What’s happened to the “Official Opposition”?

We have all got used to the Labour leadership opting out, abstaining, even penalising their MPs who actually vote to oppose the Conservative Government. So I suppose we should not be surprised when they stay mum, sit on their hands and pretend it is not important to investigate whether the Russians interfered with the 2016 EU Referendum.

This was the issue I raised with the Minister in a Topical Question in the Lords on Tuesday. I warned that the “piecemeal approach” currently adopted could prove dangerous; I had in mind the lack of effective protection of our electoral system if we had an early general election or indeed another referendum.

During the ensuing exchanges Lord (George) Young implicitly agreed that the various separate investigations – he referred to the Electoral Commission, the Information Commissioner, the DCMS Select Committee and the Intelligence & Security Committee as all looking at different aspects – needed overall coordination. The whole mini-debate was, in that respect, revealing. Unfortunately he also implied that this would all take a long time. It was, however, the most comprehensive disclosure of the Government’s position I have yet heard or seen.

Naturally the media ignored the whole discussion – even the Guardian, who have done such valiant work on all these issues, while complaining at the lack of parliamentary concern.

But the real mystery within the wider mystery is why the “Official Opposition” made no attempt to challenge, question or even express concern. They almost invariably jump in on every Question, having views on all the other issues that day (landlords, potholes and PIPs). Not a peep on the potential highjacking of our democracy. Strange – are they hiding something, or is it simply that they are so confused and divided by the outcome of the referendum that they daren’t doubt its legality?

The whole debate can be found in Hansard here.

* Lord Tyler is the Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Political and Constitutional Reform.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Parliament.


  • Innocent Bystander 20th Jun '18 - 5:34pm

    Did Russian interference alter the way you voted? Then why do you believe it influenced anyone else? Would these “victims” be the stupid little people who aren’t as clever as you and who need your protection from wrong ideas?

  • There should also be an investigation (and potentially prosecutions) for the use of British government money to attempt to influence the results of the referendum for Remain.

  • Jonathan Linin 21st Jun '18 - 7:04am

    oh dear, the Brexit trolls are out again.

  • You’d think Leavers who are so worried about their lives being ‘ruled by Brussels’ would be the first to be outraged at the thought of Russia trying to influence our referendum!

    @Richard S – our government promoting Remain was never a secret at the time, so it would be a pretty short inquiry.

    @Innocent Bystander – people were misled because they didn’t know the source. Do you think we should scrap the Advertising Standards Authority, because no one is (in your words) ‘stupid’ enough to need protection from false claims or misleading information?

  • Innocent Bystander 21st Jun '18 - 7:58am

    Cassie, couldn’t quite get your point. Are you suggesting that the ASA vets all expressions of political opinion instead of commercial products?
    How would it define ‘misleading’ in a political context?
    BTW I was Remain, not Leave. My view is that Remain should have easily won if it had stayed connected to the people it purports to speak for. To deny any fault, at all, and to blame the Russians, is yet more obvious contempt for ordinary citizens who are no more stupid and gullible than yourself. We will continue with Brexit Trump and Italy as long as the centre movements refuse to look in the mirror.

  • Martin Walker 21st Jun '18 - 7:59am

    I find it strange how much thought is going into why Labour are acting the way they are on Brexit, and why so much campaigning energy is going into persuading Labour MPs to vote with us, when the reality couldn’t be any more plain. The Labour Leader – and those around him – voted Leave in 1975, have been Bennite Little Englanders since the 1980s, sabotaged the Labour Remain campaign in 2016, called for Article 50 to be invoked within 24 hours of the referendum, and voted for Article 50 on a three line whip. They have been desperate to leave the EU for half a century. They have a golden opportunity for their dreams to be realised, with the Tories picking up the pain that goes with delivering this madness. They aren’t going to do anything to disrupt it. They are a fundamentally regressive, illiberal party. When will we stop expecting them to be our saviour?

  • Innocent Bystander 21st Jun '18 - 8:03am

    Exactly correct and well presented.

  • It’s all a bit tin foil hat and desperate. The accusation that Russia interfered is mostly based around allegation on things like Facebook. However, the young who tended to vote remain are the biggest Facebook users and social media generally was pro-remain.. Hence we are regularly told that a new dawn of globally connected youth was betrayed by older little Englanders and such as like. Plus were supposed to believe that Russia is some how so powerful it can beat the US president and virtually every other western leader’s more direct support for the remain camp. IMO What happened is that a more traditional way of seeing the nation-state/world beat the more revolutionary one born out of the absurd notion of the End of History. The point being that the post-WWII order was very different to the vision of grand globalized one of the last 20-odd. Some people mistook a brief time in vogue for permanent change and are trying to present fairly normal political shifts as the result of dark shenanigans.

  • Sorry for the typos. I’m a terrible typist.

  • Richard Easter 21st Jun '18 - 10:24am

    The Labour party are really 4 parties in one –

    1) The traditional eurosceptic Bennite Left – economically left wing, socially moderate (neither liberal or conservative), and largely economic nationalists and anti globalisation.

    2) The muscular liberal wing (Blairites) – economically centre right to right wing, socially liberal, economically internationalist and pro globalisation.

    3) The new liberal left – economically centre left to left wing, very socially liberal, internationalist but not economically internationalist, and sceptical of globalisation when viewed through the prism of multinational corporations and trade agreements, but pro globalisation in terms of migration and opportunity.

    4) The traditional heartland Labour – essentially Red UKIP – social conservatives who are economically nationalist, very anti globalisation, but who are pro trade unions and nationalisation and anti-Thatcherite.

    Corbyn and his senior people are essentially 1 and has a reliance on much of 3 as his broad support base. He needs to (and has been fairly successful) at keeping 4 on side, and has totally lost 2 – many of who would sooner vote for the likes of George Osborne if the alternative is left wing economics.

    The whole “Russian’s did it”, is the centrist conspiracy theory. The same lot who accuse leftists and rightists concerned about Bilderbergers, Trilateralists, CFR, Saudi Arabia, Soros and so on about being irrational conspiracy theorists are now being hypocrites.

  • Jonathan Linin 21st Jun '18 - 12:03pm

    …why would we expect Labour to do anything at all about potential Russian interference anyway. The Putin regime is likely to want Corbyn as PM, someone who is reluctant to criticize Russia and is very unlikely to take action against Russia for any reason. if they do intervene in the next election who is going to benefit ?
    Meanwhile the current government is unlikely to take action in any time frame that might question the validity of the Brexit referendum. Most of the press won’t be interested for the same reason. it will all disappear from view fairly quickly.

  • To answer I.B’s question: No, I was trying to say that it is easy for unscrupulous people to fool people (including intelligent ones) with mis-information. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t need the ASA for advertising. Adverts could be a free-for-all, because we’d all be too clever to fall for lies.

    And if it wasn’t easy to manipulate people’s thinking, then Russia wouldn’t bother trying to influence foreign elections/referenda, because there would be no point.

    When we assess political information, we need to know the source, or we cannot judge it fairly.
    If I get a Labour Party leaflet (say) through the door, then I can ‘filter’ the contents through the knowledge that it will have a Labour bias.
    If I read the Daily Mail, I know they are slanting the news to suit their agenda.
    If I read something spread by Russia that purports to have come from somewhere impartial, then I don’t have that filter. If what they are saying resonates with my view of life, appeals to my emotions, I might well take it at face value.

    If a burglar broke into your house but didn’t steal anything, you’d still want the police to investigate.
    Likewise, whether Russian propaganda influenced a million votes or none isn’t the point: they shouldn’t have interfered at all and we have the right to know if they did.

    Anyone claiming there was no interference, or that the effect was minimal should surely be calling loudly for an inquiry, as an inquiry could prove they are right.

  • Innocent Bystander 21st Jun '18 - 4:30pm

    The very notion that any political opinion could be trusted because it came from an ‘impartial’ source is a new one for me.
    There aren’t any trustworthy, impartial sources, in any aspect of politics, anywhere on the planet. Every media channel, every newspaper, every social media channel, every writer and pundit is an expression of a political opinion from someone.
    The concept that the Russians ‘hid’ their poisonous views behind some cloak of impartiality is eccentric. There is no such thing. I am sure opinions were expressed by all sorts from Aztecs to Zulus, never mind the Russians. They were just opinions, not intimidation or threats. Did you see through them? Why do you think other people couldn’t? What do you think is wrong with them?
    But that wasn’t my point. The very accusation of Russian interference is a direct insult to the intelligence of those who voted the way the accuser didn’t want them to. What else can it be seen as? To demand an enquiry is an undeniable insult to 17 million people as gullible dupes (unlike the intelligent, perceptive persons calling for the enquiry, of course). It’s more of the same contempt that scuppered the Remain campaign in the first place.
    No wonder populism is rising when large numbers of the populace are offered such insults when they do the wrong thing. I supported Remain, but I respect those who reached different conclusions to myself. I don’t dismiss them as stupid Russian dupes.

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