It’s thanks but no Franks…
New centre party, Issue 1468
simon-franks.jpg THE Observer’s revelation of the existence of “a new political party with access to up to £50m in funding” was noticeably vague about all details other than the key role of “multi-millionaire philanthropist” Simon Franks. But the Eye can fill in some of the blanks.

A year ago, a company called Fair Play For All was registered at Companies House with directors listed as Simon Olswang, founder of law firm Olswang, and Adrian Martin, former head of the accountants BDO.

They did some initial work with PR firm Edelman, which is chaired by Gordon Brown’s former Treasury minister Lord Myners and has Tony Blair’s former right-hand woman Anji Hunter as its “senior adviser”. The company’s “senior director, corporate reputation” James Morris – a former adviser to Blair and Ed Miliband – introduced the pair to Franks just before last year’s general election.

‘A complete control freak’
Franks, who runs a middling media company called Redbus as well as a venture capital business of the same name, offered to put more than £100,000 towards what at that point was being mooted as a vehicle for funding community activism, rather than a political party. He also offered workspace at his Redbus offices on Berners Street and, according to sources, gave the project shape and impetus. But he also made it clear it was to be his project and his alone.

“Franks is a complete control freak,” said one Berners Street source. “All the money was put in his Coutts bank account and he is the sole signature – he would not have anybody else as a signatory on it.”

As the Observer reported, Franks created a new company, Project One Movement For The UK Ltd, to supersede Fair Play For All. He is its sole director.

After the election last June, the “movement” began to look for further funding and staff, beginning with a war chest of £1m. A team was assembled including internet entrepreneur Alex Chesterman, former NUS bigwig Rob Griffiths, founder of irritatingly-whimsical fruit drinks company Innocent Richard Reid, John Prescott’s former assistant Jonny Will Chambers and Ryan Wayne from the marketing company, Unlimited.

‘Trump in waiting’
Nick Clegg – who last week had to deny claims he was being lined up as the new party’s leader – attended a meeting with the group in September. Philip Collins, a former speechwriter for Blair who last week used his Times column to big-up the venture and told readers to “watch this space”, dropped in to Berners Street for subsequent meetings, as did Sadiq Khan’s spin-doctor Patrick Hennessy and Dominic Cummings, the controversial campaign director of Vote Leave. Lib Dem donor Leslie Hurst worked in the office for three weeks. As reported, Tony Blair and his son Euan were also involved in discussions.

Yet in every case the individuals who met with Franks concluded he was not someone they could work with. The group has built the structure of a national party over the past six months, with staffers saying it has been ready to launch for some time. But they don’t want to launch it with Simon Franks.

Finally growing tired of waiting, and spooked by suggestions that someone else might be a better appointment as party leader, Franks spoke off the record to the Observer’s Michael Savage to big up his own role. By Tuesday last week he was lying low to avoid a doorstepping from the Daily Mail even as “friends” were letting the Guardian know that he “could also seek election himself.” As one Redbus worker put it to the Eye: “Britain’s got a Trump in waiting. Except Simon Franks is even more conceited.”

More top stories in the latest issue:

The UK’s claimed success in its air raids on Syria can’t mask the awkward truth that the RAF is getting weaker, not stronger.

With a concrete and steel wall at the border and gun-toting guards, Turkey knows just how to deal with Syrians fleeing for their lives.

Ex-Tory energy minister Lord (Greg) Barker falls mute as the US puts his new employer, Oleg Deripaska, on its friends-of-Putin sanctions list.

Baroness (Joanna) Shields, until recently the PM’s adviser on internet safety, maintains a loud public silence on the Facebook furore. Odd, given the very senior job she once had at the firm.

The Cambridge Analytica alumni who set up their own company and tried to sell its services to both sides in the EU referendum campaign.

The chief beancounter at a major NHS trust who’s been rapped by regulators for claiming to be a chartered accountant when he’s no such thing.

Camilla is kept out of sight as Brian tries to convince Commonwealth bigwigs he’s the man to lead the organisation when Brenda steps down.

To read all the latest Private Eye news, get the latest edition - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 29th May 2018.
More From This Issue
More From Private Eye
Only In The Magazine
Private Eye Issue 1468

ONLY £2.00

29th May 2018
In This Issue private eye
Military Strike ‘A Resounding Success’ As No One Talks About Brexit for 5 Minutes… Syrians Look Forward to Different Hell on Earth After Chemical Weapons Raid… It’s Enoch Powell Week on the BBC – Radio Times Exclusive Offers!... Bill Clinton Marks Twentieth Anniversary of Peace Agreement With Hillary… ‘90% of Brexit Now Agreed,’ Insists David Davis, Before Going for Lunch… World in Mourning at Death of ‘Mother of Africa’… Dismay as Labour MP Finally Gives an Honest Opinion on EU Withdrawal… Tony Blair’s Diary, as told to Craig Brown

And also...

- Syria Flakwatch: Shock and awe as Fleet Street (almost) goes to war
- Arm in arms: UK trade fair welcomes spooks and repressive regimes
- Moscow gold: Panic in the City as US Russian sanctions bite

For all these stories you can buy the magazine or subscribe here and get delivery direct to your home every fortnight.

Private Eye Issue 1467