First, there was election spending, now an investigation has uncovered that there is evidence the Conservations may have breached election and privacy laws in this year’s election.
The Conservatives used an undercover call centre, employing a 100 people a day to make repeated cold calls to voters in marginal seats. The callers were besieged with Tory messages on Brexit and immigration and on polling day made solicitations promoting specific candidates.
Paying people to canvas for particular political candidates is prohibited and the Information Complaints Commissioner will be investigating, and if anybody has not obeyed the law, they will act.
Theresa May was touring target seats, adhering to the dialogue, telling everyone it was about strong and stable leadership. However there was a tip-off about a hidden Tory campaign, the people were never supposed to see.
From an unlikely place, concerns that laws protecting our privacy and our democracy were being broken.
Whilst there was Theresa May and her travelling road show, in Neath in South Wales there was an undercover operation, apparently set up to help sway the election in the Conservatives favour.
Welcome to the call centre being utilised by the Tory campaign. From a facility on the high street in the valleys of South West Wales where jobs are limited, salaries are low and the Labour party dominant.
A company of young people are on the telephones. Zero hours operators doing the Conservative parties bidding. It was less than a month before polling day and an undercover reporter has a job at Blue Telecoms.
A whistleblower stated that Blue Telecoms had been making potentially illegal telephone calls to voters. Blue Telecoms has an unusual management culture and some slightly dissatisfied workers had just googled the human rights act on the computer.
And then there’s this man Sascha Lopez failed Conservative Council candidate and winner of profitable contracts from the Conservatives during election campaigns.
He’s holding up a 50-pound note, he stated later on this was a trick forcing his young recruits to snitch on one another. He stated they would get the 50 quid if they reported somebody and they will listen into their calls, and if they’re correct that person will get the 50 quid and it will come out of the other person’s earnings they have snitched on.
It appears the first practice of Blue Telecoms is you do not talk about Bluetelecoms, which is strange because anchors were in Neath and knew precisely where it was. With the election approaching, the call centre was dialling innumerable UK voters claiming their something called Axe Research, stating they are independent market researchers, as they accumulated information from voters in dozens of marginal seats.
It’s a legal requirement for call centres to be upfront about who they are. The undercover reporter wanted to know why they call themselves Axe Research and was informed that was simply the name that they go under to do these surveys.
The woman stated that she did a google search and nothing came up for Axe Research but as far as anyone’s concerned they are a legit independent market research company.
Nothing comes up because Axe Research has no website, no telephone number, and does not exist. Therefore one of the top Queens Council’s was asked what the law states. The law states that if a company is going to process a person’s data, that person should know who that company are and what they’re going to do with their data and they are the basic principles of this enactment.
And clearly, what that indicates is if you have got a situation where the company that’s calling you is hiding their actual identity or is deceiving the person that’s taking the call, then that’s clearly a problem under the privacy legislation.
A political party can’t justify getting the law wrong on this issue and Sacha Lopez stated that Axe Research is a trading technique of a group of his companies and referred the anchors to Conservative party headquarters.
The Conservatives wouldn’t respond to inquiries regarding Axe Research however they did admit that Blue Telecoms were operating for them. But there are more questions and a possible illegality.
You might remember as the election approached, Theresa May announced this: “If we lose just six seats, then the government loses its majority and that means Jeremy Corbyn in number 10”.
Inside hours in Neath the call centre began saying it to, immediately calling overtly in support of the Tories. What you’re about to discover could have grim results for the Conservative party. Twenty UK landline numbers are listed with the Telephone Preference Service.
These households have opted out of nuisance calls, it’s forbidden to call them to promote anything, including political parties.
Now that enormous ribbon of households is the prohibited berry of election phone campaigns, an untapped pond of voters that by law are tantalisingly out of range. With one exception, you can call them for legitimate market research.
The Tory call centre was cold calling voters from amongst the millions of landlines which have expressly objected to nuisance calls.
But first of all we have to study what these calls proposed to accomplish and the day before the election, there’s a caller, it’s Richard Minshull, director of the Welsh Conservatives. His presence coincides with the call centre saying very different things to different types of voters.
On the line, there’s a voter who’s opted out of nuisance calls and when he says he’s torn on the eve of the election, there’s a specific message for undetermined voters:
“It was reported in the Daily Mirror of September last year that Jeremy Corbyn said that he’s not concerned about people coming to live in the UK and that there’s been reports on Sky news on the 20th April, this year that Theresa May restated her pledge to reduce net migration. So thinking about these reports in the media and reports that you live in a marginal constituency.”
The man was then questioned if he was more inclined to vote for Theresa May or if he was more disposed to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and by the completion of the call, just listen who he chooses – Theresa May.
The Conservatives did state they did constitute legitimate marketing calls. Blue Telecom insists they did not.
This exchange was presented to an expert in political campaigning. He was questioned, having examined the footage, where he believed it fell, did he believe it was an election poll or was it promoting the Conservative party?
He stated it was canvassing, that it’s not researching, all the questions are primed, a number of them are actually rhetorical in that mind of overseeing them to one answer. It’s canvassing, and it replicates all kinds of dialogues you witness on doorsteps by political parties for countless years.
They’re methods here seeking to influence people.
Blue Telecoms stated all the dialogues were presented directly by the Conservative party. How many voters would have been persuaded with an election that was in the balance, is presently a key issue.
June 8th and its Polling day. With the Welsh Conservatives director still at his side, Sascha Lopez is certain of triumph and the Tory call centre appears to have assumed a high-risk approach. Making solicitations for particular Conservative candidates for places around Wales.
It’s unlawful to pay somebody to boost people to vote for a singular candidate. The purpose is to enshrine in our legislation the belief that votes can’t be bought.
Conservative voters alone were prompted to vote but what are they attempting to accomplish here? They’re attempting to get people out there to vote, that’s the normal function of the canvasser, but this time, it’s a call centre and people are being paid.
There are legal constraints in the Representation of the Peoples Act, about paying people to canvas effective to a campaign. It’s something that is forbidden by legislation and it amounts to a criminal offence.
Those candidates were ultimately unsuccessful, but who knows what the effect the overall campaign had, and The Information Commissioner is asking Conservative party for answers.
Sascha Lopez and the Conservative party are at odds. He stated that Blue Telecoms did polling and research but not canvassing and not marketing. The Conservatives stated there were marketing solicitations, they can’t both be right, but their claims they obeyed the law will now face rigorous investigation.