Former Cabinet Office Minister Ben Gummer cleared for McKinsey role

15 February 2018 4 min. read

Former Government Minister and unseated Ipswich MP Ben Gummer has started two new roles, following his election defeat in June last year. Alongside an engagement at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, Gummer will work as a Senior Adviser for McKinsey & Company for six months on a research project into governmental transformation.

A second generation statesman, Ben Gummer is the eldest son of John Selwyn Gummer, Environment Minister under the John Major Government. Despite his family ties to public office, however, Ben Gummer was one of a number of Conservative MPs to unexpectedly lose their seats in the snap election of June 2017, a major electoral coup for the opposition, as Gummer was Cabinet Office Minister at the time. Prior to the election, Gummer had been tipped to replace David Davis as head Brexit negotiator, however, having penned the heavily criticised Conservative manifesto, he was reportedly shunned from Westminster.

After being unseated in Ipswich by Labour’s Sandy Martin in June, and with his hopes to stand for re-election quashed, he sought the advice of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments before the end of the year. After MPs leave Parliament, for whatever reason, there are certain conventions they are expected to abide by when taking on new roles. In order to ensure ex-Parliamentarians cannot utilise confidential information they were privy to in order to unfairly lobby the Government, or reveal policy plans to companies who might benefit, they are expected to obtain the blessing of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA).

Ben Gummer, Senior Adviser

The Committee itself has come in for substantial criticism over the past year, following high- profile gigs being taken by a plethora of ex-Cabinet Ministers, seemingly without any challenge. These included former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who among several appointments, took a £650,000-a-year advisory post at the investment bank BlackRock; Francis Maude, who once held the same Ministerial position, and has since taken on multiple advisory roles, including consulting on Brexit for the international law firm Covington and Burling; and Liberal Democrat Environment Minister Ed Davey, who established an independent consultancy catering to the energy industry. ACOBA was subsequently branded “toothless” by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Gummer asked ACOBA if he could start work as a fellow of practice at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, and as a Senior Adviser on a research project for management consultancy McKinsey & Company – the firm, which last year picked up a £1.9 million consulting contract to aid the UK Government with the implementation of Brexit. Speaking to ACOBA, Gummer explained that he did not expect his project for McKinsey to involve contact with the UK Government, but if required, other members of the team would carry out such an aspect of the work.

The committee said of the McKinsey work, “The risk that this appointment could unfairly advantage McKinsey is low. Mr Gummer’s role is confined to a discrete project; he has undertaken not to lobby Government; expects to have no contact with Government; and the Cabinet Office has confirmed that he had no access to any commercially sensitive information about competitors or unannounced Government policy that might unfairly advantage the company.”

Following the approval of both appointments, Gummer commenced work in January, with his initial role for McKinsey being expected to last six months, focusing on producing a body of research on the efforts of governments to transform their administrations. While has was given the green light, however, Gummer was also advised that he must not “draw on (disclose or use for the benefit of himself or the persons or organisations to which this advice refers) any privileged information available to him as a minister”, and that he was not allowed to lobby the UK Government, until two years had passed since his exit from Parliament, on June 11th 2017.