Tory link to US lobby firm in smear scandal and Brexit

16th December 2018 / United Kingdom
Tory link to US lobby firm in smear scandal and Brexit

By TruePublica: The Guardian wrote a piece two weeks ago that should concern us all. It is about the Conservative party who are refusing to reveal details about its relationship with the London arm of a US lobbying firm accused of smear tactics against critics of Facebook. Aside from the Guardian’s story, the truth is, this ‘lobbying’firm is a political attack dog operation bringing aggressive American political discourse to the UK that had deep connections to the underhand Brexit movement before Britains EU referendum.


UK Policy Group, a ‘consultancy’ with close links to the Conservative party, is part of Definers Public Affairs. This is the controversial firm ditched by Facebook last month following reports that Definers had encouraged reporters to investigate whether there were financial links between George Soros and an anti-Facebook movement. The Gurdian stated that “this tactic led to claims of Facebook pushing an antisemitic image by portraying the billionaire Jewish philanthropist as a wealthy puppetmaster.”

The backlash against Facebook has, as everyone knows, been brutal in recent months and has seen Definers’ work on both sides of the Atlantic come under a lot of scrutiny.

The New York Times reports that – “A small firm called Definers Public Affairs brought the dark arts of Washington’s back-room politics to Silicon Valley when, while working for Facebook, it began disparaging other tech companies to reporters.”

In America, this is a style of tactics known in the political business as ‘opposition research.’ They provide reporters with the dirt no matter how old, obscure or conjectural about the opposition and feed it to them.

The Guardian’s report says a few things about who and what. Such as: “Set up in 2017, UKPG’s vice president is Andrew Goodfellow, the Tories’ former director of policy and research. Its two founders, Matt Rhoades and Joe Pounder, are heavyweight US political operatives who – in addition to establishing Definers – set up the America Rising corporation, described as the “unofficial research arm of the Republican party”.

“Our blueprint to winning elections involves the relentless pursuit of original and effective hits against Democrats,” the firm explains on its website.

UKPG’s only known client is the Conservative party, for which it reportedly provides research on its opponents. A spokeswoman for the Conservative party confirmed it works with UKPG.

When asked whether it intended to continue working with the firm in light of recent allegations and what the firm did for the party, she said: “We don’t comment on contracts with individual suppliers.”

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These organisations in the USA use ‘trackers’ to follow political opponents of their clients, filming their public appearances in a bid to catch them saying something that could be used now, or in the future, to undermine, or embarrass them.

Rhoades and Pounder originally registered their London affiliate with Companies House as ‘UK Rising’, aligning it with the political attack fund they co-founded rather than their commercial lobbying firm, Definers Public Affairs (UK Rising underwent a name change to UK Policy Group in May last year). The US lobbying firm also registered the web domain

After digging up any dirt they then create packages in ‘media-friendly formats’ that can be used to influence public debates.

Employees in the London branch are now being trained up in these skills by their American counterparts. UK Policy Group similarly promises to provide ‘dossiers’ on ‘targets’ that provide ‘comprehensive, detailed analysis’ of an opponent’s record, background and views, information which, they say, can be used to shape stories in the media.


UK Policy Group’s all-male leadership team isn’t from the commercial world though but appears instead to be drawn almost exclusively from the Conservative Party, including some with a background in opposition research.


SpinWatch UK, a group that monitors PR agencies, published an article, as we did here at TruePublica before The Guardian story went mainstream.

Andrew Goodfellow, who leads the UK operation, was until his appointment, director of research for the Conservative Party where he specialised in opposition research. The Guido Fawkes blog describes Goodfellow a ‘super sleuth’. ‘You may not have heard of him,’ it says, ‘but you’ve certainly read his work.’

UK Policy Group also employs James Caldecourt, another specialist in opposition research from the Conservative Research Department, whose biography says he was part of George Osborne’s Treasury team. The Tories’ head of media monitoring operation until July 2017, Pelham Groom, now runs UK Policy Group’s ‘media monitoring war-room’. The team also includes Matthew van Horen, who previously worked for the Conservative Party and for the lobbying firm of its election guru, Lynton Crosby, and Louis McMahon, an ex-Parliamentary aide, who says he worked for two government ministers.

Chris Brannigan, recent special adviser to Theresa May in No.10, is also an advisor to UK Policy Group, among other firms. He recently told the website, openDemocracy, that he has “never carried out research on opposition politicians”.


Jon Trickett, Labour’s shadow minister for the cabinet office, said: “It’s precisely because of revelations like this that the public have no faith in this government to clean up our democracy and restore trust in politics.

The book ‘Brexit – A corporate coup d’etat covers much of the undercover corporately funded stitch-up that heavily influenced the outcome of Britain’s EU referendum.

It focuses on the right-wing free-market fundamentalists agitating for Brexit who secured positions in high office and the very corridors of power who then established and built authoritative organisations to ensure that Brexit was not a wasted opportunity to push forward the next stage of the global reign of free markets. The public emergence of UK Policy Group is yet another shady undercover operation to swing public opinion with yet more disinformation and propaganda.


The Guardian piece went on to say – “In addition to employing several well-connected former Tory staffers, UKPG has been able to draw on the advice of Ameet Gill, former director of strategic communications for David Cameron. Gill’s PR firm, Hanbury Strategy, which he co-founded with Paul Stephenson, director of communications for the Vote Leave campaign, was employed as an adviser to UKPG for six months after it launched.”

Hanbury has also advised AggregateIQ, the Canadian data firm involved in the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal.

Pounder is also editor in chief of NTK Network, an online news platform. The network, which has more than 120,000 followers on Facebook, has published many anti-Soros stories as well as those critical of Facebook rivals, notably Google and Apple – stories that have been picked up by other conservative news outlets. It has also reported favourably on Brexit and Nigel Farage.

When the Observer telephoned UKPG’s serviced offices in London’s Victoria last week, an administrator said that the firm had left the previous week. “I don’t know where they have gone,” he said.

“This isn’t any old muckraking outfit,” said Tamasin Cave of Spinwatch, “Was UK Policy Group an ‘unofficial research arm’ of the Conservative party? A pro-Brexit operation? We need to know why they arrived in the UK when they did, what they were doing for nearly 18 months, who they were targeting and who was paying for it. And why they appear to have upped sticks the very week Definers are fired by Facebook.”

This operation with deep ties to the American right-wing has all the hallmarks of a company whose sole purpose is to usurp democracy in Britain by foreign interests – with the Tories covertly facilitating its actions.




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