Gisela Stuart, Labour MP for Edgbaston, is handing back £5000 that she received from Nexus, the company that paid Liam Nolan his secret second salary, “towards hosting a fundraising dinner”, with Nolan as guest, as part of her General election campaign.
That isn’t the only support that Gisela Stuart has had from Liam Nolan. In March 2014 Perry Beeches Academy hosted a glittering, £75-a-head dinner at Edgbaston Cricket Ground to raise funds for Gisela Stuart’s campaign. Labour’s former Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt was guest speaker. The invitation clearly stated: “The dinner is being sponsored by Perry Beeches Academy.”
And there is a business connection that so far hasn’t been revealed. Gisela Stuart and Liam Nolan are both directors of a Birmingham-based company, registered as a charity, called Skilled and Ready which sells “employability skills” teaching programmes and awards for 11-18 year-olds to schools in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.
Skilled and Ready started in Birmingham three years ago when Rachel Maclean, a Birmingham business owner, got the contract to “deliver” the so-called “Birmingham Baccalaureate”. This is an employability skills award that was initiated and strongly promoted at the time by Gisela Stuart and Brigid Jones and the local authority. As the Skilled and Ready website says, the aim of the award was to ensure that schools were delivering “the requirements of local and national employers.” Both Cameron and Gove praised the award and Maclean got a government grant.
The Birmingham Baccalaureate never really took off in Birmingham – only a few schools took it up and it has now vanished from the local authority’s education plans. But Skilled and Ready did take off when it got funding last year from New Economy , a joint agency of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the GM Local Enterprise Partnership, to deliver the programme in 42 schools in Greater Manchester. It has recently expanded into Liverpool schools, sponsored by Hays, a major national recruitment agency.
The board of directors of Skilled and Ready has an interesting composition. It includes the founder, Rachel Maclean, Gisela Stuart, a director of Hays, and a representative of New Economy (part of the GMCA comprising ten councils, nine of which are Labour). Rachel Maclean stood as Conservative candidate in the Labour-held Birmingham Northfield constituency in the 2015 General Election. She is an avid pro-Tory tweeter, most recently of the call for more grammar schools in Birmingham. And also a member of the board of directors is Liam Nolan himself.