Two current ministers and two recent justice ministers have been funded by an opaque transatlantic right-wing group which includes members of the intelligence community. Declassified finds eight current Conservative parliamentarians are associated with the organisation.
The group, known as Le Cercle, was described by former Conservative minister Alan Clark in his diaries as “a right-wing think (or rather thought) tank, funded by the CIA, which churns Cold War concepts around”.
Le Cercle has existed since the 1950s but has no public presence, and has never revealed its funders. Even the group’s existence is only occasionally disclosed. It is unclear how influential Le Cercle – which is believed to meet twice a year, once in Washington DC and once elsewhere – actually is.
Declassified has found that eight current Conservative parliamentarians are associated with the group. Two current ministers – business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and his deputy minister Greg Hands – have been funded by Le Cercle.
Kwarteng was given £5,258 to travel to Bahrain in June 2019 for a trip jointly funded by Le Cercle and the Gulf regime, which is one of the UK’s closest allies.
Three former justice ministers are associated with the group. David Lidington, the justice secretary from 2017-18, and Crispin Blunt, a justice minister from 2010-12, were previously funded by Le Cercle to attend meetings in Washington DC and Madrid.
Rory Stewart, who served as a justice minister under Theresa May, was previously chair of Le Cercle.