Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Another Media Attempt to Infiltrate the Tories

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.

45 comments:

Simon Gardner said...

Of course it’s ****** well acceptable. Perfectly reasonable stunt - albeit it failed.

canvas said...

what's the big deal?

a journo doing his or her job?

what are the tories hiding anyway?

a storm in a teacup...

simon said...

It's obvious that the ST was trying to discover whether donations to the Tory party will buy preferential treatment.

Whether you think this sort of 'infiltration' is legitimate or not is largely a question of personal taste. I can't see it's against the law, from the details you've provided. I seem to recall that the Tories were 'relaxed' about a politically-motivated mole linking confidential documents to Damien Green....

But one of the reasons that papers go in for this sort of thing is that the public are kept so much in the dark by the political establishment, particularly in the murky area of funding.

Anonymous said...

i do love being infiltrated don't you?

ILLIBERAL DEMOCRATS said...

Rather sad that they are so keen to get inside a political party like that. I should imagine that the press would be more succesful at infultrating the Labour party in lean times politically and financially!

Blue Eyes said...

Why doesn't the party stop being so secretive and allow journalists to see how the inner workings work. I expect they would find out the boring truth: that there is nothing to hide.

Anonymous said...

Can we call her "gaff-prone" Claire Newell?

Plato said...

All's fair in love and war ;)

I don't have a problem with a journalist doing this - stupid her for getting found out.

What I do object to are people like Amanda Platell and her dirt video story on Hague when being paid as a party employee.

Reprehensible behaviour.

Anonymous said...

And while the papers and the parties play ring-a-ring o' roses for their own amusement, British soldiers not even out of their teens are being butchered in a desert thousands of miles away for no discernable reason.

And the establishment, on all sides, is silent.

Anonymous said...

The Tories obviously have a lot to hide.

Let's hope one of these hacks breaks through the Tories curiously spooklike security systems, and reveals the truth of what they're up to. If a sleeper mole hasn't deeply penetrated already of course, awaiting activation......lol

Thomas Rossetti said...

Not only is it acceptable, it's laudable. How difficult is it to check out someone's CV when they apply to work in your office or ask to be a donor?

Those infiltrators at Buckingham Palace did everyone a massive public service when they showed how easy it was for a fraud to get a job in the Queen's household. Much better them, and have it exposed, than al-Qaeda.

Cleethorpes Rock said...

The Mirror also set up a fake Facebook profile and then tried to befriend CF members, myself included. They were clearly on the lookout for anything controversial in status updates, hobbies, photos and wall discussions. Could it have been the same lady per chance?

The whole thing was rumbled due to the amateurish execution of the plan- another hallmark of the Mirror's shady schemes.

Penfold said...

No one has clean hands, they've all got dirty minds and it's a reflection of how low politics have become in this country.
Low, because we have so many low brow tossers who want to lord it over others and have taken to politics to facilitate their bossiness. People who have always worked within the greasy and evil political sphere and have no idea how to conduct themselves with decent pople or the public.
Clean the Augean Stable, out with the lot of them and let's start again with decent people who want to put something back not enter another career path.

Mirtha Tidville said...

Sounds like Ms Newall is busy trying to make a name for herself but still lacks the talent that is required...still, no doubt well up to the low standard Murdoch seems happy to employ these days...

Council House Tory said...

This is exactly the sort of thing journalists should be doing and it's a disgrace she was arrested first time around when there was no suggestion of an OSA breach.

labour for the few said...

can they not report her to the police?

i feel sorry for her parents,who probably thought they brought her up really well.

watching the guardian editor being grilled over the news of the srews scandal,reminded me of how far down the social ladder these journalists are.

i feel sorry for his mother as well,but i suppose if he works for the guardian,she will probably be as bad an egg as him.

Mark said...

I don't see how this isn't acceptable.

If a journalist gains admission to one of these clubs etc they are only likely to report on evidence of wrong-doing - which is in the public interest anyway - and their articles will be subject to libel laws etc as per usual.

After the expenses scandal can anyone argue that political parties don't need this kind of monitoring?

Alex said...

Take it as a compliment. Everybody is trying to join the Conservatives these days.

Anonymous said...

if you aint got anything to hide why complain. she was doing her job - and i guess you are doing yours-squealing at any perceived wrong doing to the party - get a sense of perspective and objectity.

Anonymous said...

Looks like they were going after the cash for access angle, which is a legitimate line of enquiry for an investigative journo.

Bit of a departure from Newell's previous methods - good at getting unattractive men to show off and say more than they should.

Michael Heaver said...

Par for the course, Iain. Politics is a dirty biz and journos all want that big hit. If UKIP are going to get attempts like this, you boys will too.

Anonymous said...

Of course none of the Press ever tried to infiltrate the Labour Party. Perhaps the difference is that the Tories employ a Head of Communications who used to have no problems in working in the "ends justify the means" culture which pervades much of the British Press and who appears (with his relaxed boss) not to want to criticise that culture and come forward with meaningful reviews as to how it may be changed.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Tories could outsource MI5 and MI6 to the British Press. I suspect that the Murdoch worldwide network probably has better coverage and contacts already and would cost a fraction of the price.

The Oncoming Storm said...

I don't have any issue with this approach. How many big stories have been broken in the past by a mole?

Harry Hook said...

'If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear'.

English First said...

"Membership of the forum costs £2,000 a year."

Presumably claimed as EXPENSES and therefoer paid for by us poor Tax Payers!!

Anonymous said...

Iain you may have missed a great speech from nigel farage on the opening day of the new reichstag in brussels. Its on guido's site if you wanna see what the tories should be doin g on europe.

Anonymous said...

Just shows how near to the end of the road the dead tree media and the establishment broadcasters are. They'll all be dead in ten years. Very sad. And they'll take the local press (the only decent bit of the lot) with them. The Grauniad's stunt over Andy Coulson is in the same class.

Bob Jones said...

Iain - surely its time the self-regulation model (the Press Complaints Commission) for journalism was ditched and replaced with a more robust statutory regulator - akin to other leading professions?

What are journalists afraid of?

Javelin said...

My first reaction in that situation is to take advantage of it. I would have fed her a crock of shlt and seen how the story came out. If cameron played his cards right Brown would have brought it up in PMQs and dug himself a nice hole. Now that would be worth the effort just to see Cameron reveal the source of the story on live TV.

Jimmy said...

"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."

And it's the journalist's conduct which is being criticised here?

Bird said...

I'm surprised the Sunday Times were doing New Labour's dirty tricks. They come across as sympathetic to the Tories on the whole.
Not surprised at the Mirror and Channel 4. They're both NewLab stooges.
Hopefully the Tories are being extra careful and arranging their own mole capers.

trevorsden said...

"Presumably claimed as EXPENSES and therefoer paid for by us poor Tax Payers!!"

No - where do you get that idea from.

Acceptable? Its a moot point. Entrapment is not legal (or acceptable in court) is it?

Magical_Mist said...

It would be a great place to have a mole, wouldn't it?

JBW said...

Perhaps the infiltrators might have told us what the conservatives policies will be before the election. Nobody else seems to know.

Anonymous said...

Cleethorpes Rock

If the press want to infiltrate CF in order to find anything controversial or in bad taste etc. They should save themselves the bother and go straight to Donal's blog. The one good thing that can be said about CF is that it is pretty transparent.

Brett Trevalyan said...

I have a SCOOP for the journo's!

I have personal knowledge on the inner workings of the Tory Party. Yes, that's right.

They are secretly and shamefully plotting, in a dastardly, reprehensible and underhand way, to clear up the toxic mess that has been made of Britain's finances by a bunch of "pub talkers" masqueading as a Government.

You heard it here first.

Anonymous said...

English First said... "Membership of the forum costs £2,000 a year."
Presumably claimed as EXPENSES and therefoer paid for by us poor Tax Payers!!

Uh? No cost to the tax payer. His expenses would have been paid by the Sunday Times.

Victor, NW Kent said...

I see no problem here. She came, she tried, she failed.

It is called investigative journalism.

Next, please.

Anonymous said...

Can I save newspapers some budget? I'm a member of this club. What you get for your two grand is a few nice cheese and wines and invites to platform debates about policy like you can get for free down your pub, only with William Hague, whom I've never seen in hackney. The idea that your get "influence" is laughable. We pay our 2 grand as a donation to the party we want to win the election. If papers are wasting their time on this, it makes me wonder about their other hysterical "exclusives".

Chris said...

Not a great scoop, but I'm shocked it's The Sunday Times going for the Tories.

It'd be more shocking if it were the Tories attacking the Times for this, really. I mean, who needs who more? :)

Anonymous said...

a schoolgirl error from dozy yet pretty Claire.

Anonymous said...

So who bothers to meet and greet the working class members of the Conservative Party (during non-election months)?

Why aren't we all considered equals? I thought the Class System was supposed to be dead an buried?

And yes - all Parties are the same. Why waste breath on those with no money?

Thatsnews said...

Doesn't she realise she could have been prosecuted for: Fraud, conspiracy, attempting to gain a pecuniary advantage by deception?

She's lucky she didn't succeed, as should could have ended up with a criminal record.

Harold Chole said...

What is the difference between this and what Chris Galley did?