The chairman of the Association of Political Consultants (APPC) has rebuked members who have criticised his decision to appear on a platform with notorious blogger Guido Fawkes and campaign group Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (ALT) next week.
Robbie MacDuff was responding to attacks from two APPC members in a round-robin email that was circulated between members last week. MacDuff also expressed concern that the email in question had been leaked to Guido Fawkes, but said there would be no 'witch-hunt' to find the culprit.
The original email was sent to all APPC members on 23 October. It stated: 'The chair has accepted an invitation to participate in a debate being organised by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency.'
This was seized on by Morgan Allen Moore director Richard Moore, whose agency was previously involved in a long-running legal spat with Guido Fawkes.
According to the email chain seen by PRWeek, Moore fumed: 'I cannot believe the APPC is actually going to share a public platform with Guido Fawkes.' He was supported by Chris Whitehouse, MD of The Whitehouse Consultancy.
But, speaking to PRWeek, MacDuff said of the decision to take part in the debate: 'It ties in with our agreed communications plan for next year, which has been signed off by the management committee and endorsed by the membership.'
The round-robin email was also forwarded to Guido Fawkes at some point, prompting Moore to write: 'There's a mole within the APPC ranks. He was sent a copy within minutes of our email going out.'
Later on, Whitehouse added that he was 'absolutely appalled' by the leak and called on the chairman to 'take a robust position, urgently, on the matter'.
Pressed on this, MacDuff said: 'I'm saddened that people feel that they should send (APPC emails) on to bloggers and they're in the wrong for doing so. I regret that people have done that; I don't think it's particularly helpful.
'But are we going to have a witch-hunt? Why and how? I'm not going to have a forensic laptop engineer come in and check the computers at the APPC.'
The ALT debate will be held on Wednesday, 5 November in the House of Commons.