The candidate, his aide and the PR agency

Why did a former prime minister's adviser agree to help a potential president?

In his minutes, Simon Baker notes “considerable enthusiasm” for an offer by Jonathan Hill and Andrew Last of Lowe Bell Communications to assist Phillip Sycamore's campaign. He writes that such assistance would be informal and without payment, but on the basis that it would not be made known beyond the campaign team.

Later, Baker notes “it was agreed” that Last and Hill be consulted over whether enquiry agents should be used to gather information on Mears and his colleagues.

Sycamore has now admitted that Hill and Last were consulted on an informal and unpaid basis, but denies the pair were approached about hiring enquiry agents.

In the light of the fact that the Law Society paid at least £75,000 to Lowe Bell for a campaign to sell the merits of Legal Aid just 12 months ago, an offer of free assistance for Sycamore's campaign appears generous to say the least.

Both Hill, a former adviser to John Major, and Last met Sycamore during Lowe Bell's legal aid work for the Law Society. The agency's work ended in October last year, but it is understood that Last and Hill followed events at the society and were sympathetic to Sycamore's aims.

In January, Last got clearance from Hill to offer advice to Sycamore, after he asked for help. In March of this year, The Lawyer received information that Sycamore was taking informal advice from Hill.

But when questioned about whether he had consulted Hill, Sycamore answered: “No I haven't.”

Last week, when confronted with news of the leaking of the minutes, Sycamore said he did talk to Andrew Last in February about his profile in the profession, but said he had not spoken to Hill about the election until recently.

Meanwhile, Lowe Bell has also issued a statement saying that the consultancy is not advising Sycamore and explaining that Last and Hill had been giving advice on a private and personal basis.

Although the firm is clearly embarrassed by the public exposure of its offer of assistance, Lowe Bell believe its staff did nothing wrong as they were not working for the Law Society at the time.

If this was the case, why then did Sycamore go to such great lengths to keep it secret?

“Maybe,” said one Lowe Bell employee, “so that people would not jump to the conclusions they have jumped to.”