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Cummings gets former Vote Leave colleague a £580K Covid contract

DOMINIC CUMMINGS personally intervened to ensure the company of a former Vote Leave colleague was awarded a £580,000 Cabinet Office contract with no competitive process, it was revealed today. 

In an email on March 20 last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser asked the most senior civil servant responsible for contracts to sign off the budget immediately.

The Brexit campaigner and former Vote Leave director added that if “anybody in CABOFF [the Cabinet Office] whines,” tell them Mr Cummings had “ordered it” from the PM.

The firm, Hanbury Strategy, was founded by Paul Stephenson shortly after the 2016 Brexit referendum, during which he worked alongside Mr Cummings as Vote Leave’s director of communications.

The opinion polling company also worked on the Tory Party’s 2019 general election campaign, with Mr Cummings and Ben Warner, a data specialist who worked for Vote Leave before becoming a Downing Street adviser.

Hanbury Strategy’s contract — to survey the public’s response to Covid-19 policy — is subject to a legal challenge by the Good Law Project, which argues that it shows apparent bias over the company’s closeness to Mr Cummings and the Conservative Party.

The emails, made public at a court hearing last week, show civil servants were concerned the firm was using public money to benefit the Tory Party. 

Normal legal requirements for government contracts to be subject to full competitive tender were suspended as the pandemic hit.

Both Hanbury and the Cabinet Office said they had moved quickly to prevent deaths by undertaking “vital research into public attitudes and behaviours” to inform a “hugely successful” public health communications campaign. 

Parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt

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