Insight - Jonathan Calvert & George Arbuthnot
The Sunday Times
China, the WHO and the power grab that fuelled a pandemic - In August 2021, Insight revealed evidence that the World Health Organisation missed its only chance to stop the Covid-19 pandemic because of a major campaign by the Chinese state to secure influence over its decision-making. We showed how China had propelled its chosen candidate Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus into the post of WHO director general by exploiting its financial leverage over some of the world’s poorest nations. Tedros repaid the debt by failing to publicly challenge Chinese misinformation about the Covid-19 outbreak and protected China’s economy by discouraging governments from introducing travel controls. This allowed the virus to spread across the globe in the crucial early weeks, resulting in millions of deaths. We also disclosed how the WHO struck a backroom deal with the Chinese government which sabotaged attempts to find the truth about the origins of the virus. Insight’s revelations were followed up around the world and achieved unprecedented online engagement from readers.
The Prince and the Putinistas - Nine months before the invasion of Ukraine, in May 2021, Insight revealed that a senior member of the royal family was selling privileged access to Vladimir Putin and his entourage. Insight’s reporters covertly filmed Prince Michael of Kent, the late Queen’s cousin, at a business meeting in which prospective clients were told he could be hired for £10,000 a day to make representations to the Russian leadership. The disclosure was highly controversial because Russia was regarded as the top threat to Britain’s security and the Kremlin was subject to western economic sanctions. The story went around the world with more than 100 broadcast and media outlets following it up home and abroad. Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the defence select committee, called for an urgent inquiry into the prince’s activities given his position as an honorary colonel of a British Army regiment posted on the Russian border.
How to buy a peerage: pay £3m - In November 2021, Insight revealed that the Conservative Party was abusing the honours system by guaranteeing peerages to multi-millionaire donors who pay more than £3 million to the party. Insight discovered that all 16 Conservative treasurers, who were also major donors to the party, had been offered a seat in the Lords. It meant the role of Conservative treasurer had become the most ennobled job in Britain — ahead of holders of the great offices of state and leaders of charitable organisations. Insight persuaded Conservative insiders to break the party’s law of omertà over the scandal and blow the whistle. The story was followed up in the UK and abroad. Eighty-nine per cent of the 12,800 readers, who responded to a poll within the story, concluded that British politics was corrupt. Labour leader Keir Starmer cited the story when announcing plans for major reform of the Lords.