The Tory Party leadership race has been blighted by claims of data breaches after Jeremy Hunt supporters were “spammed” with unsolicited emails asking for their support.
Amid allegations of dirty tricks by Boris Johnson’s campaign, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has been brought in to investigate the apparent breach of tough new GDPR legislation.
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“.
It says: “If candidates in internal party elections wish to use member lists to send emails or texts, or make automated calls the candidate must ensure that they have consent from the individuals to use such marketing channels.”
International development minister, Harriett Baldwin, who is a supporter of Mr Hunt, claims she received email “spam” from the Back Boris campaign.
She has asked the data protection watchdog to investigate whether the “Back Boris” campaign broke the law by using what she claimed was “an old list from a previous campaign” to “spam” email addresses.
She has also asked party chairman Brandon Lewis to investigate the claims.
Both Ms Baldwin and ex-Tory MP Ben Howlett, both supporters of Hunt’s campaign, admitted that they had signed up to receive Back Boris material during his London mayoral campaigns seven years ago. However, they said they had not signed up to his 2019 campaign or allowed their contact details to be used.
The email urged recipients to join Mr Johnson’s campaign to be the next Tory leader, pledging to “deliver Brexit” and “unite the whole of our country”.
Allies of Mr Hunt claim they had four examples of their rivals’ team in apparent breach of tough new data legislation and ‘systematically’ abusing mailing lists to contact Conservative Party members without their consent.
The Foreign Secretary says he received a campaign message from the ‘Back Boris’ team to his personal email address.
Tweeting an image of the email, Mr Hunt wrote: “Well this is awkward… definitely didn’t sign up to this mailing list.”
Tory MP David Morris told BuzzFeed News: “It’s deeply troubling that foul play may be afoot in this contest.
“I urge [the Information Commissioner’s Office] to look into all alleged breaches so that we can be sure the contest is being conducted within the rules.”
Baldwin reportedly said in a letter: “I am concerned that the Back Boris campaign has broken data protection laws by sending spam to me, to my husband and to my brother-in-law.“
An ICO spokesperson said: “We are aware of these concerns and will be assessing information provided.”