefs up its Labour expertise ahead of the election on July 4 that polls forecast will be won by Sir Keir Starmer’s party.

Lobbying companies are so keen to attract figures with Labour links that they have been willing to pay above-market prices, industry figures have said.

Fraser, who will remain on Flint Global’s board with co-founder Richards and will still deal with clients, told the Financial Times that the group was “of course conscious of the potential political evolution in the country”, but added that “it’s not the sole reason by any means why we chose (Purnell)”.

After leaving government in 2009, where he latterly served as work and pensions secretary, Purnell became a senior adviser at Boston Consulting Group before becoming director of strategy and digital at the BBC in 2013. He has since left the broadcaster, and has been president and vice-chancellor of the University of the Arts London since 2021.

Fraser said Flint Global’s clients were “very keen to understand where Labour is going. They are asking questions about how, in the fiscal circumstances that we face, the government is going to be able to achieve growth”.

He added that “obviously they have a range of concerns”, namely around tax and employment law. “But broadly speaking they take a positive approach to change if it delivers a pro-business government and a political context they can operate in. Stability and continuity is what they prize above all,” he said.

The group also hired Sam White, Starmer’s former chief of staff, as a “specialist partner” earlier this year.

Founded in 2015, Flint Global advises investors and businesses on policy, regulation, and political and competition issues. While it is registered as a consultant lobbyist in the UK, it has never listed any lobbying clients and says it does not lobby on behalf of its clients.

The firm has offices in London, Brussels, Paris, Dublin, Singapore and Hong Kong. Growth Capital Partners, a London-based private equity house, took a minority stake in the company at the end of 2021.

Flint Global posted total revenues of £34.8mn in 2022, an increase of about 50 per cent on the previous year, and a pre-tax profit of £1.4mn, according to its latest set of accounts published at Companies House. Fraser said the group’s underlying revenues continued to grow in 2023.

This article has been amended to clarify the nature of Flint Global’s business

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