Among the many things linking the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom and the far-right Democratic Unionist Party in the Six Counties, the UK’s legacy colony on the island of Ireland, is the mysterious lobby group known as the Constitutional Research Council or CRC. Last year, during Britain’s turbulent referendum on its membership of the European Union, the Leave-supporting body secretly channelled hundreds of thousands of pounds into the British anti-EU campaign using the services of the xenophobic DUP. While much of this “dark money” went on an advertising blitz in the English press some of it was retained by the extremist party to fill its own coffers in the UK-administrated north-east.
Investigations by a number of news publications in Ireland and Britain quickly revealed that the CRC was founded and led by a former Tory vice-chairperson and parliamentary candidate in Scotland, Richard Cook, an individual with controversial links to leading members of the Saudi royal family. Furthermore, it soon emerged that the Constitutional Research Council was the supposed “think tank” behind several polls claiming majority support for Theresa May among Conservative MPs during her campaign to become the party leader in July of 2016.
Jamie Doward of the Guardian now reports that Steve Baker, a minister in May’s DUP-reliant government in London, has been another recipient of CRC generosity.
The new minister for securing the UK’s departure from the EU is under pressure to clarify his relationship with the obscure organisation behind a controversial £435,000 donation to the Democratic Unionist Party during last year’s Brexit referendum.
Steve Baker, a leading light on the Tory right, has also received £6,500 from the Constitutional Research Council, the body behind the DUP donation. The revelation has heightened interest in the council and its links to two powerful organisations now holding sway over British politics: the DUP, whose 10 MPs are propping up the Tory government, and the European Research Group, an increasingly influential group of around 80 pro-Brexit MPs that was chaired by Baker until he stood down last month.
The council is chaired by Richard Cook, a former vice-chairman of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party, whose business associates include a former Saudi spy chief and a man alleged to have been an intermediary in a major arms scandal. It has no website and publishes no accounts and is one of several organisations that have emerged as having played a key role in securing Britain’s exit from the EU.
Baker’s appointment to office follows the return to power of Michael Gove, the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom and a fierce opponent of the Irish-British peace process of the 1990s and early 2000s. Both men are close to the Democratic Unionists and have expressed belligerent support for Britain’s continued politico-military presence in Ireland as well as deep-seated animosity towards the European Union. Animosity which contributed to last summer’s disastrous plebiscite in Britain after many years of devious labour by the Europhobic duo and their fellow travellers in the British ultra-nationalist right.