“I know that Vote Leave cheated” – should be a game changer but will it make a difference?

In case you missed it, here’s the shocking video on Channel 4 News tonight where a young man who campaigned to Leave alleges that the Leave campaign overspent.

This young man, Shahmir Sanni, has complained at being outed by a former Vote Leave campaigner who now works in Downing Street.

There’s more in the Guardian:. The controversy centres on a donation to BeLeave, an organisation targeting young people run by former Liberal Democrat Darren Grimes.

What he has spent months coming to terms with is that this donation may not have had anything to do with BeLeave’s creativity and flair. “Vote Leave didn’t really give us that money,” he says. “They just pretended to. We had no control over it. We were 22-year-old students. You’re not going to just give nearly a million pounds to a pair of students and let them do whatever.”

To Sanni’s mind, what this means is: “They cheated.”

With this on top of the Cambridge Analytica stuff, the legitimacy of the referendum result must be called into question.

Tom Brake said tonight:

These allegations are stunning and touch directly on one of Theresa May’s closest advisors.

The British people expect fair play and campaigns to abide by the rules – they must not be cheated. These allegations must be examined by the police. If they represent what happened it is outrageous and shameful.

The referendum had a very narrow outcome. One of the biggest exercises in democracy must not turn out to be one of Britain’s biggest electoral frauds.

On the basis of that very narrow result, the Government is pursuing the most extreme form of Brexit. With doubt hanging over the result, a referendum on the deal would appear to be the only fair outcome. Would enough Labour and Tory MPs be willing to back such a move to defeat the Government?

If the country really is about to make itself poorer and blight the future of the next generation, shouldn’t it be sure that it’s what a majority of people actually support?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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30 Comments

  • Sadly I fear the answer to the question posed as a headline is a resounding no…

    Equally sadly the sacking of Owen Smith shows that Labour will not back a second referendum, the Dear Leader will see to that…

    Saddest of all, there is a still a huge proportion of the UK electorate that just don’t care and would still vote to leave. Nearly two years on and the remain camp still can’t seem to get the truth across to some. Whether the issue is with the listener or the messenger (or likely a combination of both) I fear the die is well and truly cast for a damaging exit..

  • David Becket 25th Mar '18 - 9:03am

    The remain campaign was, and still is to an extent, negative. If the law has been broken the possibility of a second referendum becomes more likely, and possibly not as a result of a vote in parliament. However the remain campaign needs to learn from its mistakes.

    Positive reasons for staying in the EU must be given. (e.g. The EU helps ensure stability in Northern Ireland rather than Brexit will damage the peace process.)

    We must make clear the reforms we require in the EU, we might be listened to this time

    We need to address the reasons many voted for Brexit, without the motivation being Brexit

    The EU consists of two main streams, closer integration and retaining national independence. We should promote ourselves as leaders of the second stream.

    We need to take a second look at how we implement, and gold plate, EU regulations.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th Mar '18 - 10:08am

    David, you are right. One of the huge gripes my husband used to have (he was a health and safety adviser) is how our civil servants interpreted EU wide health and safety directives which were implemented in a less stringent manner in other EU countries.

  • John Barrett 25th Mar '18 - 10:29am

    Claims of overspending in an election is hardly shocking news.

    All parties and many candidates from each party have been accused of overspending in UK elections and all parties in the UK have been investigated more than once about this.

    Any newspaper that thinks that a claim of overspending is somehow news, has not been aware of the reality of UK election spending for the last 30 years.

    What is needed urgently is both a reformed electoral system, coupled with tight control of who can spend what to influence voters in every election, both local and national. Our existing electoral system does not deliver a just result to reflect how people vote and the opportunity to abuse an already corrupt system is clear for all to see.

    Those who break the rules should see a re-run of that election, with the guilty excluded from that re-run and hopefully that could also include individuals or parties who were clearly guilty.

    We might then see trust in the results of our elections increasing and fairness returning to our elections, if those with unlimited financial resources are no longer effectively able to buy votes.

  • Philip Knowles 25th Mar '18 - 11:39am

    If, and it’s a big if, we manage to overturn Brexit both David and Caron are right. The fake furore over the ‘blue passport’ going to a French company is a case in point.
    The French insist that passports come under ‘national security’ therefore must be manufactured in France – but I can imagine the same newspapers going on about wasting taxpayer’s money if we paid the de la Rue price!
    We have made a rod for our own back and the EU has been (wrongly) blamed for the pain inflicted on us by successive governments – it’s not us it’s the nasty EU.
    We need to do what everyone else does – adapt the rules where we can and minimise the impact of the ones that we can’t adapt.

  • paul barker 25th Mar '18 - 1:42pm

    An interesting angle is that Labour have jumped on this bandwagon very quickly, they are also referring the allegations to the Police. Labour are deadlocked over Brexit, with three quarters of their Voters, Members & MPs on one side & The Leadership on the other. These new allegations offer a way for The Labour Leadership to shift their position on Brexit without losing face.

  • Dave Bradley 25th Mar '18 - 1:54pm

    I keep reading on here and other web sites that are pro Europe that we must “overturn” the referendum result anyway it can be done so i have a question
    If the referendum result is overturned why should i or anyone else for that matter bother to vote ever again because in the referendum every vote did really count so if a democratic vote like that can be overturned just because people think it is wrong what’s the point in voting ever again

  • Peter Martin 25th Mar '18 - 2:09pm

    @ Paul Barker,

    Labour are deadlocked over Brexit, with three quarters of their Voters, Members & MPs on one side & The Leadership on the other.

    It may seem like a minor quibble but the split in the Labour vote was 63:37 in favour of remain. Not 75:25

    Most Labour constituencies were also for Leave. Most of their targetted seats, needed to win Govt, are also in Leave areas. To win Govt, the Labour party need to hang on to its existing Leave voters and win new ones.

    That’s the electoral reality.

    https://lordashcroftpolls.com/2016/06/how-the-united-kingdom-voted-and-why/

  • Peter Martin 25th Mar '18 - 3:03pm

    “The Liberal Democrats have been fined £18,000 for breaking spending rules in last year’s EU referendum.”

    Pots and kettles?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42411144

  • David Becket 25th Mar '18 - 3:47pm

    @Dave Bradley

    This is not about overturning, it is about presenting the public with the real facts as to what Brexit means, and letting them judge on facts not lies.
    As far as Lib Dems and other parties not conforming to Electoral Commission rules, none of the established parties have gone anywhere near the amounts “Leave” appear to have chalked up.

    Let us have a proper referendum, with facts and the advantages/disadvantages of the EU, and no funny money. That is democracy, unlike the farce we have been through.

  • OnceALibDem 25th Mar '18 - 4:40pm

    One one (important) level this doesn’t alter very much though. The Article 50 notification has been given and is in place unless withdrawn (lets assume that it can for the moment). The authorisation for this is in an Act of Parliament – not the result of a referendum. If something is going to change it needs Parliament to change it’s decision.

    For further details see pretty much anything the excellent David Allen Green has written in the last year or so.

  • Dave Bradley 25th Mar '18 - 5:13pm

    @ David Becket
    I full understand what your saying and yes it’s is about fats and not lies but given the wild claims and lies that were made about the referendum on both sides ( yes just as many lies was told by remain as leave) I’m not sure we can have a debate that’s not as acrimonious as the last one the other problem i have is one of the main factors in the vote was trust, trust in the “political elite” is low and if people think that the referendum is ignored and just overturned because it’s not convenient for the elite trust will be lost for ever and then we will end up with a very extreme political party in government and that does worry me greatly

  • David Becket 25th Mar '18 - 6:47pm

    @David Bradley
    Going back to the people is not ignoring the referendum, it is keeping the people in control as the situation becomes clearer.

    MPs deciding to pull out, without a second referendum, would be undemocratic, and likely to lead to the situation you fear.

  • Dave Bradley 25th Mar '18 - 8:35pm

    That is my point i can’t see how we might get a 2nd referendum there are two things to think about
    One, There is not the support for a full 2nd referendum i think it’s something like 30% of the people want a 2nd referendum the other 70% are either undecided or opposed
    Two, Given that the vote for leave and remain is still more or less at the same level it would be a very toxic and divisive campaign for both sides and could split the U.K wide open the one thing that has shocked me is that most people on both sides have accepted the referendum result yes people have said it’s wrong and called for a new referendum but have conduct themselves properly in doing so and in calling for more debate but a small section on both sides have sunk to a level of bigotry that is unbelievable and some of them are well known figures

  • Arnold Kiel 26th Mar '18 - 7:14am

    Dave Bradley,

    only Leave lied. Remain made correct forecasts, just the timing of their impact was off because they did not anticipate three things: 1. the BoE reaction, 2. surprising consumer complacency, 3. the effects of a massive global economic recovery, from which the UK is largely, but not completely decoupled. These forecasts have since been confirmed by reality, the OBR, and even the Government’s own Brexit impact assessments.

  • Peter Watson 26th Mar '18 - 9:31am

    @Arnold Kiel “only Leave lied”
    Unfortunately, untrue.
    e.g. “George Osborne, together with the former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling, vows today that the hit to the economy would be so great if we vote to leave the EU that he’d hold a Budget with cuts and tax rises almost immediately.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36534192)
    and “David Cameron has said he will remain at Downing Street regardless of the result of the EU referendum.” (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-referendum-david-cameron-resign-step-down-boris-johnson-brexit-stay-as-prime-minister-result-poll-a7088811.html).
    Rather than being predictions, these were both things over which Cameron and Osborne had control.

    Even the attacks on the dodgy funding of the pro-Leave comparison ring hollow: the government spent several million pounds on a leaflet for every household which did not count.

    I voted Remain and continue to believe that Britain would be better of in the EU, but I despair at the incompetent and inconsistent way that politicians in general and Lib Dems in particular have made the case for that.

  • Peter Watson 26th Mar '18 - 9:43am

    P.S. On the “attacks on the dodgy funding of the pro-Leave campaign ring hollow” (though why I wrote ‘comparison’ mystifies me!), as Peter Martin points out, it was the Lib Dems who were fined £18000 for failing to “deliver a complete and accurate spending return”.
    This undermines Tom Brake’s challenge now and simply adds to the catalogue of mistakes that has characterised the disastrous Remain campaign.

  • John Barrett 26th Mar '18 - 9:56am

    Losing side in election claims the winners spent too much. Is not news and as has been shown above, every party is guilty.

    Winning side claims the losers spent too much and therefore would like to have the result overturned. Now that would be news.

  • I agree with Steve Way. We shouldn’t forget the commons ‘debate’ on the referendum where David Davies effectively said both sides told lies and mislead the electorate, and thus the result cannot be trusted, however we “respect the will of the people” and will proceed with Brexit regardless…

    So unless new evidence can be found that directly implicates senior Conservative MPs, I can’t see the government pausing – must keep going towards that cliff edge…

  • Peter Martin 26th Mar '18 - 11:28am

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    “only Leave lied”

    Anyone with enough intelligence to see both sides of the argument knows that this isn’t true.

    Peter Watson has referred to the comments of Cameron and Osborne, on the need for tax rises and spending cuts, which both knew full well be untrue. George Osborne also indicated that interest rates would have to rise. IF the EUref result had resulted in such a hit to the UK economy as many were predicting the correct economic response would have been just the opposite. ie lowering of interest rates and a relaxation of fiscal policy.

    The other big untruth, at least IMO, was that EU membership didn’t unduly affect UK sovereignty. Remainers continually made the argument that Westminster was responsible for all UK laws. Remainers have changed their tune somewhat since. Now the argument is that we are so entangled with the EU that leaving isn’t a practical option. Even the NI peace process depends on us remaining an EU member.

    The EU referendum has been likened to an English civil war without muskets. Truth is often said to be the first causality of war. I wouldn’t totally agree with all that. Most of us, leavers and remainers alike, get along just fine. Most of us think that the EUref was a passionately fought debate which shouldn’t drag on forever.

    If we’d voted to stay in we should have stayed in and those who wanted to leave could have carried on making the case to leave. Conversely, now that we have voted to leave we should leave, and those who disagree should campaign to rejoin at some time in the future.

  • Dave Bradley 26th Mar '18 - 12:29pm

    @Arnold Kiel
    Apart from the other comments that have been written above we also had Donald Tusk
    “As a historian I fear that Brexit could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also of western political civilization in its entirety.”
    HM Treasury Families would be £4,300 worse off if the UK voted to leave
    and so on
    and until both side recognise this we will get no where

  • John Marriott 26th Mar '18 - 7:27pm

    For goodness sake, chaps, MOVE ON! Whatever you think of the EU referendum it happened and the majority of people voted to leave. Let’s see what deal emerges and then decide what to do. All these recriminations and being wise after the event are just getting us nowhere!

  • Sean Hyland 26th Mar '18 - 9:32pm

    Just to step back a bit but has any evidence, beyond the whistleblowers statement, yet been seen? I understand, and am happy to be corrected if wrong, that the press conference today could only infer or suggest that the leave campaign had acted illegally. I also note that on the Daily Politics show today he said he had no direct evidence if I recall correctly.

    This is not a defence of the Leave campaign. I appreciate that documents and emails can be destroyed. I am surprised that this has only been brought to light now. There is no defence for the gentleman being outed and the political aide involved should be sacked. I hope we can get clear answers but don’t think it will change the outcome of the referendum and any wrongdoer should face legal action.

  • Cameron had given the only possible answer. Demanding otherwise is, at best, highly naive. Staying in No 10 was out of the question.

    Osborne made a timing error, nothing else. He also had no control over his tenure in No 11. By 2020, the GBP 4300 per family damage will be done. Hammond has decided to incur more debt rather than raise taxes.

    Interest rates will rise. Again, just timing.

    Tusk said “I fear…could”. How could that be a lie? Luckily, it hasn’t happened yet, but the jury is still out.

  • @Arnold Kiel

    “Osborne made a timing error, nothing else.”

    Lol is that what we are calling now forecasts that are wrong “timing errors” opps sorry we’re not actually wrong though, it just hasn’t happened yet, if it happens in the next decade or so then of course we will be proved right lol.

    “Interest rates will rise.”
    Thank goodness for that, savers have been hit long enough, encouraging people instead to invest in buy to let properties which in turn puts up property prices and out of the reach of the average family.
    Yes there are going to be a fair few repossessions due to people who have over mortgaged on low interest rates who are in for a shock when interest rates rise and “normalise”, but this is a price to pay to burst the property bubble and get some fairness back in the housing market.

  • Peter Martin 26th Mar '18 - 11:40pm

    @ Matt @ Arnold Kiel,

    Why would interest rates rise? The BoE, which has total control, will only increase them to cool down an overheating economy. That’s not likely any time soon.

    I’d say a sluggish economy is the result of too much private debt being allowed to build in the market. You’d say it was Brexit! But at least we agree. Albeit for different reasons.

  • david thorpe 26th Mar '18 - 11:58pm

    the remian campaign have also been fined for cheating….so whats the game changer?

  • @Peter Martin

    I was personally predicting that they would rise, I was replying to Arnold Kiel and his all mystical crystal Ball that makes him right on everything.

    I personally want to see Interest Rates rise, for reasons stated in my previous post. We need to get back to levels more normal where savers can get a easy rate of return on their savings and so will not feel the need to put the money in buy to let properties, which pushes up the prices and make them more out of reach for the ordinary family.

    It is going to make me unpopular, but this cheap finance and property bubble needs to burst. Interest rates need to slowly make there way up to more normal levels 6%
    There will be many who have over mortgaged on ridiculously low interest rates and will not be able to afford the higher payments.
    Many of these unfortunately will face repossession. Property Prices in general will drop about 20-30% in value but with a bank of England Base Rate back at around 6% people can come to a more informed opinion on the markets and whether their salary is enough to sustain them long term in a mortgage. Many houses will become more reachable for the average family.

    We just need to find a way of reining in chancellors who all seem to rush to be the next Dr Frankenstein to create the next property monster

  • Peter Martin 27th Mar '18 - 8:23am

    @Matt,

    I think you’re right about interest rates. They are too low. Just what they should be, depends of course on the rate of inflation and the buoyancy of the economy. I’d suggest, ideally, they should be approximately the same as inflation which would make them about 2% at the moment.

    The Govt/BoE could increase them to 2% tomorrow if they wanted to. Short term rates are set simply by a decision of the monetary committee of the BoE. Longer term rates are controlled by the mechanism of the BoE buying and selling Govt bonds. The BoE has plenty to sell if needed.

    There’s just a couple of problems. Firstly it will crash the economy to do this as the property market falls. Secondly it will push the pound up, which also won’t do much for the economy right now. So for those two reasons, I’d say ultra low interest rates are the new norm.

  • To Steve Way
    Assuming the die is cast, there needs to be an escape plan, rather than everyone going down with the ship. Resourceful individuals are already relocating, but the EU could help by providing a fast track to regaining the human rights and citizenship which we currently enjoy. A lifeline programme to reestablish Britain in Normandy or in under populated EU countries could be very successful

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