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Government used public money for polls about Keir Starmer and Sadiq Khan

And despite civil servants saying they were “uncomfortable” with the deal, emails show Dominic Cummings pressuring officials to sign off cash for polling, telling anyone who would “whine” about it that it was an order from Boris Johnson.

The Government used public money to pay for polling about Keir Starmer and Sadiq Khan, newly revealed emails suggest

And despite civil servants saying they were “uncomfortable” with the deal, emails show Dominic Cummings pressuring officials to sign off cash for polling, telling anyone who would “whine” about it that it was an order from Boris Johnson.

Documents released during a High Court case show officials discussing polling carried out by private firm Hanbury Strategy – whose founders included ex-Vote Leave staff – on how credible Government spokespeople are against key opposition figures.

The emails, published by the Good Law Project (GLP), show civil servants were uncomfortable about the polling, with one saying in May 2020: “Hanbury measure attitudes towards political figures, which they shouldn’t do using government money, but they’ve been asked to and it’s a battle that I think is hard to fight.”

Another email uncovered by GLP shows Dominic Cummings pushing civil servants to approve the cash for polling from Hanbury – whose founder is former Vote Leave Comms chief Paul Stephenson.

In total, the Cabinet Office and Treasury have handed almost £1.3 million worth of contracts to Hanbury since the start of the pandemic, for polling and focus groups, according to official records.

Details of the contracts and subjects of the polling have been redacted in published documents.



Cummings said to tell “anyone who whines” it was an order from the PM
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Image:

BBC/AFP via Getty Images)




Mr Cummings wrote: “Pls sign off immediately so Paul S can get our large scale polls into field TODAY. Anybody in [the Cabinet Office] whines tell them I ordered it from PM.”

Another email shows Ben Warner, a data scientist who also worked for Vote Leave before joining Mr Cummings’ team in Number 10, was involved in plans to spend more than £100,000 of public money a month on polling from Hanbury.

A 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.

“And he wants to be in on the call/talking to Hanbury directly. Q is what do we do?”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “This has the hallmarks of a racket, not a government acting in the national interest during a pandemic.









“Taxpayers’ money that has been abused in this way should be paid back by the Conservative Party. Taxpayers’ money is not the personal cashpoint of Conservative Ministers to dish out to their mates.

“We need a fully independent inquiry into the Government contracts that have been handed out over private email and WhatsApp so we can get to the bottom of this scandal.”

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A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “In response to an unprecedented global pandemic, the government acted with urgency to undertake vital research into public attitudes and behaviours.

“This research shaped crucial public health messages, helping us to protect the NHS and save lives .”

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “It’s an ongoing legal proceeding so I can’t comment specifically on any of it.

“But in general, in response to what was an unprecedented global pandemic it was vital that we undertook research into public attitudes and behaviours.”











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