Caught on camera: lobbying firm tells how it influences Government
A leading lobbying company has been secretly recorded "boasting about its access to the heart of the Government and how it uses the "dark arts" to bury bad coverage and influence public opinion," the Independent reports today.
An undercover investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, published in the Independent , has taped senior executives at Bell Pottinger:
* Claiming they have used their access to Downing Street to get David Cameron to speak to the Chinese premier on behalf of one of their business clients within 24 hours of asking him to do so;
* Boasting about Bell Pottinger's access to the Foreign Secretary William Hague, to Mr Cameron's chief of staff Ed Llewellyn and to Mr Cameron's old friend and closest No 10 adviser Steve Hilton;
* Suggesting that the company could manipulate Google results to "drown" out negative coverage of human rights violations and child labour;
* Revealing that Bell Pottinger has a team which "sorts" negative Wikipedia coverage of clients;
* Saying it was possible to use MPs known to be critical of investigative programmes to attack their reporting for minor errors.
Reporters from the Bureau, says the Independent, posed as agents for the government of Uzbekistan – a brutal dictatorship responsible for killings, human rights violations and child labour.The think tank Freedom House put it on its 2011 list of the "Worst of the Worst" repressive regimes.
The Bureau contacted ten London firms, says the paper. Two refused the business, several did not reply, while five including Bell Pottinger "appeared to be keen to work with the fictitious Uzbek representatives." Bell Pottinger quoted "£1m-plus" as a fee for carrying out the work, says the Independent.
For the full report, click on The Independent link below.