Carole Cadwalladr, the reporter who helped break the Cambridge Analytica story, has hit back at Dominic Cummings, government adviser and campaign director of the Leave EU campaign, after he made a targeted dig at her in an unorthodox civil service recruitment ad on his personal blog.
Cummings, the mastermind behind the Conservative's recent election majority, placed an unusual job placement on his blog, that many recognised as an attempt at stirring up the civil service.
On his blog post, Cummings said he felt there was an over-index on generalists, people with arts degrees, and Oxbridge graduate among Whitehall staff. Instead, he positioned his stance that things could be better if experts were pulled in from the outside - particularly people with advertising expertise.
But beyond this rallying call for people in the ad industry to step up to government roles, he took the moment to address the contentious and murky issue of political advertising, taking a dig at Cadwalladr - the Pulitzer-nominated journalist and Cambridge Analytica investigator.
“I noticed in the recent campaign that the world of digital advertising has changed very fast since I was last involved in 2016,” he wrote, addressing his role in the EU Referendum win.
“This is partly why so many journalists wrongly looked at things like Corbyn’s Facebook stats and thought Labour was doing better than us - the ecosystem evolves rapidly while political journalists are still behind the 2016 tech, hence why so many fell for Carole’s conspiracy theories,” he continued.
It was long until the Pulitzer-nominated journalist hit back at Cummings' targeted jibe.
“Hugely flattered to be cited in the weirdest job ad in the world….” Cadwalladr tweeted. “This is to remind all UK journalists that when Dominic Cummings talks about ‘Carole’s conspiracy theories’ he’s talking about the biggest breach of UK electoral law in 100 years, a matter now in hands of Met police.”
Hugely flattered to be cited in the weirdest job ad in the world. This is to remind all UK journalists that when Dominic Cummings talks about ‘Carole’s conspiracy theories’ he’s talking about the biggest breach of UK electoral law in 100 years, a matter now in hands of Met police pic.twitter.com/CdpqNwT5id
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) January 2, 2020
Cadwalladr is recognised for her work tracing links between the Brexit referendum, the Trump campaign and shadowy data mining practices. While side-stepping the impact of Cambridge Analytica on the EU Referendum, Cummings points to the strategic role of digital advertising on the Conservative party's landslide 2019 general election.
“The digital people involved in the last campaign really knew what they are doing, which is incredibly rare in this world of charlatans and clients who don’t know what they should be buying," Cummings said.
According to research conducted by We Are Social, while the Conservative have 700,000 fewer followers, they posted 31% of the total number of posts (2.3k) versus Labour at 1.7k posts.
Not only were the Conservatives more active, the party also managed to attract the lion's share of social media engagements (e.g. likes, comments, shares), amounting to 37% of the total.
This should explain why digital advertising expertise is high up on Cummings' list of ideal job applicants.
“Following the highly impressive campaign run by the Conservative party at the 2019 general election, he is clearly now more appreciative of the fact that advertising practitioners have expertise in creativity, strategy, technology and psychology that can be usefully deployed to help win elections, grow businesses and indeed support the smoother running of government,” Benedict Pringle, the founder of politicaladvertising.co.uk, told The Drum.
Cadwalladr featured in The Drum's print edition in October 2019. The image above came from a one-on-one interview with renowned photographer Rankin. In the interview, she said Cummings, along with Steve Bannon, were known for "smashing the system".