After the elections to the European Parliament, it was inevitable that a representative of the Brexit Party, latest vehicle for Nigel “Thirsty” Farage to advance the cause of Himself Personally Now, would appear on the next edition of BBC Question Time. And so it came to pass, as viewers were introduced to one Alexandra Phillips, now an MEP, and another candidate whose CV remains unexplored by our free and fearless press.
Alexandra Phillips - innocent face
Ms Phillips trotted out the usual soundbites, telling the audience that leaving the EU meant leaving every last institution of the EU, and pointing the way to the entirely fictional sunlit uplands of No Deal Brexit. She also told that she had been close to Farage for the past ten years, a connection he may come to regret in view of her own track record.
Alexandra Phillips is a former employee of Cambridge Analytica, the firm that so many across the various Leave campaigns claim they had nothing to do with. CA has, in turn, been involved in a number of electoral contests in the recent past, notably in Kenya, where the 2017 Presidential Election was later declared invalid by the country’s Supreme Court.
Here’s what Privacy International had to say about CA’s involvement. “Cambridge Analytica, a British data analytics firm … has serious questions to answer about its work in Kenya … [CA] gathered survey data on Kenyans to aid the campaign and managed the president’s image”. So where does Ms Phillips come in?
“Alexandra Phillips, former head of media for the UK Independence Party, was employed by Cambridge Analytica to brief media on behalf of [Uhuru] Kenyatta, in a document seen by Privacy International. Phillips denied working for [the] Jubilee [Party of Kenya], even after publishing photos on Instagram of her with the Jubilee team. Nevertheless, an employee at Cambridge Analytica speaking to Privacy International confirmed that Phillips had worked for the company”. She was there. And there was more.
After noting that CA had been investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office, and had faced scrutiny from a US House of Representatives committee (the company has since been wound up), Privacy International concludes “The fact of these investigations does not inspire confidence that Cambridge Analytica behaved ethically in its collection and use of Kenyans’ personal data to benefit their Presidential client”.
It was not, though, merely about ethics, but a further demonstration of actions having consequences: as the Guardian noted later that year, “So far this year, 44 people have died in election-related violence since the August poll”. A lot of people died. Cambridge Analytica was a party to the electoral process. And Alexandra Phillips was there too.
After Ms Phillips was elected as an MEP, the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, who knows a thing or two about CA, mused “Shame she wasn’t asked a single question about her valuable work subverting Kenya’s democracy”. And Tom Scott reminded us that CA was “a company that boasted of the dirty tricks it used to subvert democracies around the world”.
Still, if the Brexit Party can get a terrorist sympathiser and genocide denier (Claire Fox) elected to the European Parliament and on to the BBC, why not Alexandra Phillips?
Politicians being held to account by the Beeb? Not on this occasion.
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