Dark Money Investigations

Leadsom campaign chair denies involvement in dark-money funded poll which boosted her campaign

The MP who ran Andrea Leadsom’s leadership bid tells openDemocracy that he wasn’t involved in commissioning a key opinion poll which boosted her campaign and was funded by the secretive Constitutional Research Council.

Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan
Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan
24 July 2017

Tim Loughton MP - photo, timloughton.com.

The chair of Andrea Leadsom’s campaign to become Conservative party leader has denied involvement in an opinion poll which added momentum to her bid for prime minister at a key moment, openDemocracy can reveal.

Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing & Shoreham, has responded on Twitter to our revelation that a vital poll in the election, which showed Leadsom to be the key challenger to Theresa May on the day that MPs voted in their ‘first ballot’, was funded by the secretive Constitutional Research Council. Mr Loughton Tweeted “it is nonsense & the campaign had nothing to do with this poll”.

The Constitutional Research Council, who funded the Survation poll, are a secretive group, currently taking advantage of obscure Northern Irish laws to prevent the public from finding out who gave them the £435,000 which they passed to the DUP ahead of the European referendum. The group later funneled cash to Steve Baker, who was the only MP other than Loughton to be a director of the “Leadsom4Leader” campaign.

News of the poll was published at the time in the Telegraph, who quoted two MPs supportive of Leadsom – Andrew Bridgen, and one who “asked not to be named”. As openDemocracy reported on Saturday, the poll was one of only three to appear after Boris Johnson withdrew from the race, and showed that Michael Gove – Leadsom’s main contender for pro-Brexit MPs – had disastrous approval ratings among the public. Responding to openDemocracy’s story about the poll, Mr Loughton tweeted at us:

1/2 No one contacted me or my office about this or I would have told them it is nonsense & the campaign had nothing to do with this poll -

— Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) July 23, 2017

2/2 so trust you will want to put the record straight immediately

— Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) July 23, 2017

In fact, openDemocracy spoke to a member of Mr Loughton’s staff on the 18th of July at 16:31, and she said that she’d ask Mr Loughton what he knew about the poll and get back to us, which she never did. But leaving such details aside, the response begs a bigger question: if the campaign had nothing to do with the poll, who was the anonymous Leadsom supporting MP quoted in the article? Who was behind this carefully timed intervention in the election, which was spun so heavily in Leadsom’s favour and, most importantly, where did the money for the survey really come from?

Update: Mr Loughton has now added that he was completely unaware of the poll altogether.

Not only denied it but completely unaware of poll altogether-at that time we were too focussed on getting MP votes 2 do any outside activity

— Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) July 24, 2017


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