Portland denies Corbyn plot claims
Tim Allan's agency decides it can no longer ignore claims aired by The Canary.
Portland has finally moved to deny outlandish claims that it is orchestrating a plot to unseat Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.
In recent days, the PR and lobbying agency has been the subject of stories by The Canary – a website that claims to provide "fearless journalism" and whose readers are often ardent supporters of Corbyn.
Senior figures at Portland were initially intent on ignoring various claims that been circulating on social media as a result of the stories. A senior source said agency bosses had discussed the claims last week and decided against lending credibility to them.
But the agency broke cover on Sunday after Unite general secretary Len McCluskey weighed in.
Portland tweeted: "Len McCluskey's comments on #Marr. This is a ridiculous conspiracy theory and completely untrue. He should withdraw."
McCluskey had prompted incredulity among Westminster lobby journalists when he told Marr that he believed Labour MPs such as Lisa Nandy and Angela Eagle had been “seduced by sinister forces”.
Asked what sinister forces he was referring to, the Unite boss said: “If the BBC want to do an investigatory programme of a company called Portland then feel free to do so.
"This is a PR company with strong links to Tony Blair , right-wing Labour MPs, who have been critically involved in this orchestrated coup."
The Independent’s John Rentoul tweeted that McLuskey had gone “full fruitcake”. But many Corbyn supporters rushed to congratulate McCluskey for airing the theory on the BBC.
The Canary pays authors according to how much traffic their articles attract. Its first story about Portland appeared last week, noting the Blairite backgrounds of many Portland staff and their links to the Fabian Society.
It also noted that the BBC had featured Portland consultant Tom Mauchline in a news item about Corbyn being heckled.
It stated: “The Fabians have mobilised their assets in both the parliamentary Labour party, in the media and in the sphere of public relations, namely via Portland Communications – to inflict as much damage as possible on Corbyn.”
There was no hard evidence linking Portland to the moves to unseat Corbyn, but a subsequent article stated that Portland also employs a consultant who is “a former deputy political editor for The Mirror (who ran a front page on Tuesday calling for Corbyn to go)”.
And it noted that Portland’s Kevin McKeever once “shared a platform at an NHS conference with one Joe McCrea, a former advisor to Blair who now runs his own PR firm”.
Last week, one person who apparently subscribes to the theory about Portland orchestrating the coup against Corbyn visited their offices and refused to leave for six minutes in in a fruitless attempt to speak to staff about it.