Interesting news today that the Co-op bank is paying “hundreds of thousands of pounds” to Reputation management company Quiller Consultants, while slashing support for charities, including the Co-operate Women’s Guild and Mutuo, the co-op’s thinktank. This is apparently as a result of a £1.5bn black hole in the banks finances – due in large part to the bank investing in toxic sub-prime mortgage investments. Co-op’s troubles led to it losing its mutual status in the summer, when US “vulture funds” swooped in to make a killing.
By Margaret Ferguson Burns (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The Co-op group is and has been historically very closely linked to the Labour Party. Actually over 30 Labour MPs are Labour and Co-operative Party MPs. Former shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh is one such MP. These MPs receive financial support from the Co-op but I suspect the ties run much deeper, as the Co-op also directly or indirectly employs many labour supporters and has over 7 million members, many from traditionally labour supporting communities.
The Co-op bank has now effectively been taken over by city investors and US Hedge Funds. Co-op group (and its members) has just 30% of its shares. The new owners have appointed Quiller Consultants to start work to reconstruct the reputation and image of the bank – but who are Quiller Consultants? Quiller were created by PR and Lobbying guru Jonathan Hill – who is also known as Cabinet member and Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Hill of Oakeford. Here are some of their other clients. Hill is also a former Tory campaign director.
It’s also interesting that, unlike RBS, Lloyds NatWest or HBOS, Co-op Bank did not get a taxpayer funded bailout, but instead was left to be gobbled up by private investors, including US hedge funds which turned a tidy profit on the deal.
Some conspiracy theorists might make connections between influential city folk and tory strategists seizing opportunities to divest Labour of a key funding source and supporter base. I’m sure it is all coincidence though.