Campaigners begin High Court fight over Dominic Cummings contract ‘bias’

Brian Farmer, PA

Campaigners have begun a High Court fight with the Cabinet Office after complaining that a focus group and communications support services contract was awarded to a company with links to then government aide Dominic Cummings.

The Good Law Project said there was “apparent bias” in the way the contract was awarded to Public First, following the start of the coronavirus crisis, nearly a year ago.

A barrister representing the Good Law Project told a judge on Monday that Public First was awarded the contract because that was what Mr Cummings, then chief adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wanted.

Mrs Justice O’Farrell is overseeing a virtual High Court hearing.

“Public First was awarded this contract because Dominic Cummings wanted Public First to have this contract,” Jason Coppel QC told the judge.

“No other provider was considered.”

Ministers are fighting the claim.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said, before the start of the hearing: “In response to an unprecedented global pandemic the Government acted quickly to ensure we quickly understood public attitudes and behaviours.

“This valuable work helped to improve vitally important public health messages, better inform the public and reach audiences.”

James Frayne, director of Public First, said before the start of the hearing that he not had “contact of any description with Dominic Cummings for nearly five years”.

“It was natural for the Government to turn to us in an emergency,” he said.

“We were already doing work for the Cabinet Office and have very rare expertise in both opinion research and public policy.

“We helped radically improve government communications in an historic crisis.”

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