Conservative officials have an uncovered what appears to be the third media attempt in two years to infiltrate the party. The bid to plant a ‘mole’ was apparently orchestrated by the Sunday Times. It follows failed attempts by the Daily Mirror and Channel 4 to place undercover reporters in key positions.
In the latest operation, a man claiming to be a business consultant applied to become a member of a Conservative donor club, The City and Entrepreneurs Forum. Membership of the forum costs £2,000 a year.
The man spoke to party officials on the telephone, attended an introductory fund-raising event, and was emailed a list of other events he could attend – hosted by senior members of the Shadow Cabinet - once he was a fully paid-up member.
The plot fell apart when a Sunday Times reporter, Claire Newell, accidentally contacted an official in the party’s Treasurers Department by e-mail and acknowledged receipt of the information sent to the ‘donor.’
Her e-mail said: “Thanks. Quite a line-up!” Shortly afterwards – realising she had sent the e-mail to the wrong address - she tried to withdraw it, but not before it had been read by the Treasurers Department.
Party officials say the email was clearly intended for the new ‘donor’ and that Miss Newell was in regular contact with him. They have written to the man telling him that it is no longer possible for him to belong to any of the party’s donor clubs.
Two years ago the party foiled a bid by the Daily Mirror to plant an undercover reporter, Emily Miller, in the office of Caroline Spelman, who was then party chairman. Officials became suspicious when parts of Miss Miller’s CV did not check out. Last October the party also uncovered an attempt by Jenny Williams, an undercover reporter with Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, to join another donor club, Team 2000.
Claire Newall is a lady with quite a history. You might think she would have learned her lesson.
OK, it's not quite on the level of the blagging scandal, but it is yet another illustration of the way national newspapers seem to think this sort of behaviour is acceptable.