Tory Mayoral hopeful Zac Goldsmith’s “top secret” event – which Inside Croydon is happy to reveal is being staged at Clyde Hall, Addiscombe, doors open at 5pm today – has descended into chaos and acrimony amid accusations that the Conservative Party organisers were incompetent, that they had selected participants along racial lines, and with threats of complaints to the Information Commissioner for a serious breach of data protection law.
The bungled rejection message was issued by Goldsmith’s campaign team yesterday.
But whoever sent it (no individual name was attached to any of the correspondence) used the carbon copy – cc – address field, rather than blind copying the addressees, which would have maintained their confidentiality. And it would also have kept the Tory campaign on the right side of strict laws about the protection of the public’s personal data.
The email was sent by the #BackZacAndCrack campaign team to more than 50 Croydon residents, who had expressed an interest in hearing the Conservative candidate speak. The episode raises an important question about Goldsmith’s abilities: if he cannot manage a campaign within simple competencies, what chance does he have in running the greatest city on the planet?
The blunder has already cost the Tories at least one vote.
One angry Croydon resident, “outed” by having their email address broadly distributed by the Conservative Party, replied to the campaign address:
“Dear Incompetent The BackZac2016 Team,” they wrote. “The least I would expect is privacy versus a blanket email to everyone … I will be making a formal complaint to the ICO about this and of course a copy of the same will be shared with the press.
“…I was unsure who would get my vote. Now I am sure as to who will not get my vote.
“London is the world’s greatest city and not a circus. We already are paying the price for electing an Entertainer (at best) as the current Mayor. The million pound questions is ‘Should we (the people) take a chance to elect another Entertainer for four years, when his team cannot handle a simple task of sending individual emails out?’.”
And to think he resisted the opportunity to describe Boris Johnson as a clown.
Another rejectee made a more serious complaint – and again hit the “reply all” button so that everyone on the Tories’ bungled listing might see.
“I believe that the over-demand is an excuse under which you have screened the audience,” they wrote, “and apparently excluded many people on the basis of their ethnicity. I recognise many emails of people that are conservative with a small “c”, ie. Indians like me.”
Notification of the “top secret” event had gone out as a “personal invitation” at the weekend from Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South. Philp invited select constituents on the Croydon Tory mailing list to write to an email address to request a place at Goldsmith’s latest visit to Croydon.
Those responding to Philp’s invitation were told that they would be sent the venue details if they won a place in this great #BackZacAndCrack lottery.
Croydon Tories have spent more than five years data-scraping every piece of correspondence that they receive from the public to develop a formidable database of names and email addresses. According to Gavin Barwell, the MP for Croydon Central, this database now has information on more than 10,000 people.
Much of this party political campaigning data-scraping work has in the past been done by Barwell’s office staff, effectively paid for by the tax-payer. This has not prevented several previous blunders over data protection and complaints about the handling of of personal data by Croydon Tories.
Four years ago, complaints were made when the Boris Johnson Mayoral campaign started using contacting Croydon residents, with Croydon Tories accused of handing over their email address list. Hence, this time around, the email from Philp inviting those who had agreed to be on his mailing list, inviting them to contact #BackZacAndCrack.
With such spectacular results.
- Anyone who believes that their personal data has been abused or mishandled can contact the Information Commissioner’s office here.
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