Is Big Boris watching? ICO asked to investigate emails

A request has been filed to the Information Commissioner’s Office to investigate how the “Back Boris” London Mayoral campaign managed to acquire the email addresses of Croydon residents in the run-up to today’s elections.

Old Etonian Boris Johnson: thumbs up, but does he have his finger on the pulse?

At least a dozen Croydon residents – many of whom live in the Croydon Central constituency of Conservative MP Gavin Barwell – have complained that they have received the unsolicited emails that call on them for their support in the London Mayoral election. Since many of them happen to be members of the local Labour party, they were curious as to how the London Conservatives came by their private email addresses.

David White, a semi-retired solicitor and former elected member of the GLC, took up the matter with the Johnson campaign HQ, but did not receive even the courtesy of an acknowledgement of his enquiry. He continued to get the Back Boris emails, though.

White then put the question to Barwell, as he was one of many who had signed up to be included on the MP’s constituency  email list, and who has received a flurry of “Back Boris” mails in the last 10 days.

White has now written to the ICO asking them to investigate.

Under the rules of the Data Protection Act, people or bodies who build address lists are not allowed to share the details with third parties without first gaining the explicit permission of the addressee.

Gavin Barwell is adamant that at no stage has he or his office shared with any other body the contents of his constituency email list. To do so would be to break the law.

At the 2010 General Election, Barwell’s conduct was called into question because of a breach of the law on candidates’ campaign spending.

Barwell’s election agent, Croydon councillor Ian Parker, took the rap at the High Court for failing to keep accurate accounts of the election expenses of both Barwell and Richard Ottaway, Croydon South’s Tory MP. In recent months, Parker has been operating as the election agent for Steve O’Connell’s campaign to be elected as GLA member for Sutton and Croydon.

Last week, Barwell responded to enquiries about the Back Boris mails by suggesting that Mayor Johnson’s campaign might have got the details from the local Labour party. The flaw with this theory is that the unwilling recipients of Boris-friendly propaganda include some who are not Labour party members, but who are on Barwell’s email list.

The emails are all signed by Boris Johnson, and are “Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 30 Millbank, London, SW1P 4DP “.

While attending the Park Hill Residents’ Association meeting last night, Barwell gave a personal undertaking to investigate the matter himself.

The Back Boris campaign has also been using other questionable means to “scrape” organisations’ email lists, bombarding Londoners with unsolicited messages in support of their candidate.

The property website MyPropertySpy has been sending out unsolicited political mails to people on its email list, on behalf of the Johnson election campaign, “Promoted by Ian Sanderson on behalf of London Conservatives / BackBoris2012 all at 30 Millbank, London, SW1P 4DP”.

It seems likely that the Tories have tried to get around Data Protection laws in this case by buying advertising space – giving MyPropertySpy the email material, and letting them distribute to their email list, with no apparent data exchange between the company and the political party.

Even Inside Croydon has received such mails, in which Johnson characteristically breathlessly promises, “I will seek to unite London – not divide one group from another – and give Londoners hope and optimism for the future no matter where they live.” Which suggests that he is not in control of what some of his loyal activists have been up to.

Fortunately, though, Inside Croydon has a robust spam filter and anti-virus software on its email program…

If you have received, unsolicited, Back Boris emails and worried how they got hold of your personal details, please forward the email to, and include your name and a phone contact, so that we can help collate the file for the Information Commissioner.

  • Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Boris Johnson, Croydon Central, Croydon South, Gavin Barwell, Ian Parker, London Assembly, Mayor of London, Richard Ottaway MP, Steve O'Connell and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Is Big Boris watching? ICO asked to investigate emails

  1. Tim Turner says:

    This may also have implications under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations – the sending of unsolicited marketing emails (if that’s what this turns out to be) is a breach of PECR. ICO also enforces PECR and they should recognise that issue.

  2. I received emails from Paddick, though I am a Labour member and have never given him my email address, though my LibDem MP has it. Is that a breach?

  3. Tim Turner says:

    The Commissioner has taken formal enforcement action against all three major UK parties, and all have PECR enforcement notices against them for text messages. It’s not as if any party should be unaware of what the Regulations say.

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