The real reason Theresa May dodged the question about Tory links to Cambridge Analytica at PMQs today

Theresa May PMQs
Fréa Lockley

On 21 March, Theresa May faced a direct question about Conservative Party links to Cambridge Analytica and its parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories Group (SCL). And although May denied the government has any “current contracts” with SCL or Cambridge Analytica, she failed to give a direct answer to the question. In fact, she dodged it entirely. Here’s why.

“Worrying number of links”

During prime minister’s questions (PMQs), Scottish National Party MP Ian Blackford said there were a “worrying number of links” and explained these clearly:

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Concerns about Cambridge Analytica are not new. But as The Canary previously reported, there are significant links between the party and Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group. It was these that Blackford pointed out to May.

Major SCL shareholders include Roger Gabb, a Conservative Party donor:

Lord Jonathan Peter Marland, a former parliamentary under-secretary, also funded the company. Marland is an “ex Tory treasurer” and another party donor:

Then there’s Julian Wheatland, chairman of the SCL board and chair of the Oxford Conservatives:

Wheatland’s Twitter account doesn’t seem to be working right now. But the internet is magic. Because others found out that Wheatland also seems to be quite friendly with David Cameron:

Then there’s SCL president Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Pattie, who was a Conservative MP until 1997. As journalist Liam O’Hare explained for Bella Caledonia:

The President of SCL is Sir Geoffrey Pattie, a former Conservative MP and the Defence Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government. Pattie also co-founded Terrington Management which lists BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin among its clients.

Other SCL shareholders include Nigel Oakes, old Etonian and former boyfriend of Lady Helen Windsor, and Rear Admiral John Tolhurst, chair of Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) – the “worlds largest arms fair”. He was an SCL director in 2007.

SNP MP Patrick Grady said:

Current links? 

At PMQs, May said:

as far as I’m aware the government has no current contracts with Cambridge Analytica or with the SCL group…

She also added that “the allegations are clearly very concerning, it is absolutely right they should be properly investigated”.

But according to The Mail on Sunday, Theresa May’s government was apparently “in talks” with Cambridge Analytica only months before calling a snap general election in 2017. So Green MP Caroline Lucas questioned May’s use of the word “current”:

Further evidence has emerged [pdf] that shows the Ministry of Defence made payments to SCL as recently as 2015. This has led some to ask whether the government might now be slightly compromised:

Blackford asked a very valid question. As did Lucas. But these don’t seem to be questions that May and the Tories are prepared to answer right now.

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