Priti threatens action against Observer


Priti_Patel_MPIndian-origin British MP Priti Patel has threatened to take legal action against a weekly newspaper article and Twitter comments that accused her of colluding with tobacco companies.

Britain’s Observer weekly Sunday published an article that accused Priti Patel of being an ex-tobacco lobbyist and said her stance on opposing plain packaging on cigarettes was motivated by this connection, which dated back to 2001.

While denying any conflict of interest, Patel, the MP for Witham in Essex, said this link with ‘Big tobacco’ has been exaggerated, the Essex Chronicle reported .

“I worked in consultancy for 10 years and worked with charities, car companies, not-for-profit organisations, I had hundreds of clients,” the news report quoted Patel as saying.

Patel said it was completely inaccurate to call her a lobbyist as she only provided advice or consultancy.

Referring to the Twitter comments, she said: “To suddenly see all these horrible defamatory comments has been awful, I am horrified by this experience.”

“I will be following this up with The Observer because the article was misleading and inaccurate and if I have to take further action against those on social media I will,” she said.

The weekly claimed it had obtained documents showing the Conservative Party MP had lobbied on behalf of British American Tobacco while working for Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s largest public relations companies.

According to the article, Patel, a member of David Cameron’s influential policy advisory board and chair of the all-party parliamentary small shops group, argued that plain packs will be the “final nail in the coffin” of hundreds of newsagents.

Patel was for several years a lobbyist working for British American Tobacco, in a team that sought to derail government plans for an advertising ban and responded to a Department of Trade and Industry investigation into alleged cigarette smuggling, The Observer report had stated.