Monday, March 22, 2010

Byers Plays The Dallaglio Defence

When former England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio aired various sex'n'drug topics to a pretty lady who turned out to be a News of the World journalist, his response when the solids struck the fan was to claim that there was no truth in what he'd told her - he was just bragging to impress.

Dallaglio does not dispute the comments attributed to him, but claims he was lying in an attempt to impress people he thought were offering him a big-money sponsorship deal, but subsequently turned out to be journalists.

While not exactly a strategy which covers anyone in glory or improves the reputation (although it throws an interesting sidelight on business morality that he had no worries about making the remarks to a potential sponsor), it at least keeps the most serious career consequences away.

It looks as if former Minister Stephen Byers is taking the same option :

Mr Byers, the former trade and industry minister who is standing down as an MP at the election, told an investigative reporter that he had secured secret deals with ministers, could get confidential information from Number 10 and was able to help firms involved in price fixing get around the law.

He also suggested bringing clients to meet former Prime Minister Tony Blair, the investigators allege.

According to the investigators, Mr Byers, who stood down as a minister in 2002, claimed to have put pressure on the relevant minister to change policies on behalf of rail and bus operator National Express and, on a separate occasion, on behalf of supermarket giant Tesco.

The next day Mr Byers retracted his claims, saying he had "never lobbied ministers on behalf of commercial interests" and had exaggerated his influence.

Mr Byers also told the undercover reporter that - after contact from supermarket giant Tesco - he spoke to business secretary Lord Mandelson about the proposed food labelling regulation who "got it delayed and then got it amended".

Lord Mandelson said he had "no recollection" of talking to Mr Byers about the issue.

A Tesco spokesman said: "We did not speak to Mr Byers on food labelling, regulation or indeed any other issue. These claims are completely fictitious and Mr Byers has acknowledged this to us."

Better to be thought a liar than a crook, I suppose. And Tesco would say that, wouldn't they ?