The federal government spent taxpayers’ cash on opinion polling of senior Labour figures in the beginning of the COVID disaster, in line with newly-released paperwork.
A Cupboard Workplace contract with Hanbury Technique price £580,000 and struck in March final 12 months is at the moment topic to a authorized problem after it was awarded with out competitors.
The contract was for “analysis into public attitudes & behaviours in relation to COVID-19”.
Hanbury have been based by Paul Stephenson, a Vote Go away ally of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Cupboard Workplace minister Michael Gove and Quantity 10’s then chief adviser Dominic Cummings.
The agency additionally labored for the Conservative Occasion in the course of the 2019 normal election marketing campaign.
It has now been revealed that, on 20 March final 12 months, Mr Cummings urged a prime civil servant to “log out instantly” on Hanbury’s COVID contract in order that “Paul S can get our massive scale polls into subject TODAY”.
“Anyone in CABOFF whines inform them I ordered it from PM,” Mr Cummings added within the e-mail.
In different paperwork launched by the Good Regulation Challenge – who’re at the moment difficult the award of Hanbury’s COVID contract in courtroom – it was revealed that Cupboard Workplace officers later expressed issues concerning the nature of the work being achieved.
One wrote: “Hanbury measure attitudes in direction of political figures, which they should not do utilizing authorities cash, however they have been requested to and it is a battle that I feel is difficult to struggle.”
And one other stated: “This all makes me actually uncomfortable. Ben Warner [a Number 10 adviser and former Vote Leave member] desires us to spend £110k of public cash per 30 days with the company who have been behind Vote Go away who don’t have any mainstream polling expertise.”
One other doc printed by the Good Regulation Challenge means that Hanbury have been asking polling questions on London mayor Sadiq Khan and Sir Keir Starmer, who was elected Labour chief in April final 12 months.
Responding to the discharge of the paperwork, Labour’s deputy chief Angela Rayner stated: “It is a racket, not a authorities appearing within the nationwide curiosity throughout a pandemic.
“Taxpayers’ cash that has been abused on this manner must be paid again by the Conservatives.
“Taxpayers’ cash just isn’t the private cashpoint of Conservative ministers to dish out to their mates.”
However, in a collection of Twitter posts, Mr Cummings defended the federal government’s contract with Hanbury.
He steered the polling work was to “work out” which non-government figures have been most trusted for public well being communications.
“I used to be considering re concepts like joint press conferences with Pm/Starmer/Sadiq and so on but additionally different figures who have been extra persuasive than tory MPs to specific audiences,” he wrote.
“That is *what No10 SHOULD do in a nationwide disaster*, simply as Churchill/Attlee cooperated.”
I.e I used to be considering re concepts like joint press conferences with Pm/Starmer/Sadiq and so on but additionally different figures who have been extra persuasive than tory MPs to specific audiences. That is *what No10 SHOULD do in a nationwide disaster*, simply as Churchill/Attlee cooperated
— Dominic Cummings (@Dominic2306) July 29, 2021
Mr Cummings added he could be “outraged” if Labour had not achieved the identical if that they had been in authorities.
And, defending the selection of Hanbury for the Cupboard Workplace contract, he stated: “Why Hanbury? Simply weeks in the past they’d labored with me on GE.
“In contrast to regular polling corporations I *knew* they cd join *immediately* to new No10 information science workforce & cloud *with zero mtngs*. INSTANTLY, with out mtngs/debate, was what we would have liked as covid unfold.”
A Hanbury spokesperson stated their workforce’s “data of polling and modelling is extensively appreciated as being top quality”.
“We have been requested by the federal government to step up and supply analysis and important quantities of modelling at extraordinarily quick discover with a purpose to assist with a nationwide disaster,” they added.
“We agreed to do that within the full data that it might most likely result in politically motivated assaults towards us and the dangers that this might create for our enterprise.
“We did it as a result of we thought we might assist save lives and it was subsequently a danger price taking.
“Our work contributed to what was a massively profitable public well being communications marketing campaign which undoubtedly prevented many deaths.”
A Cupboard Workplace spokesperson stated: “In response to an unprecedented world pandemic, the federal government acted with urgency to undertake very important analysis into public attitudes and behaviours.
“This analysis formed essential public well being messages, serving to us to guard the NHS and save lives.”
Beneath authorities procurement guidelines, ministers are capable of award contracts with out a aggressive tender in conditions of “excessive urgency”.