A PR firm boasted that it could win a damehood for a celebrity author for £80,000, it has been reported.
According to leaked emails, author Barbara Taylor Bradford was targeted by PR guru Paul Blanchard who claimed that he could get her the gong.
Mr Blanchard’s firm, Right Angles, approached Ms Bradford in March after she appeared on a podcast that he hosts, the Daily Mail reports.
The PR guru followed up the meeting with emails to Ms Bradford’s advisers which stated: “Basically our fee is 80K plus VAT… we bill half up front and half once the damehood has been awarded.”
The emails seen by the Mail show Mr Blanchard asking the author’s advisers for an initial payment of £40,000 and another £40,000 “once the damehood is awarded” which he said would be in “nine months, a year max.”
In another email to Ms Bradford’s advisers, he said: “I can’t say too much in writing of course, but the reason we are so successful is that we employ former civil servants who have been extensively involved in the honours process.
“We get feedback directly from the people that matter before the application is submitted ensuring that we can make sure the application ticks the ‘right boxes’ for that year’s honours cohort, ensuring the application is absolutely perfect and ensuring success.”
There is no suggestion that Right Angles uses unlawful methods.
Ms Bradford, who already has an OBE, rejected the pitch.
Mr Blanchard’s firm offers a service to “work behind the scenes” which helps his clients make the “right connections” during their applications for an OBE, Knighthood, CBE and MBE.
But in order to receive an honour, a person must be nominated on the Government’s website.
This can be done for free and you are unable to nominate yourself.
The application must include a written explanation and at least two supporting documents from other people.
Those applications are then reviewed by independent honours committees before recommendations are put to the main committee, the PM and eventually the Queen.
The entire process is overseen by the Cabinet Office.
It is completely illegal to buy or sell honours that you are given or to pay to influence the committees who oversee the applications.
However, there are no laws against getting help with the applications.
Mr Blanchard’s PR firm also created a 12-page document outlining a strategy to secure DJ Calvin Harris a knighthood, the Mail reports.
The strategy advised the superstar to become an ambassador to a charity such as the NSPCC because it is “beneficial in the honours process”.
There is no suggestion he knew the document was being drafted on his behalf.
Calvin Harris’ PR team have been contacted for comment.
Last night in the House of Commons standards committee an urgent investigation was called by the chairman, in light of the leaked emails.
A Cabinet Office source said the fee-charging was “damaging” to the reputation of the honour system and was considering how to discourage it.
Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said: “I’m really shocked that such companies are in existence.
“It totally devalues the honours arrangements.
“The honours committee should find some way of stopping this practice.”
“It totally devalues the honours arrangements.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman dismissed Mr Blanchard’s claims he would receive feedback from “people who matter” before an application was submitted.
“This claim is nonsense – honours are earned, not bought and the process cannot be influenced,” they said.
“Attempting to ‘sell’ honours is illegal. Anyone who suspects wrongdoing should contact the police.’
The spokesman added: “We do not endorse the use of fee-charging services when submitting nominations.”
Mr Blanchard said he was proud of the “entirely legal and above board” service he provided.
He added: “The awards process really is wholly independent – no one can ever guarantee a result.”
Awards Intelligence claims to have a 65 per cent success rate in gaining Queen’s Honours for their clients.
The Mayfair-based company has a number of packages which include the “Windsor” package that costs $4,900 plus VAT, the “Balmoral” deal at £7,900, up to the £14,900 Sandringham service, which includes 15 “professionally drafted letters of support” and an 8,000-word ghost-written nomination.
For a whopping £35,000 and £40,000 Awards Intelligence will provide the “Ultimate package” which includes the direct involvement of its chief executive, Mark Llewellyn-Slade.
An employee working at the firm told an undercover reporter that it has worked with 900 clients in total with up 200 people signing up every year.
Another company, Bayleaf Honours, charges slightly less than Awards Intelligence for their services.
The firm says its clients include “A-list showbiz and sports stars” as well as charity workers and business leaders.
Despite not being able to nominate yourself, Bayleaf Honour’s boss Mike McKie told a Mail undercover reporter that seven in ten of his clients were “self-nominating”.
In these cases, the client appoints a trusted colleague or friend who agrees to be their official nominator.
Bayleaf Honours then does “all the work in the form” but makes sure it is submitted from the email of the official nominator because “we keep ourselves out of it”, Mr McKie said.
“We operate in a way to make sure their name is never associated with working with a company like us.
“So when we reach out to get letters of support, obviously we would never say ‘this person is nominating themselves’.
“We would say, ‘we are working on behalf of an anonymous client who wishes to nominate X for an honour’.
“So discretion is built into what we do.”
Mr McKie said: “It’s not cash for honours, we don’t have secret access to people, we don’t do secret lobbying.
“We know how the process works and we just take all of the facts in the nominees’ case and work with the supporters and just make sure a great case gets presented that is compelling and clear and meets all of the criteria. We don’t promise success.”
A spokesman for Bayleaf Honours said: “We always make it clear to prospective clients – as we did to your undercover reporter – that there is a free option directly on the Government website, and that we promise no access or influence directly on the honours process.”