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.
Jo Maugham – Good Law Project