9 February 2011
Dominic Morris, who took over as public affairs director at Lloyds Banking Group in December 2009, seems remarkably well connected. A former private secretary to both Margaret Thatcher and John Major, Morris sent out an email to all his contacts to let them know of his new banking role in December 2009. It reads like a roll-call of the “great and the not so good”. As the Evening Standard’s City Spy column reported:-
Ah the joy and pain of email. Dominic Morris, former bag-carrier to ex-broadcasting minister Lord Carter, has sent exciting emails out to announce he has become the new director of public policy at Lloyds Banking Group. Dominic shared this information with 200 or so of his nearest and dearest contacts and what a roll call it is of the great and the good in Whitehall, the media and the City.
Alas one of the recipients, EMI chairman Lord Birt, the former director-general of the BBC and erstwhile Blairite blue-skies thinker, hit “reply all” when he responded to Morris. Birt’s response: “Well well! Just reading as I fly over the Andes on my way back from Patagonia. You a new model banker! And Howell [James] too! The industry is re-forming as well as reforming. Well done!” Birt’s mention of Howell James refers to the former No 10 mandarin who is now top spin doctor at Barclays.
So, according to the former BBC boss, the banking industry is now reforming just because a couple of former Whitehall PR wonks, Morris and James, have joined. Model bankers? Come off it, Lord B.
* JOHN Birt’s email isn’t finished there. He goes on to congratulate Morris further, saying: “Incidentally your distribution list reads as the real power structure of Modern Britain!”
Gosh! So who exactly is on it? Lord Mandelson, the BBC’s Robert Peston, headhunter and Tory peeress Virginia Bottomley, Lord Carter (naturally), C4 deputy chairman Lord Puttnam, Portland spinner Tim Allan, John Whittingdale MP, Jenny Abramsky (ex-BBC), Telegraph spinner Guy Black, ex-FT editor and Lehman PR and now BP spinner Andrew Gowers, shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, Tesco apparatchik Lucy Neville-Rolfe, ex-Blairite chief of staff Jonathan Powell (now at Morgan Stanley), Ofcom boss Ed Richards, the BBC’s chief operating officer Caroline Thomson…
City Spy could go on. And on and on. Behold “the real power structure of Modern Britain”. However, some might say, it’s a badge of honour not to be included!
Now that he’s a year and two months into the job, I’d be intrigued to know how the New Model Banker is getting on at Lloyds Banking Group (known as Britain’s most hated bank, and which today declared that outgoing chief executive Eric Daniels is receiving a bonus of £1.45m for his “performance” in 2010 – which Lloyds claims is “62.3% of his potential”).
If he keeps his job under incoming boss António Horta-Osório, the name-dropping Morris faces some serious challenges in 2011-12. For starters, he’s going to have to deal with the fallout from the FSA’s report into wrongdoing by HBOS (but then again, given the propensity of the Fundamentally Supine Authority to bury rather than to expose and prosecute bankers’ misdeeds, this might not be too arduous).
A tougher challenge awaits this summer, when some of the HBOS pre-crash ordure is due to hit the fan. I can’t say much at this stage but I believe it relates to a police investigation into “corruption, large-scale fraud and money laundering in connection with HBOS”. If police do their job properly, bragger Morris and Portuguese-born Horta-Osório will surely have their work cut out.