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Another New Anti-Immigration Pressure Group is Launched from Tufton Street and Met with Reams of Media Coverage

The mysterious case of a tiny new ‘think tank’ launching – and being immediately granted gullible coverage from right-wing papers

Screengrab: Centre for Migration Control

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For all the talk of a narrowing in the polls, senior Conservatives remain concerned about the likelihood of electoral collapse in this year’s General Election. 

It is a party that seems out of ideas. Yet on its fringes, a panoply of new right-wing groups offer an indication of what we might expect after a General Election routing for the Conservatives. It is a picture of growing radicalisation on the British Right. 

The Popular Conservatives (or PopCons) are the newest manifestation of the “anti-woke”, low corporate tax, zero regulation sect of conservative ideologues – whose ideas, at odds with much of the electorate, have been described by critics as “neither conservative nor popular”. 

To name just a few, the PopCons, the New Conservatives, Common Sense Group, Conservative Way Forward, and Conservative Democratic Organisation, as well as international right-wing conferences like The Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC), the National Conservatism Conference (NatCon), have all been established, reborn, or made their way over to the UK since late 2018, with most doing so between 2022-2023.

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The groups’ MP base and speakers often overlap considerably, frequently finding friendly platforms on GB News, and in the pages of the Times and Telegraph

But there have also been changes to the makeup of the opaquely funded lobby groups that provide many of the ideas for these factions. The connected think tanks (historically known as the ‘nine entities’ operating from in and around Tufton St, of which many of the MPs involved in the initiatives above are directors or advisors. 

The recent launch of the PopCons, spearheaded by Liz Truss, was hosted at The Emmanuel Centre, connected to Tufton St. PopCon is legally registered as Popular Development Partners Limited, directed by Mark Littlewood – until recently the Director General of dark money ‘think tank’ the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), and the group most closely aligned with the shortest serving Prime Minister in British history.

As previously exposed by Byline Times, a new pressure group, ‘End Mass Migration’ (EMM), was also launched from Tufton St in November 2023, calling for “Net Zero migration” and “action on the streets”, launched at an ‘Immigration Conference’ hosted by the New Culture Forum (Peter Whittle, ex-deputy leader of UKIP and NCF chairman was briefly a director). 

The group co-founder, Neil Anderson, is himself a former director of the Migration Watch think tank, as well as being a prospective parliamentary candidate for Reform UK. 

But although EMM seems to be languishing with only 250 followers on X/Twitter, another similarly focused outfit has recently emerged and has already been handed reams of favourable coverage in both the Telegraph and Daily Express: The Centre for Migration Control (CMC). 

Grains of Support, Mountains of Coverage

The Centre for Migration Control does not seem to officially exist yet as a company but does have an active account on X/Twitter and a website, from which friendly media outlets have been able to cite its political research. Its website has no information about the group’s origins, its supporters or funders, but does boast a well-stocked media clippings page.

In fact, its analysis has been featured in the Telegraph four times since December 2023, as well as in The Critic and the Express once each within that time. 

According to its website, the group was officially launched in January 2024, without listing the people involved. One of the first two people following it was Steven Edginton, the author of the initial Telegraph piece based on their press release (and also former chief digital strategist for the Brexit Party, now Reform UK).

The Telegraph‘s digital video editor Steven Edginton is prolific on X in opposing ‘mass migration’ and asylum seekers. Photo: Screengrab from New Culture Forum interview with him in 2023 dubbed: “Tony Blair Enabled Woke Ideology. Repeal the Equality Act Now”

Edginton was also the first person to follow the right-wing anti-immigrant pressure group on X/Twitter, when it hadn’t been formally launched yet.

Following that article, the organisation saw senior conservative politicos begin following the CMC, among them ex-Downing St special advisors, editors and writers for the Mail, Telegraph, and ConservativeHome, as well as accounts linked to the 57 varieties of right-wing pressure groups.

The CMC’s research director is Robert Bates, understood to be the former research executive of the Eurosceptic campaign group Get Britain Out, as well as being a researcher at the ‘Campaign for Democratic Trade’, a group which has a largely unfollowed Twitter/X account, and for which very little other available information exists.

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The ‘Rob Bates’ of the now-defunct Get Britain Out has authored two articles bearing a striking resemblance to the material later put out by the CMC, one focused on international student VISAs (Bates article and CMC research cited side-by-side for comparison), and another in the Express, titled ‘We’ve just accepted 20 years worth of migrants in ONE year’.

The CMC also has a Facebook group, which has been active since 2019. Research into the history of the group reveals that it is in fact a rebrand of Future for Leave, the “younger sibling” of Leave Means Leave, the former pro-Brexit pressure group, once again based at 55 Tufton St. It was co-chaired by Reform UK’s Richard Tice and Brexit Party MEP John Longworth. Nigel Farage was its vice-chair. 

The first Edginton piece in the Telegraph quoting the CMC’s research was published the day it rebranded from Future for Leave (FfL). 

Edginton was previously chief digital strategist for FfL-linked Leave Means Leave. Robert Bates, presumed to be the same individual involved with the CMC, Get Britain Out, and the Campaign for Democratic Trade, was also Head of Outreach at Leave Means Leave, working alongside Edginton. 

Coverage of the opaque group’s analysis has often boosted the Government’s narrative on refugees. Another recent Telegraph article by the reporter and ex-Brexit Party staffer condemned those behind a joint letter of 260+ human rights organisations, which urged the Lords to reject the Rwanda Bill. 

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A Riddle Inside an Enigma

A source from the NGO sector told Byline Times that, following the joint letter, “a reporter from the Telegraph got in touch with a bunch of migrants rights organisations to say he was writing a piece about them”. The article was written by Steven Edginton, again relying on analysis conducted by the Centre for Migration Control.  

The source told Byline Times that “The letter was published in the Independent but wasn’t cited by any Lords, so it was “fairly easy to ignore” 

They added that “the fact a Telegraph reporter was asking about it made us think that perhaps it was somebody in the Government who didn’t like it and tried to get their mates to discredit some groups involved. They were flagging up old tweets and stunts that the groups had done, which presumably annoyed the Home Office…Someone from [Nigel] Farage’s [GB News] show also asked a few days earlier”.

“The article [was] all based on analysis by this very newly set up think tank, without a proper digital footprint, and who are already getting three articles in the Telegraph within a month of existing…Who is funding this group?”

As one think tank watcher put it to us: “An ex-55 Tufton Street group journalist announced the launch of a rebranded 55 Tufton Street group the journalist used to work for. The new/rebranded group is in turn run by a 55 Tufton Street researcher.”

It is a cosy world, the right-wing lobby group and media-cheerleader alliance.

The Centre for Migration Control / Robert Bates and Steven Edginton were contacted for comment. No wrongdoing is alleged on any of their parts. This piece will be updated with their response if we receive one.

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Josiah Mortimer also writes the On the Ground column, exclusive to the print edition of Byline Times.

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