Good Law Project had a court hearing last week in connection with our challenge to the award of a lucrative public contract to associates of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings at Hanbury without competition.
Documents we can now disclose show that Hanbury, under the instruction of the Cabinet Office, was given taxpayers’ money to conduct 'political polling' on key opposition figures, including Keir Starmer and Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
The decision to spend public money polling on opposition politicians left civil servants deeply, and rightly, uncomfortable. One said on email: 'hanbury measure attitude towards political figures, which they shouldn’t do using government money, but they have been asked to and it’s a battle that i think is hard to fight.'
Documents unearthed in the course of our hearing also include this March 2020 email from Dominic Cummings to civil servants demanding approval is given 'immediately' for Hanbury to commence polling work, adding 'Anybody in CABOFF whines tell them i ordered it from PM.'
News of Hanbury’s involvement was not well-received. One civil servant wrote: 'this all makes me really uncomfortable. ben warner wants us to spend £110k of public money per month with the agency who were behind vote leave who have no mainstream polling experience.'
The evidence also shows Dominic Cummings' close ally and former No.10 advisor Ben Warner (another Vote Leave veteran) was directing civil servants to his private WhatsApp rather than his official email address. In one email to civil servants, he claims: 'often its easier to catch me over WhatsApp than email'. Needless to say, Government hasn’t disclosed any of Mr Warner’s WhatsApp messages.
This money doesn’t belong to the Tories. They shouldn’t be spending it working out how to win elections. It’s public money – from taxes we all work hard to pay. And it’s a kind of theft for them to misuse it for the purposes of the Conservative Party.
Having robbed us all Lind and lined the pockets of Tory chums in the most corrupt scandal a British Government has ever presided over they are now madly rushing round telling lies and covering their wickedness up.
Again from the Good Law Project:
Lord Bethell is the Health Minister responsible for overseeing the award of Covid contracts. His time as Health Minister has been mired in controversy: from failing to declare meetings with firms that won huge Government contracts to using his personal email address to conduct Government business. Good Law Project has a particular interest in the role he played in the controversial award of lucrative contracts to Abingdon Health.
Last week in Court we argued against the Government's attempts to apply blanket redactions to documents relating to the Abingdon Health contracts. We were successful: an important step towards transparency.
But the hearing uncovered something more alarming. In sworn evidence, Government admitted that some of Lord Bethell's dealings with Abingdon had been conducted via WhatsApp or text message, and were held only on his private mobile phone. And if that was the case for Abingdon, why not other VIPs too?
What’s more, in December last year, Lord Bethell was told his mobile phone would be searched for documents relating to this case. Just weeks later, it seems, he ‘replaced’ his phone because, Government lawyers say, it was ‘broken’. They are not now sure it will be possible to retrieve WhatsApp and text messages.
Lord Bethell has overseen the award of billions of pounds of public contracts. Information revealing how these contracts came to be awarded may now be lost - or have been destroyed.
During the hearing, the Judge expressed alarm about Government’s failure to preserve evidence and insisted the ‘Order’ he made at the conclusion of the hearing refer to Government’s obligation to preserve relevant documents.
Our lawyers have written to Government to demand answers. When did Bethell learn his phone would be searched? When did he report it as broken? What attempts were made to save crucial information from his old phone? If not, why not?
This Government seems allergic to scrutiny: redacting some documents, hiding others from public scrutiny via ‘confidentiality rings’, permitting Ministers to award billions in public money via private as well as official channels, and failing to protect evidence from destruction.
We are taking action to close this accountability gap.
And it still goes on.Having robbed us all Lind and lined the pockets of Tory chums in the most corrupt scandal a British Government has ever presided over they are now madly rushing round telling lies and covering their wickedness up.Again from the G