Today
Wed 29 September 2021

Nafeez Ahmed reveals how Sir Robbie Gibb, who helped found the new ‘anti-woke’ media channel, is tied to the Government’s bid to attack Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion

A key original founder and fundraiser for the new right-wing news channel GB News is in a business partnership with two Home Office political appointees who are conducting the Government’s strategic reviews into extremism and political violence. 

Sir Robbie Gibb, the former Downing Street spin doctor, reportedly led the fundraising drive for the so-called ‘anti-woke’ channel GB News in late 2020. The Mail on Sunday cited a GB News source confirming that Gibb was the driving force behind it, including “leading efforts to raise money” for the group. In September 2020, Guido Fawkes corroborated the story, reporting that Gibb had “set up” GB News.

A GB News source told Byline Times that, since then, Gibb has left the venture and is no longer associated with it. However, at the time he founded GB News, Gibb was in a business partnership with John Zak Woodcock, who sits in the House of Lords as Lord Walney; and William Shawcross, the former Charity Commission chairman.

In April 2020, both Woodcock and Shawcross were part of a successful bid by the JC Acquisition Ltd consortium led by Gibb to take over the Jewish Chronicle.

Four months later, news surfaced that Gibb was setting up another media project, GB News. He had secured the involvement of Andrew Cole, who serves on the board of Liberty Global – which runs Virgin Media and owns 10% of ITV. 

At the time, Gibb’s business partner in JC Acquisition Ltd, Woodcock, had already been appointed by Home Secretary Priti Patel as the Government’s Special Envoy on Countering Violent Extremism. He has held the role since November 2019, although it was paused due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It was revitalised in November 2020, when he was appointed as the Government’s Independent Advisor on Political Violence and Disruption. 

According to the GB News source, Gibb left GB News shortly after setting it up.

Gibb did not respond directly to Byline Times. Instead, this newspaper received a statement from a lawyer representing GB News and one of its funders – the private investment firm Legatum – which said that Sir Robbie Gibb was no longer associated with the media group and had left the operation in September 2020. However, his involvement as a founder of GB News was not denied: “Robbie Gibb was only involved in the fundraising in the very early stages.”

This month, the Telegraph revealed that John Woodcock would be conducting a new Government review into political extremism in Britain, reporting that it would look into how ‘far-left’ groups might “hijack” anti-racist and environmental movements. His review is due to report its findings on the “extreme fringes” of both the right and left to Boris Johnson and Priti Patel next May.

A month earlier, William Shawcross was appointed by Priti Patel to the role of the Government’s Independent Reviewer of the controversial counter-terrorism ‘Prevent’ strategy – in a process which former regional chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal described as “rigged”.

In this capacity, Shawcross will review the Government’s policy to prevent people becoming radicalised and supporting or carrying out terrorism. Critics claim that Prevent has had a disproportionate, and in some cases discriminatory, impact on Muslim communities.

Woodcock’s connection with Shawcross through their partnership with the founder of GB News raises its own potential conflict of interest questions. Shawcross was a director at the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a lobby group with close ties to Steve Bannon and Mike Pompeo, from 2011 to 2012. The group has worked closely with the anti-black movement in the US.

Through the last decade, HJS staff regularly attended the annual ‘alt-right’ gathering organised by the David Horowitz Freedom Centre, the founder of which was described by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) as the “driving force” of the “anti-black movement”. Despite this, Priti Patel has had close associations with the group. She sat on the HJS’ political council until 2016 and had a trip to Washington DC paid for by the group in 2013.

The Government’s most pivotal appointments on reviewing its policies on political extremism have ties to the man who first set-up GB News – and both appointees will provide findings and recommendations that will feed into the Prime Minister’s policies on extremism, activism, free speech and protest for years to come.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The role is entirely independent of the Government and Lord Walney will be free to consider groups across the political spectrum and make recommendations accordingly.”

John Woodcock, known as Lord Walney, did not respond to a request for comment. Sir Robbie Gibb did not respond to Byline Times when contacted for a second time for a request for comment after it received a reply from GB News.

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