Evidence appears that suggests it originated from Conservative HQ: and at least one signatory claims not to have signed
A letter signed by more than 5,000 small businesses owners has come under scrutiny after discrepancies have become apparent.
The open letter, which appeared in this morning’s Daily Telegraph and on the paper’s website, claims to be an endorsement of the Conservative Party and its small business policies.
The letter states that the 5,025 signatories would like Cameron and Osborne to continue running the economy over the next five years. A section from the letter reads:
“We run small businesses right across the country. We work hard, make sacrifices and invest our own money to help our businesses grow and succeed.
“It was tough during the recession, but we kept going. This Conservative-led Government has been genuinely committed to making sure Britain is open for business.
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“They’ve managed to get the economy moving again by tackling the deficit, helping to keep interest rates low and inflation down.
“We’ve been helped by their steps to lower taxes, reduce red tape, simplify employment law and get the banks lending.”
Small business owners named on the letter include Huw Stephens, director of the Barbury shooting school South-West and Tony Seaton, associate director at Blue Sky Corporate Finance West-Midlands.
But doubts about the origins of the letter were first raised by Buzzfeed. Deputy editor Jim Waterson pointed out that meta-data on the Telegraph website showed the online version of the letter originated from within Conservative Party HQ.
The signatories are taken from replies to an email sent out by Conservative Party HQ on 12 April. The email, signed by small business ambassador Karren Brady, asks for recipients to add their name to an open letter supporting Cameron and Osborne.
The figure of 5,025 comes from the number of the email’s recipients who clicked on a link pledging their support.
However, on Twitter a spokesperson for Aarum Solutions (signatory 413) claims that nobody from the company signed the letter. The company has been asked to be removed from the letter immediately.
UPDATE: Several signatories of the letter appear not to be small business owners or are attributed to businesses that no longer exist.
On Twitter Owain Gardner (rightly) pointed out that 140 Luxury does not show up on any company check at the London address quoted.
There are several instances of signatories only being employees of the company quoted and holding no shares or directorship in the firm itself.
Some are even questioning whether the publication of the letter is breaking the Data Protection Act. In the original email it states that any signatories’ company details will not be used outside of the Conservative Party. While this is clearly not the case, businesses may be entitled to challenge the subsequent publishing of the details into the public domain.
Further reading on the politics: Government actively removing barriers’ to sharing economy