TUESDAY 6 DEC 2011 4:20 PM


At the time of going to press, Bell Pottinger Group is receiving heavy criticism in the national press and online following undercover research carried out by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and published by the Independent.

Senior executives at the fullservice communications firm, including Tim Collins, managing director of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, and David Wilson, group managing director, were secretly recorded boasting of the ‘dark arts’ employed by lobbyists to influence policy makers and control negative coverage of their clients.

Among those who will be embarrassed by the recordings are the foreign secretary William Hague and adviser to No.10 Steve Hilton, both of whom were named as facilitating access to Downing Street.

Journalists at TBIJ claimed to be acting for the government of Uzbekistan and its cotton industry – the country is run by a brutal dictatorship and is regularly accused of human rights violations and the use of child labour – to try and discover how British lobbying and public relations firms operate when asked to represent questionable clients.

During the course of the meetings between the undercover investigators and Bell Pottinger executives, the firm stated that the Uzbek government would need to put genuine reforms in place before it could embark on improving its reputation. It claimed to have manipulated Google rankings in the past, and to have used politicians to attack broadcasters of negative stories.