Vote Leave chief Dominic Cummings hits out over Analytica claims

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

Image caption,
Dominic Cummings appeared before MPs in April 2016

You couldn't make it up. On the day that the prime minister finally got the green light from her EU counterparts to move onto the next stage of the EU saga, a new blast was fired in an ongoing Brexit battle at home.

For the past week it has been impossible to ignore the controversies around Cambridge Analytica, with the excruciating, watch from behind the sofa, undercover sting on its boss, and the public relations disaster for Facebook, one of the biggest companies in the world.

What however, does that have to do with Brexit?

Well, part of the suspicion and speculation around that story has touched on the edges of Vote Leave, the official Brexit campaign that was backed by cabinet ministers, that masterminded the EU referendum victory.

Whatever you think of the result, whatever side you were on, the noise about data mining for political purposes, unease about what was being done behind the scenes by all politicians, it has raised questions again about whether Cambridge Analytica did any work for Vote Leave.

They have always strongly denied that claim, which has been made many times before.

But in advance of more allegations expected to emerge in the next 48 hours, the former campaign chief, Dominic Cummings, has written in huge detail about the accusations they are facing, providing documents that appear to suggest the key whistleblower, Chris Wylie, actually tried to sell his services to the Vote Leave campaign but was rejected.

Mr Cummings's blog, which is obviously designed to get Vote Leave's version of events out before more claims emerge, is trenchant, and in classic Cummings style.

He writes: "Up against tough competition, the whole story is the most loony accusation I've ever faced in 20 years in politics.

"In normal times, such a loony story would get no play but these aren't normal times. A powerful set of people will do anything to try to shift public opinion in order that they can overturn the referendum."

He says the allegations being made are "factually wrong, hopelessly confused, or nonsensical". He again, rejects any suggestions that Vote Leave was connected to Cambridge Analytica.

It's inevitable that there will be a strong pushback against his version.

Those who have been digging for details on all of this for many months will now of course pore over every word in his sprawling account of events.

There may well be new evidence which emerges in the coming days that contradicts this attempt from Vote Leave to frame the arguments.

Whatever you decide to believe about Cambridge Analytica, it is no secret that Vote Leave used huge amounts of data which was central to how they targeted their campaigning.

Mr Cummings is disparaging in his blog about the alleged "superpowers" attributed to Cambridge Analytica, saying they are no better than many other "snake-oil" salesman operating in the field of political marketing.

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