As Zelo Street told yesterday, the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance is not the “non partisan” body it claims to be. It is in lockstep with the Tory right. Its alumni pass through the revolving door into the service of the Tory Party, directly or indirectly. It influences Tory policy. It is not a think tank, but, as this blog has told more or less since its inception, is an Astroturf lobby group. And now it is in the news for all the wrong reasons.
The TPA, its influence, its networks, and its reach even into Government has been exposed by the case of whistleblower Shahmir Sanni, who was the TPA’s social media man before the group suddenly sacked him. He then instructed lawyers to take the TPA to court for unfair dismissal. And the TPA has decided not to contest the claim. It will pay significant damages. Moreover, they will not contest Sanni’s evidence and allegations.
Not, of course, that this has been announced to the world by all newspapers. It is, though, front and centre at the Observer, where Carole Cadwalladr - who else - has told “the TaxPayers’ Alliance has conceded that it illegally sacked the whistleblower Shahmir Sanni for revealing unlawful overspending in the Brexit referendum campaign, in a case that could have a major impact on how lobbyists are described in the media”.
There was more: “the group has also conceded that it illegally vilified Sanni on the BBC in coordination with a network of other ‘linked’ organisations … The alliance has accepted all the allegations Sanni made during his action claiming unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, direct discrimination and ‘dismissal by reason of a philosophical belief in the sanctity of British democracy’”. And then comes the really damning part.
“Significantly, it has also conceded that it is liable for what Sanni’s lawyer, Peter Daly of Bindmans, describes as ‘extreme public vilification’. Sanni had claimed that it was responsible for a smear attack published by the website Brexit Central, and that it coordinated ‘derogatory statements’ made by the head of Vote Leave, Matthew Elliott, to the BBC – calling Sanni a ‘Walter Mitty fantasist’ and ‘so-called whistleblower’ and claiming that he was guilty of ‘completely lying’”. It got worse.
“The uncontested claim has stated that the TaxPayers’ Alliance is responsible for Elliott’s Brexit Central website as part of nine ‘linked’ high-profile rightwing ‘think tanks’ that operate in and around offices at 55 Tufton Street in Westminster and coordinate media and other strategy … In Sanni’s case, they also coordinated with Downing Street … The network includes the Adam Smith Institute, the Centre for Policy Studies, the Institute of Economic Affairs and Leave Means Leave”. So why did the TPA concede?
“Details of the alliance’s relationship with Downing Street and the role of Stephen Parkinson, Theresa May’s political secretary, will now not be heard in court”. Did Number 10 lean on the TPA? But then, there was another reason for not going to court.
“Chris Milsom, a barrister who specialises in whistleblowing cases, said: ‘It is incredibly unusual for a respondent to make a complete concession on liability as the respondent has here. To wave a white flag to avoid disclosing documents and giving evidence in court is really unusual. They conceded everything. How does an ostensibly private company come to be working with Downing Street? What is their relationship? Who are their funders?’” Who indeed. The TPA does not need to tell who funds them.
As Shahmir Sanni has told in an accompanying article, “Britain knows now that institutions like the TaxPayers’ Alliance are playing a dirty game. A game that in this case, meant committing multiple unlawful acts. But this goes much deeper than that. It goes to the heart of the British establishment and exposes a covert relationship that operates between the government, these ‘think tanks’ and the media”. And he had this warning.
“In not contesting my claim, the TPA has admitted that it is part of a network of rightwing think tanks - including the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Adam Smith Institute, BrexitCentral and others - that have the ears of cabinet ministers and MPs … This cannot go on. Broadcasters and journalists cannot continue to provide a platform to this network of organisations that have so obviously tried to cover up unlawful activity”.
Dead right it can’t. In not contesting Sanni’s claims, the TPA, along with the IEA, CPS, ASI and the rest of the rotten and corrupt influence merchants, has admitted what this blog, and many others, have warned about for years. A phalanx of right-wing ideologues and their facilitators have wormed their way into Government, aided and abetted by those in the media establishment who should have known better.
Who funds these groups? How do they get access to the broadcast media? Do the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky News and the others not do due diligence on them? Small wonder shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said “We need full transparency in who is operating in our political system and therefore seeking to influence both our elections but also our governmental policymaking. These organisations - even by their names - seek to portray themselves as independent, authoritative research bodies”.
With these revelations, the game is finally up for the TPA and their pals. About time, too.
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