“The Conservative party is under pressure to reveal details about its relationship with the London arm of a US lobbying firm accused of smear tactics against critics of Facebook.
UK Policy Group, a consultancy with close links to the Conservative party, is part of Definers Public Affairs, the controversial firm ditched by Facebook earlier this month following a New York Times exposé that has further dented the social media network’s image. …
Set up in 2017, UKPG’s vice president is Andrew Goodfellow, the Tories’ former director of policy and research. Its two founders, Matt Rhoades and Joe Pounder, are heavyweight US political operatives who – in addition to establishing Definers – set up the America Rising corporation, described as the “unofficial research arm of the Republican party”.
“Our blueprint to winning elections involves the relentless pursuit of original and effective hits against Democrats,” the firm explains on its website.
UKPG’s only known client is the Conservative party, for which it reportedly provides research on its opponents. A spokeswoman for the Conservative party confirmed it works with UKPG.
When asked whether it intended to continue working with the firm in light of recent allegations and what the firm did for the party, she said: “We don’t comment on contracts with individual suppliers.”
Jon Trickett, Labour’s shadow minister for the cabinet office, said: “It’s precisely because of revelations like this that the public have no faith in this government to clean up our democracy and restore trust in politics.” …
“This isn’t any old muckraking outfit,” said Tamasin Cave of Spinwatch, a group that monitors PR agencies. “Was UK Policy Group an ‘unofficial research arm’ of the Conservative party? A pro-Brexit operation? We need to know why they arrived in the UK when they did, what they were doing for nearly 18 months, who they were targeting and who was paying for it. And why they appear to have upped sticks the very week Definers are fired by Facebook.”