Yesterday, this website reported on the shenanigans as Greenwich borough’s political parties select their candidates for next year’s council elections – and how leading Labour figures have suffered for their loyalty to outgoing leader Chris Roberts.
Keepers of the Roberts flame are still battling away, though. But one of those ultra-loyalists – who has been outspoken in his support of the Silvertown Tunnel – has a past helping found a right-wing party which advocates the abolition of the welfare state, as well as consorting with a leading climate change denier.
Mark Adams, the chair of Charlton Triangle Homes, is a friend of the outgoing leader. Regular readers of this website will know him for his distinctive contributions to comment threads on posts on Greenwich Council’s foot tunnel fiasco (“You only blame Greenwich Council as you only have a vendetta against them”) and the Silvertown Tunnel (“This is the second time I have pointed out your tendency for incorrect exaggeration and hyperbole”).
Adams has thrown his hat in the ring for a number of seats – this week getting rebuffed by members in the Charlton ward where his housing association is based. But while other candidates can point to worthy pasts of envelope-stuffing and leaflet delivery, Adams’ past, as documented in newspaper reports over the past 13 years, is a lot more exotic.
He worked in Downing Street for six years as private secretary to John Major and Tony Blair. In 2000, he was accused of leaking Blair’s cabinet discussions about the Milennium Dome to the Mail on Sunday, something he refused to confirm or deny in an interview with the Guardian at the time.
He cashed in on his political knowledge by reinventing himself as a lobbyist, pushing clients’ interests in the corridors of power. He’s even been lobbying for lobbyists, with the StandUp4Lobbying group.
In 2002, Adams teamed up with Scottish quarry owner Robert Durward to found the New Party. At the time, the New Party’s views were seen as so right-wing that Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie branded it “fascist and undemocratic”.
But later, senior figures included then-Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith’s former chief of staff. Indeed, Adams talked up the chances of Tories defecting, telling the Daily Mail in December 2002: “You would not expect me to say a member of the shadow cabinet is ready to jump. They are not at that stage yet.”
The following April, its party’s website declined to identify its backers, but declared:
They have become increasingly frustrated at the refusal, or inability, of New Labour to recognise the high level of damage being caused to the business community by the incessant flood of additional taxation and regulation.
According to The Scotsman newspaper, Durward was prompted into action by the “aggregates tax” – a levy imposed by the Blair government which affected his quarrying business in Lanarkshire. He founded the British Aggregates Association to fight it, and to battle environmentalists. As the paper put it:
By 2001, he had decided that something more had to be done to combat the environmentalists. This time he linked up with a former Downing Street civil servant, Mark Adams.
Mr Adams, who served as private secretary to John Major and Tony Blair, the former and current prime ministers, had set up his own public relations firm, Foresight Communications, in January that year. Together, the two men launched the Scientific Alliance, an organisation whose stated aim was to present a “rational, scientific approach to the environmental debate”.
Recruiting a number of respected scientists as advisers, Mr Durward provided funding to get the organisation off the ground. With offices in London, and a website registered in the name of Cloburn quarry, he now had a vehicle to nip at the ankles of the environmentalists. who were tormenting him.
Writing under the auspices of the alliance and using its registered address in Golden Cross House in Duncannon Street, London, he railed at the “profligate” cost of talks on climate change. He was, he said, “a businessman who is totally fed up with this environmental stuff … much of which is unjustified, such as the climate change levy”.
Adams himself told The Scotsman in 2003 that the New Party was a “a centre-Right organisation, trying to appeal to disaffected Tories, to people who voted Labour in 1997 and 2001 but are thinking again”.
But the party, which stood as the Scottish People’s Alliance on a platform of “direct democracy“, flopped at that year’s Scottish elections, and many of its top team defected to Robert Kilroy-Silk’s shortlived Veritas group in 2005.
In 2007, the New Party re-emerged after funding a court case which challenged the screening of Al Gore’s climate change film An Inconvenient Truth in secondary schools.
It was voluntarily deregistered as a political party in July 2010, but its website continues, declaring “ the Welfare State does not work and has caused many thousands to be born into poverty and deprivation” and advocating “a low tax, lightly regulated economy“.
Is this all in Mark Adams’ distant past? As late as November 2009, Mark Adams was still registered as providing political consultancy work for the New Party through his then company, Foresight Consulting.
Adams sold Foresight a year later, but set up a new lobbying company, The Professional Lobbying Company, last year. However, no accounts have ever been filed at Companies House.
He remains a staunch advocate of lobbying, despite his decision to seek elected office. On Twitter, he described one critic of the industry on Twitter as “another misguided lefty without a cause”.
Indeed, when asked on Twitter about lobbying and his support for the Silvertown Tunnel, he branded his questioners “a bunch of political thugs” – even though they were just people who’d followed his tweets and his comments on this blog. He later described himself as “a lobbyist on a sabbatical“.
However, Adams is deputy chair of the London Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies for business interests and backs Silvertown – something he didn’t disclose in his comments on this website.
Reading reams of his his furious tweets, plus his replies on this website, what’s striking is his lack of patience with anyone who questions him, and his contempt for the political class he seeks to join, down to this uncomradely exchange with Labour MP Paul Flynn. Why would he seek to join them?
Whether Adams is the kind of person Greenwich Labour activists want to have represent them is, of course, an issue for them. How many of them he’d describe as “misguided lefties without a cause” is another matter. And how on earth a man who is well-documented as having helped set up a right-wing party in Scotland ended up pushing to be a Labour council candidate in south-east London is yet another puzzler to ponder.
But Labour members’ decision over whether to pick the “lobbyist on a sabbatical” for a council seat will send out a huge signal of where they want the Royal Borough of Greenwich to go. This will be a story to watch.