Jeremy Hunt allies refer Boris Johnson to data watchdog over 'foul play' claims

Posted On: 
3rd July 2019

Boris Johnson has been referred to the UK's data watchdog as allies of his Tory leadership rival Jeremy Hunt claimed "foul play" in the race for Number 10.

The Foreign Secretary's allies have urged the Information Commissioner's Office to step in amid claims they have been contacted without their consent.

Foreign Office minister Harriett Baldwin, a support of Mr Hunt, has called on the Information Commissioner's Office to investigate the use of what she called "an old email list from a previous campaign" by Mr Johnson's team.

The Guardian first reported that she has also asked Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis to look into alleged data law breaches by the rival camp.

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According to ICO guidelines, any candidate wishing to send emails, texts or make automated calls "must ensure that they have consent from the individuals to use such marketing channels".

But Ms Baldwin said her email address had received "spam" from the Back Boris campaign, while allies of Mr Hunt said they had four examples of their rivals' team in apparent breache of tough new data legislation.

Local Conservative Associations are also said to be distributing information boosting Mr Johnson's campaign, with one email sent to local members by Nadine Dorries’ local association urging them to "Vote for Boris Johnson as our next Prime Minister to deliver Brexit".

David Norris, another MP who is backing Mr Hunt's leadership campaign, told BuzzFeed News: "It’s deeply troubling that foul play may be afoot in this contest. I urge the ICO to look into all alleged breaches so that we can be sure the contest is being conducted within the rules."

Meanwhile former Conservative MP Ben Howlett said he had would complain to the ICO after receiving a "random call" from Mr Johnson's campaign.

He told The Guardian: “No politician is above the law when it comes to usage of private personal data.

"Brandon Lewis should conduct an urgent investigation into Team Boris’s data compliance prior to ballot papers being sent out. I fear there is a clear breach of GDPR law and it is for the official Information Commissioner’s Office to determine.”

But Mr Johnson's campaign said it was compliant with GDPR and the Data Protection Act.

It said calls were only made to those who had given the campaign their contact details and granted permission to use them, as well as Conservative party officials.