Next time a Tory MP appears on the mainstream media with a new line in support of hard Brexit, perhaps the interviewer should ask:
“Is that your own opinion, or that of the European Research Group on WhatsApp?”
None of them will have the (excuse the vulgar language) balls to do it, of course – but that’s hardly surprising as members of the ERG seem keen to deprive unco-operative reporters of this equipment.
You will recall that This Site mentioned the discussion on the subject of Buzzfeed reporter Alex Spence’s reproductive equipment, between Ben Bradley and Iain Duncan Smith…
No? Well, it’s here. A summary is in this tweet:
Iain Duncan Smith and Ben Bradley discussed castrating @alexGspence. Unfortunately, the WhatsApp messages were then leaked to @alexGspence. Brave, campaigning journalism to publish and face down such threats. https://t.co/kQJrluF2vy pic.twitter.com/ZLB49PRx2z
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) March 16, 2018
The Buzzfeed article states that “BuzzFeed News contacted Bradley and Duncan Smith asking them to explain the conversation. Why were they joking about removing a reporter’s testicles in front of nearly 100 members of parliament?
“Neither MP has responded.
“But since then their WhatsApp group has been unusually quiet.”
Hundreds of WhatsApp messages seen by BuzzFeed News … reveal the inner workings of the most influential lobbying force in British politics. Led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the ERG has around 70 supporters on the Tory back benches and at least a dozen more sympathetic MPs in government. It dominates the Conservative party and has profoundly influenced Theresa May’s Brexit policy.
The huge leak — a major embarrassment for a group that prefers to operate out of the public view — reveals that, in addition to its extensive parliamentary and political manoeuvring, the ERG has waged a vigorous, nimble media campaign to shape the national conversation about Brexit.
The conversations reveal how an informal network of passionate, determined backbench MPs, with the support of only one paid researcher – his salary is funded by public money – and a free messaging app have worked the British media to make their case for a hard Brexit and push back against the Remainers they believe are trying to undermine the vote to leave the EU.
Members appear regularly on TV and radio programmes, are often quoted in newspapers, and produce a steady stream of articles for pro-Brexit publications like BrexitCentral and the Daily Telegraph. Behind the scenes, the MPs use WhatsApp to make sure they’re all on message, sharing consistent “lines to take” in response to journalists’ questions, providing briefings for its MPs before they do interviews, and circulating links to their members’ articles, appearances, and tweets.
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