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Theresa May has just privatised the Tories’ own ‘Corbyn smear-factory’ Research Department

The Conservative Party have hired a lobbying firm with close links to the Trump White House to dish the dirt on political opponents, in particular Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, senior Tory sources have revealed. It is thought to be the first time that a UK political party has privatised its own attack-research department – a tactic which is common in the US.

The firm reportedly employed by the Tories, UK Policy Group, describes itself as:

“…a unique research consultancy which brings our clients the tactics and techniques of professional political campaigns.”

But according to the Mirror:

“Employees of the company dig into the personal histories, online videos and posts of Labour candidates, collecting dossiers to be handed to the Tory party, according to sources.”

Once the dossiers have been completed, they are then reportedly handed to right-wing websites and newspapers to coordinate an attack on the individual.

According to news website Politico, UK Policy Group was set up in 2017 “in anticipation of [a] flood of Brexit-related work.”

The company has a number of links to the Conservative party. Andrew Goodfellow, a former director of research for the party, is its vice-president. Ameet Gill, former director of strategy to David Cameron, is providing consultancy services.

And according to the Mirror, Chris Brannigan, Theresa May’s former director of government relations, is on the advisory board. Brannigan has claimed that his lobbying firm was behind the series of smear stories about Labour MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad, in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

UK Policy Group was set up by the directors of US lobbying company Definers Public Affairs. That company was founded by Matt Rhoades and Joe Pounder, who have both worked extensively with Republican political campaigns in the US and are now sole directors of UK Policy Group. Rhoades and Pounder are co-founders of lobbying group America Rising which states that its sole purpose:

“…is to hold Democrats accountable and expose any hidden hypocrisy. We use video tracking, research, and communication strategies to ensure they must account for every word and action.”

The company has close links to the Trump White House.

UK Policy Group offers a number of services to clients, including ‘war room media monitoring’, ‘self vetting’ and ‘rapid response’. However, the service which the Conservative Party may be most interested in is the blandly titled ‘research books’.

The website states:

“At the core of UKPG’s research offering are our unique research books. These are campaign-style research dossiers, providing a comprehensive, detailed analysis of publicly available information on our targets’ record, background and views.”

In other words, digging up stories with which to smear political opponents.

Ian Lavery MP, Labour party chair, said:

“I am disappointed but not surprised to hear that in an attempt to deflect from their total lack of direction and policy, the Tories are reduced to digging low and dragging British politics through the gutter, in the desperate hope that they may find some salacious morsel.

This kind of base mudslinging has no place in British democratic debate, and deflects from the real issues facing people today. It is time that Theresa May stops spending money and effort on these tactics and focuses on policies to improve the lives of those who have suffered because of her government’s heartless policies.”

If the Conservatives need to employ a firm with the sole purpose of digging up dirt on opponents, it suggests that the party is in a pretty bad way.

The Conservative Party did not respond to a request from Evolve Politics for a comment.

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