David Hill is Tony Blair's chief media spokesperson, replacing Alistair Campbell who stood down during the scandal over the death of government weapons expert Dr David Kelly. Hill's long-term partner is No 10 media advisor Hilary Coffman.
Up until Hill took over as Blair's chief 'spin doctor', he was a senior executive at Bell-Pottinger Communications and managing director of its subsidiary Good Relations Ltd. At Good Relations he was a public relations advisor to Monsanto.
According to the Mail on Sunday, Whitehall insiders say that Hill 'has always been able to boast to clients that he has direct access to No. 10' (Kinnock's man is new Campbell, Aug 3, 2003). Parliamentary written answers show Monsanto had far more success at winning audiences with government ministers after Hill's arrival. in his first two years with Bell Pottinger (1997-1999) GM food firms met government officials or ministers 81 times and Monsanto was welcomed into the agriculture and environment departments 22 times. (They couldn't be closer to Blair, Daily Mail, February 13, 1999)
Jack Cunningham was amongst the government ministers Monsanto met when he was chair of the cabinet committee on GM. Jack Cunningham's special adviser for 6 years, Cathy McGlynn, went on to join Bell Pottinger.
According to an article in The Observer, Bell Pottinger states 'in a letter obtained by The Observer that it works for "Monsanto and genetic engineering of food". The lobbying firm also states that it can exploit the contacts of Cathy McGlynn - "who previously worked with Jack Cunningham, as his special adviser, when he was Agriculture Minister", and David Hill, former "chief spokesperson for the Labour Party". The latest revelations come exactly a year after The Observer exposed how some lobbying firms had hired former aides to Labour Ministers in order to get favours from the Government for their corporate clients.' (Monsanto's lobby firm pays key MP)
Prior to joining Bell Pottinger, Hill was Labour's director of communications (1991-1997). When Hill left his post to join Bell Pottinger and represent Monsanto, he was replaced by Mike Craven who went on to found PR firm Lexington Communications, which has amongst its clients Novartis and the lobby group ABC
, established to promote GM by Monsanto along with Bayer CropScience, BASF, Dow Agrosciences, Dupont and Syngenta.
There have been a number of concerns over the close links between Bell Pottinger and influential Members of Parliament. Two reports in The Observer revealed that Peter Luff MP, in addition to being chairman of the Commons Agriculture Select Committee, was also in the pay of Bell Pottinger. According to the Observer, he had not made this apparent to his fellow committee members even when they were working on a report on GM (Monsanto's lobby firm pays key MP; Resign call over MP's link with GM food firm ).
There was also concern over another Bell Pottinger employee, Stuart Bell MP, in his role as the government's representative on the Church Commissioners at a time that they were discussing the use of Church of England land for GM crop trials. (Church MP in GM row, Daily Express, 8 August 1999)
Bell Pottinger is part of Chime Communications. Its chairman Lord Tim Bell was a PR advisor to Margaret Thatcher. Bell was knighted by Thatcher and given a peerage by Blair. His clients have included Chile's General Pinochet, South Africa's National Party, and Milosevic-led Yugoslavia.