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Westminster, South Bank, London, England.
Firm that supports aspiring politicians helped launch three APPGs chaired by new Tory MPs

Firm that supports aspiring politicians helped launch three APPGs chaired by new Tory MPs

Westminster, South Bank, London, England.

College Green offers to help would-be MPs on their “journey” to Westminster – including setting up parliamentary groups

A political consultancy that boasts of helping Conservative candidates “establish” themselves in Westminster is running multiple parliamentary groups that have held meetings between ministers and businesses. 

According to its website, College Green Group offers would-be MPs help throughout the assessment process up to an election and after, including help crafting “that all-important maiden speech”, setting up offices and recruiting staff. It also offers to “help you work in the areas in which you are interested/expert through All-Party Parliamentary Groups.” 

Since the last election, College Green is the named source of £636,000 in services, donations, gifts, benefits and other payments to four APPGs. Three of those groups were set up after the election and are chaired by Conservative MPs from the 2019 intake. 

The largest of those groups is Housing Market and Housing Delivery, chaired by Milton Keynes MP Ben Everitt, through which £307,000 has been declared since it was set up in September 2020. 

Minutes show meetings at which Everitt is joined by members of the government including business minister Lord Callanan and the then-minister for construction Lee Rowley, as well as firms such as JLL, PPR Estates, L&G Affordable Homes and McCarthy Stone. 

The Regeneration and Development APPG, through which £114,000 has flowed since it was set up in March 2021, held similar meetings in which chairman Gagan Mohindra was joined by property developers like Barratts and former minister for building safety and fire Lord Greenhalgh. 

Some of the businesses that joined the meetings are sponsors of the APPGs. 

Pictures posted to social media show Greenhalgh and Mohindra at a parliamentary drinks reception hosted by the Land Promoters and Developers Federation.

A third group, Environmental, Social and Governance APPG, does not appear to have hosted any ministerial meetings. College Green is named as having provided £132,000 in benefits-in-kind to the group, but ultimate sponsors include BAE Systems, Bayer and CBRE Investment Management.

In a recent post on Twitter, ESG chairman Alexander Stafford praises minister Trudy Harrison MP, Minister for attending “our dynamic discussion”. Minutes from that meeting had not been made available as this article was published. 

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing. 

Separately, Tortoise has seen an email from College Green to a prospective candidate, offering to “put you through your paces” ahead of being seen by the party. 

The unsolicited email adds: “We very much hope you will all pass and for those that move onto the next stage we have a series of other services that can help you on your journey to Westminster.”

But the source behind the email questioned how College Green had known of the individual’s candidacy, noting that it would not have been widely known even within CCHQ at that point. 

Other sources raised the appropriateness of College Green’s model, and whether it was the consultancy or MPs who had conceived the APPG. 

Noting that a secretariat could be a “valuable position”, one former Conservative MP said: “It’s access, it’s influence… And they can drive the agenda in a way that a busy – and particularly a new – MP won’t be able to spot.”

Another one-time Tory added: “It’s unaccountable, unelectable, secret – there are no names on this website. It’s a secret group who are providing the secretariat for APPGs… it’s a very big can of worms.”

College Green was set up by Tom Borwick, a former Vote Leave staffer and the son of former MP Baroness Victoria Borwick and Lord Jamie Borwick, who has donated £44,900 to the Conservative party since the last election.

Everitt told Tortoise he had first heard of College Green when he wanted to set up his APPG. 

“They were helping a number of other colleagues set up APPGs and came recommended,” he said. “I’ve known College Green’s housing policy specialist for over 20 years, so I had confidence that they had expertise in the sector.”

He stressed there was “no conflict of interest”, adding: “The APPG runs as it should, providing an industry point of view to ministers and MPs on a tricky policy area.”

Neither Stafford nor Mohindra had responded to requests for comment. 

Borwick said: “We comply scrupulously with all APPG rules, and take the view that these groups can play an important role in the democratic process. It’s important to be clear that when we offer secretariat services, we do so at the behest of the chairs.”

He said College Green would “prospect for people” who may want to become MPs, adding: “We contact activists and those who have indicated that they are keen to pursue a political career. We only use GDPR compliant sources. 

“College Green Group has no way of knowing who is on the ‘pre selection process’.”