Dominic Wightman and the MPs

Patrick Mercer MP on Wightman: “Dominic and Vigil have been extremely helpful to me”

Wightman on Anne Milton MP: “My local supporters (including the MP) want [Tim] Ireland downed”

Nadine Dorries MP on Wightman: “Very interesting”

Note: several sources quoted and cited in this post have been taken from material published on this new blog post by Tim Ireland; I have marked these with an asterisk

As I have previously blogged, in 2009 I had an encounter with a man named Dominic Wightman, a self-styled private expert on counter-terrorism who had previously run an organisation called the “VIGIL Network” (or “Vigil”). Wightman was particularly close to Patrick Mercer MP; early in 2007 Mercer wrote in a letter that

… Dominic and Vigil have been extremely helpful to me from my task as Shadow Minister for Security. They have provided me with a number of very useful leads and between us we have managed to put pressure upon the nation’s enemies and secured a number of arrests. I shall certainly continue to use any guidance that Vigil gives me.*

Mercer had introduced Wightman to police at New Scotland Yard (see pic below), and he was probably responsible for an appearance that Wightman made on Newsnight late in 2006. Wightman lives in Surrey, and by his own account he is also involved with local political activism there and is friendly with his local MP, Anne Milton.

Mercer’s letter was a brush-off to an ex-employee of VIGIL who wanted Mercer’s help in recovering unpaid wages; she had written to him explaining the situation:

In December 2005 after completing my MBA I was put in contact with Dominic Wightman… [He] was starting a new charity organisation called VIGIL, which would help anybody involved with tracking terrorist organisation by providing a free translation service to them. The charity was to be funded by a Tory Grandee – Lord Michael Ashcroft and two other establishment figures, who were I was told friends of Dominic’s late father.

…During my 5 months of employment I never got paid and I finally resigned in June 2006 as I could no longer trust Dominic Wightman’s reassurances and him blaming others for the lack of payment. I had kept going for so long as new organisations often have a shaky start but mainly because I strongly believed in the cause…. Dominic even sent a fake email (copy attached) from a sub-contractor claiming to have been paid.

…I have all the email correspondence to support the above history, which made it very easy for me to present my case to the Employment Tribunal. As detailed in the enclosed judgement, I was eventually awarded a total of £14,174.45…

…Everybody was led to believe that Lord Ashcroft was the principal financial backer and probably the main reason why questions were not raised much sooner.

I hope your influence may help put pressure on Dominic Wightman to finally pay me what I am owed…*

It should be emphasised that the author was not just some disgruntled ex-employee sounding off with wild accusations; she had already won an employment tribunal. And she does not just complain about financial mismanagement: there’s a direct accusation of duplicity.

Mercer – who is today Chairman of the House of Commons Sub-Committee on Counter-Terrorism – should have been alarmed; instead, though, he merely re-affirmed his confidence in VIGIL and his willingness to be guided by Wightman in matters of public interest. Given Mercer’s habit of briefing the media with stories about terrorism that sometimes crumble under scrutiny (“HIV bombs“, for example), this raises further serious concerns about his judgement.

Mercer was still having friendly communication with Wightman in 2008*, and although they have since (apparently) severed contact, Mercer sees no need to explain why or to put the record straight. Lord Ashcroft is not interested in explaining his association, either.

By coincidence, Wightman lives close to the blogger Tim Ireland; Tim and I both met him early in 2009, after Tim uncovered that a Sun front-page splash about a terror plot against Alan Sugar had been based on  evidence concocted by Glen Jenvey. Jenvey had also been associated with VIGIL, and Wightman met us to explain that VIGIL had collapsed because of Jenvey and because of the machinations of a university lecturer. He urged us to expose this lecturer, who he claimed had a hold over Mercer because of connections at Mercer’s constituency office. After a few months, though, it transpired that Wightman was manipulating us: the lecturer had found out about Wightman’s dishonesty, and this was the actual reason why VIGIL had collapsed. Wightman gave himself away by creating a pseudonymous document with details about Tim’s home and such, and claiming that the lecturer was behind it; the police traced it back to Wightman.

At this point, Wightman decided to spin the whole thing as a political dispute, and he wrote to Adrian Morgan (a former associate who has since repudiated the man and his methods):

Tim Ireland lives 3 villages from me and my local supporters (including the MP) want Ireland downed. He has already admitted to me I am the sole reason he’s not written on hs blog for 2 months. He is a vicious bully and I will not sit back and get slaughtered by him without telling the world how to silence a big bully, how I did it, that I am not particularly proud of how I did it but that yes I did it. There MUST BE a mix here of eating humble pie and sabre-rattling or I will be walked over. I must also bring the right wing blog alliance on my side and to do this I need to show that I have been capable of bringing down the most famous left wing blogger, albeit temporarily, that ever existed in the UK.

The MP whom Wightman claims as his supporter is Anne Milton (she was also Tim’s MP at the time Wightman wrote this, although there has been a boundary change since); Tim writes today that

It is a day after she was presented with evidence that Dominic Wightman claimed to be acting on her behalf, and she has not yet deemed it necessary to contradict the man.

Wightman’s actions since we discovered he was a liar have consisted of long tirades on his blog, and the creation of goading and abusive attack websites containing disinformation. In particular, he has attempted to spread the idea that Tim is a stalker (building on a claim made by some right-wingers who dislike being called to account, as I dealt with here). Another person associated with VIGIL was the cyber-thug Charlie Flowers, who publicised Tim’s home address and expressed malicious intent towards his family in an attempt to intimidate; Flowers later realised he’d been manipulated, but he has pressed on independently to save face rather than do the decent thing (Flowers has since turned on me for daring to object).

Back in 2005, Tim discovered that two activists working for Milton had been using the internet to smear a political opponent prior to an election; these activists were themselves standing as councillors, and so Jonathan Lord, now MP for Woking and at that time Chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association, decided to deal with it with a discrete word to them in private rather than by dismissing them for bringing the party into disrepute.

However, Wightman’s efforts to “bring the right wing blog alliance on my side” has for the most part failed – probably because his idea of making an alliance means manipulation and duplicity rather than honest discussion. There has been one exception, though, and it’s a third MP: Nadine Dorries, who used her “70 per cent fiction” blog to publicise Wightman’s site as “very interesting”.

FOOTNOTE: Soon after Wightman was made bankrupt – which I did not know about at the time – he told me that he intended to move his assets into someone else’s name and file for bankruptcy in the autumn of 2009. This was so that he would be able to attack various targets without fear of libel proceedings – although those attacks never in fact materialised. A year ago, Wightman dismissed the tribunal on a blog, in which he posed as a black woman from Luton interviewing him; he declared it was “a highly dubious judgement by a highly dubious tribunal” and attacked the character of his former employee, claiming that she hadn’t deserved to be paid (he also wrote that in an email to me). This is obviously nonsense: the tribunal awarded her more than £14,000, which represents more than six months of salary. Why did he continue to employ her for so long if her work was non-existent? Why did he go to ground rather than attend the tribunal and offer evidence in his own defence?

Wightman has since thought better of publicising his contempt for the tribunal in this way, and he has now deleted the posting.

Curiously, three months after Wightman declared bankruptcy, a short-lived outfit appeared called Wightman Parker Smith Gold (or WPS Gold), operating from the same London address as at least one of Wightman’s previous businesses and looking to trade in gold and diamonds.