Tonight's Newsnight investigation into Policy Exchange's recent report on extremism in British mosques found major irregularities with the receipts that the think tank handed them to investigate the issue further:
- Receipts from North London mosque's bookshop, when the mosque doesn't have a bookshop. Forensic examination revealed that the receipt's heading had been printed on an inkjet printer - when usual procedure for such pieces of paper would be mass printing
- Receipts from other mosques printed entirely on inkjet printers
- A receipt for Euston Mosque with the address on it being for the mosque next door to it on North Gower Street (who would have thought that two mosques next door to each other would be an advantage one day!)
- Forensic tests that found handwriting matching on two separate receipts for different mosques
- Forensic tests showing that the writing on one receipt had been done on top of another receipt for an entirely different mosque
Policy Exchange are bang to rights and would be better advised to put their hands up. Instead Dean Godson gave us ten minutes of defence which included condemning Newsnight's - yes Newsnight's - "shoddy methodology" and saying that the receipts were just the "belt and braces" part of the report. If that's the case, you have been caught with your trousers down Mr Godson.
Edinburgh Central Mosque was one of those fingered by the report. I said at the time that the mosque had no idea how this literature was supposed to be on their premises. A strange thing then happened a week or two later. A stash of the pamphlets in question were dropped just inside the doorway to the mosque. No one has any idea how they appeared there, as certainly none of the mosque authorities ordered them. Someone clearly outside dumped them, and they are currently investigating who that could be. Unfortunately, BBC Scotland, including Newsnight Scotland, did report Policy Exchange's "findings".
People at the mosque were smelling a rat at the time, and that will now just intensify in the light of the Newsnight report.
This will obviously also raise questions about the role of thinktanks like Policy Exchange. They have a right to do their work - spinning results is one thing, making them up another though - but should the media give them so much instant coverage? This was all over the newspapers and news bulletins when it was released. Immense damage has been caused by this.
Policy Exchange are also closely aligned with the Conservative Party. David Cameron and other senior MPs regularly speak there. One of Policy Exchange's reports earlier this year into the Muslim community was synchronised for publication at the same time as the party's ideas on engaging with the Muslim community. It will be interesting to see what stance they take on all this.
Why would Policy Exchange mock up these receipts? Could their report into hate literature have been a piece of hate literature itself? Other serious questions remain. Why is Godson defending his researchers, now in Mauritania, in the face of incontrovertible evidence? Could he be acting in such a foolish manner because it has fatally damaged him and his organisation? Did he really learn of the irregularities today or has he known for a very long time? The author of the report - Denis MacEoin - surely he has know about this all along? And Policy Exchange - as a registered charity, is this any way for them to be carrying on?