Sunday, 25 March 2018

So, did Vote Leave cheat?

The Liberal Democrats have sent an e-mail to members today, and asked for us to share it. Unusually, I'm doing as I'm told.

Here it is - I suspect further explanation or analysis is unnecessary.

Andrew, last night, Channel 4 and the Guardian made explosive claims about the Leave campaign’s conduct during the EU referendum.

Here’s what a whistleblower claims about the official Leave campaign:

  • They broke spending limits
  • They lied to voters
  • Then they tried to cover it up

Then, after the whistleblower made these claims, one of Theresa May’s top aides, was accused of outing him as gay.

These are allegations that go to the heart of Theresa May’s Government. It’s clear the narrow referendum win for Leave is tainted.

Brexiteers and their allies in the right-wing media will do everything they can to play this story down. We cannot let them get away with it.

Please help us get the facts out there by:

1. Sharing this quick video from Channel 4 with your friends and family

2. Sharing this Guardian article on social media

3. Adding your name to our campaign for an Exit from Brexit

The case for giving the people the final say on Brexit has never been stronger - and with your support, we can win this:

The Lib Dems in Parliament will be doing everything we can to get answers. The same rules must apply to everyone and the people must not be cheated.

Please help us do this by sharing the news today.



Tom Brake
Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson

PS: Please do forward this email to your friends.

On Lib Dem Voice, Tom Brake appears in a video asking whether Leave cheated, insisting "British people are entitled to the truth". Lib Dem Voice itself concludes that "the legitimacy of the referendum result must surely now be in question."

I won't disagree with that, and these are indeed serious allegations that must be investigated properly and thoroughly.

However, I think it would be wrong to focus solely on the "legitimacy of the result". As debates in Parliament prior to the referendum confirmed, the result itself had no legal status (whatever David Cameron personally promised). The government is not obliged to implement anything, simply to be advised by the vote.

I would suggest contesting the validity of the vote is perfectly reasonable, but more significantly the actions of the government in response to the "advice" the referendum gave should also be firmly questioned.

These accusations also open up other questions about the role and fitness for purpose of the Electoral Commission. I've written previously on this, in which I expressed the view that the EC is outdated and ill-equipped for the challenges it is currently facing. So while the investigation will naturally focus on Vote Leave, I hope we also don't lose sight of where the EC fits into this - and hopefully instigate a conversation about how it can either be strengthened or replaced in light of these allegations.

Yes, we need answers from Vote Leave. We need to know what happened and who was responsible. But I would argue that if Vote Leave  has knowingly broken rules, it will have done so by exploiting the weaknesses of the Electoral Commission.  We also need to take a look at how our democracy works, and whether those currently overseeing the processes are the right people to safeguard the standards in public accountability we have been led to expect.

So, did Vote Leave cheat? No doubt we'll soon find out. Perhaps the more important questions however, are these: "Did Vote Leave cheat? If so, so what? What does that mean for our democracy? How was it allowed to happen, and how will it affect who we 'do' democracy in the future? What does this say about those charged with upholding the highest standards in the public interest?"

If it is demonstrated that Vote Leave have, indeed, cheated then I would also argue that, by implication, the systems in place to supposedly prevent this from happening have failed - as too has the organisation responsible for oversight. 

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