Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's top aide left the Foreign Office to join a lobbying firm that is part of a group doing PR for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, fending off criticism of their war on Yemen.
Liam Parker worked as Boris Johnson's Special Adviser (or SpAd) from September of 2016 to September of 2017, when he joined the London political consultancy, Pagefield. The consultancy also lists repressive state Azerbaijan and arms firm BAe among their clients.
According to Pagefield, when Parker worked for BoJo he "was responsible for political communications and strategy of the Foreign Secretary, with direct oversight of all communications output from the department".
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has fought a vicious war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. In January of 2018, Pagefield Global Counsel – a "sister firm" of Pagefield – was hired by the Saudi Arabian Sheikhdom to deal with criticism over the Yemen conflict. That same month, MPs and journalists started receiving a Saudi government dossier promoting Saudi aid to Yemen. The dossier was an attempt to divert attention away from the famine and refugee crisis caused by the Saudi-led war. Pagefield Global Counsel was involved in promoting the brochure.
Saudi Arabia is a leading customer of arms made by the UK’s BAe systems – a firm which also appears on Pagefield’s clients list. Among other products, the country buys Typhoon jets from BAe, which are used in the Yemen war.
Pagefield have other well-connected staff alongside Johnson's ex-SpAd, telling prospective clients, "as a Pagefield client you can tap into one of the best networked agencies in London, led by our world-class Board, which is chaired by Sir Christopher Meyer". Meyer is the former British ambassador to Washington.
Sources at the company emphasised that Meyer and Parker were not working on a Saudi account. Pagefield, which employs Liam Parker and Sir Christopher Meyer, and Pagefield Global Counsel, which has the Saudi account, are separate companies. They are, however, both registered at the same address, and both are owned by Pagefield founder Mark Gallagher. Pagefield announced the recruitment of Liam Parker and the launch of Pagefield Global Counsel in the same press release.
Pagefield Global Counsel says it is part of the Pagefield "family".
Pagefield told VICE, "Our sister company, PGC [Pagefield Global Counsel], is one of a large number of agencies assisting in KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] on the communications associated with the multi-billion dollar humanitarian aid plan. They are advising on the logistics of operating a supporting communications function. To be clear, PGC [Pagefield Global Counsel] does not provide lobbying services to anyone."
Labour MP Lloyd Russell Moyle told VICE, "Boris Johnson's office has spent the past 18 months providing political cover for Saudi Arabia's war crimes in Yemen to keep UK arms companies in clover." He said Johnson’s former aide, Liam Parker was "a perfect fit for Pagefield" because the firm represented arms firms and repressive regimes.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP also received the glossy Saudi brochure promoting the "aid effort" in Yemen, seen by VICE, which Pagefield is helping promote. It is full of glossy pictures of aid being loaded into trucks, rather than pictures of Saudi jets bombing Yemen. Russell-Moyle said he had accepted an invitation to visit the Saudi ambassador and would tell him that "Saudi must stop its disproportionate assault on Yemen, and Britain should stop profiting off it."