Brexit Party MEP admits working in secret for Cambridge Analytica

Alexandra Phillips on Channel 4 News. Photograph: Channel 4.

Alexandra Phillips on Channel 4 News. Photograph: Channel 4. - Credit: Archant

Alexandra Phillips, a Brexit Party MEP, has admitted she worked for disgraced political data firm Cambridge Analytica.

Phillips's involvement came during Kenya's controversial 2017 election campaign, when president Uhuru Kenyatta deployed a secret team to help him retain power.

Phillips initially strenuously denying any involvement with the data firm, which has been accused of influencing the Brexit result in the UK and the American election result.

The MEP is said to have only backtracked after the programme obtained a recording of an interview from 2017 in which she confirms she had been "employed by Cambridge Analytica".

The firm was exposed by an undercover Channel 4 News investigation last year in which company bosses were filmed boasting of dirty tricks, and impacting election results around the world.

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They were filmed bragging about smear campaigns, bribing politicians, and seeding "unattributable, untrackable" propaganda onto the Internet in a bid to sway campaigns for clients.

When initially questioned by journalists on camera, Phillips denied working for Cambridge Analytica, or even knowing anyone on their political campaign team.

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She said: "I didn't work for them at all. That's libellous." She added: "I'm being very serious now. You're actually propagating a load of misinformation that's been put online... based on nothing."

She continued: "If you want to talk about the Cambridge Analytica campaign, speak to them, not me. I don't know them. I really don't know the people."

Phillips is reported to have pressured the programme's journalists to drop the story, before calling her lawyers. She said: "And if you use this online, it's going to be very difficult, OK... And actually, please don't pursue that because there's going to be a lot of things that might be happening over the next weeks, months, which is going to make life very difficult. I'm being serious.

"I've never been employed by Cambridge Analytica in my life."

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However, the team obtained an audio recording of an interview from 2017 in which she told how she was secretly "employed by Cambridge Analytica" to work for president Kenyatta's Jubilee Party.

She claimed: "I've not been able to speak to you because I've been under my contract which finished yesterday. So now I'm able to talk. But whilst I'm under contract with Cambridge Analytica, if they'd found that I'd spoken to a journalist about them, then, you know what I mean non-disclosure agreements and all the rest of it... I wasn't working for Jubilee I was employed by Cambridge Analytica who had the contract with Jubilee.

"I was brought on as a political communications consultant for the Kenya project.

"I'd be writing the president's speeches and his talking points for rallies and State House statements. I trained their communications team; they're all sort of journalists who came together to create a press office. So I had to train them up and daily management of that communications team."

She said the work was so sensitive that she was told "if anyone asks" what she was doing in the country, she must tell them she was working as "an air hostess".

Phillips claimed the contract was worth £300,000 a month, and would add up to a total of around $6 million for the contract.

She said: "The $6m they got me and another chap who are two of the best in the business at doing this kind of stuff, and paid us nowhere near that much, my friend. The only thing that appals me about Cambridge Analytica was when I realised essentially how much of a money making exercise they are."

Kenya's 2017 election was mired in controversy. Divisive political campaigning was blamed for inflaming tribal rifts. Prominent critics in the country accused president Kenyatta of paying Cambridge Analytica millions of dollars to "hijack" its democracy.

The new revelations come ahead of a new documentary appearing on Netflix which explores Cambridge Analytica's influence on elections and referendums.

In a statement released to Channel 4 News, Phillips said: "In Kenya, I worked as a freelance contractor -- focusing on speechwriting - with the team of President Kenyatta, who is a great ally of the UK. The campaigns I worked on promoted peace and national unity in a country that I love dearly.

"This work was sub-contracted out to me by SCL, which went on to become a different company. Out of respect for those whom I served, I will continue to respect the confidentiality agreements that I signed upon accepting the role in Kenya.

"And I will not be bullied by agenda-driven, guilt-by-association reporting."

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