Tag Archives: vote leave

The Mojito Affair highlights a warped sense of priorities

I have to confess that until all the headlines about Diane Abbott yesterday, I had no idea that the relatively innocent act of sipping a Mojito on a tube train was illegal, thanks to measures brought in by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London.

But my main reaction to this spectacular non-event was to wonder what on earth the world has come to when sipping that Mojito is worthy of a public apology and acres of virtual and actual newsprint when lying and cheating your way to a narrow referendum victory is not.

March 29th was the day when we were scheduled to leave the EU. I wake up every day grateful that I am still an EU citizen and am hopeful that I will always remain so.  Leaving would break my heart. I can only imagine how it would have felt on March 29th if we were leaving to know that Vote Leave had dropped their appeal against a fine imposed by the Electoral Commission. 

The BBC reported:

An Electoral Commission spokesman said: “Vote Leave has today withdrawn its appeal and related proceedings against the Electoral Commission’s finding of multiple offences under electoral law, committed during the 2016 EU referendum campaign.

“Vote Leave was the designated lead campaigner for the leave outcome at the referendum.

“We found that it broke the electoral rules set out by Parliament to ensure fairness, confidence and legitimacy at an electoral event. Serious offences such as these undermine public confidence in our system and it is vital, therefore, that they are properly investigated and sanctioned.

“We have been advised that Vote Leave has paid its £61,000 fine and look forward to receiving the sum in full.”

The fact that Vote Leave cheated has achieved remarkably little traction. This is something that could easily have affected the legitimacy of the referendum result. We are still poised on the brink of taking a regressive and harmful step on the basis of a result obtained by cheating.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 44 Comments

Vote Leave cheated – and its main spokespeople are in running to become PM

Last July, more than two years after the EU referendum delivered a narrow victory for the Leave campaign. the Electoral Commission published a report in which they outlined how the campaign had broken electoral law. 

The Commission found that Vote Leave had illegally colluded with BeLeave, a campaign run by Darren Grimes:

  • All Mr Grimes’ and BeLeave’s spending on referendum campaigning was incurred under a common plan with Vote Leave. Vote Leave should have declared the amount of joint spending in its referendum spending return and therefore failed to deliver a complete campaign spending return.

  • Vote Leave’s referendum spending was £7,449,079.34, exceeding its statutory spending limit of £7 million.

  • Vote Leave’s spending return was inaccurate in respect of 43 items of spending, totalling £236,501.44. Eight payments of over £200 in Vote Leave’s return did not have an invoice or receipt with them. These payments came to £12,849.99.

  • As an unregistered campaigner, BeLeave exceeded its spending limit of £10,000 by more than £666,000.

  • Mr Grimes delivered an inaccurate and incomplete spending return in his capacity as an individual campaigner.

  • Veterans for Britain’s inaccurately reported a donation it received from Vote Leave.

  • Vote Leave failed to comply with an investigation notice issued by the Commission.

In total the levels of fines are £61,000 for Vote Leave, £20,000 for Mr Grimes and £250 for Veterans for Britain.

We conducted a thorough and fair investigation. We requested and received evidence from a range of individuals and sources, including from Vote Leave and Mr Grimes. The individuals and the campaign groups investigated by us were all invited to be interviewed and to provide us with evidence. Vote Leave declined to be interviewed. Its lack of cooperation is reflected in the penalties.

How Vote Leave squealed and complained at the time. They had been wronged, they said and were confident that this decision would be overturned.

And then, on the day we should have left the European Union, in an ironic and cynical twist, this happened:

So they broke the law.

And, of course, the people who fronted that campaign will of course be in disgrace, won’t they?

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“Vote Leave broke electoral law” – EU referendum needs to be annulled and re-run

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I’m sure readers can think of examples where election results have been declared invalid by the courts and had to be re-run.

The classic example was the 1997 Winchester election. At the general election, the returning officer declared Mark Oaten the winner by two votes. The court accepted the former Tory MP’s case that the failure by the returning officer’s staff to stamp 55 ballot papers with an official mark, leading to their rejection, cost him a win – also by two votes.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 42 Comments

Electoral Commission investigate possible funding abuse by Vote Leave

The Electoral Commission is again investigating Vote Leave after whistle-blower Shahmir Sanni who worked for BeLeave came forward to say that when the sum of £625,000 was given to them by Vote Leave, it came with clear instructions as to how the money was to be used. If this is true, then it would be a criminal offence. Mr Sanni also asserted that most of the cash was spent on a firm linked to Cambridge Analytica.

Chris Wylie, former Director of Research at Cambridge Analytica, told MPs this week that the company’s actions during Brexit campaign were “a breach of the law”. Cambridge Analytica and its parent company provided analysis for Vote Leave ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum. The research, Wylie went on to say, likely breached UK’s campaign financing laws and may have helped to swap the outcome.

I think there is a case to answer by Vote Leave, BeLeave and Cambridge Analytica but I am not sure that it would have changed the 52:48 percent result. A plausible argument is that Leavers misled voters by stating that there was no economic downside to Brexit, no risk to the UK single-market benefits and off course the £350 million a week promised to fund the NHS. All these points were and could have been further countered by Remainers as they had the time and funds available to do so. However, we do have strict laws regarding elections and the question is were they exploited by Vote Leave. 

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“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.

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David Laws and Paul Marshall boost Michael Gove’s leadership bid

I’m finally getting round to reading David Laws’ Coalition. I’m getting a very strong impression from Laws’ account of his time as Schools Minister that he found Michael Gove, and in particular his adviser Dominic Cummings, to be pretty exasperating. It was slightly surprising, therefore, to see Laws write a column for the Times (£) basically suggesting that Tory  MPs should keep in Gove in the leadership race.

He goes out of his way to back up Gove’s account of last week’s Boris-related shenanigans, when most of us think that he couldn’t just have decided on the spur of the …

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The Tories, not the EU, are responsible for VAT on domestic fuel

So, the latest salvo from the Leave camp is an assertion that the EU is stopping us from cutting VAT on domestic fuel.

There is one man amongst the ranks of the Brexiters who knows all about VAT on domestic fuel. That’s right. Step forward former Chancellor Norman Lamont. It was he who decided to put VAT on domestic fuel at the rate of 8% from April 1 1994. The EU didn’t force him to do this. He was doing it to cut public spending, something Tories have a bit of an obsession with. Not only that, but he would have been quite happy to raise it to 17.5% the year after.

Here’s a story from the Independent at the time where Mr Lamont is doing his usual Je ne regrette rien line.

Fellow now Brexiteer Michael Portillo, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, added his twopence worth:

And in an atmosphere of growing confusion, a damaging Commons row broke out last night after Michael Portillo, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, suggested that poorer people would not suffer too much because of the ‘swings and roundabouts’of the Income Support system.

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