It is now official. The UK is leaving the EU on the basis of a corrupt campaign that was conducted illegally. Vote Leave has been fined a record amount by the Electoral Commission for breaches of electoral law during the EU referendum campaign. The Electoral Commission has taken the further step, reserved for the most serious breaches, of referring the matter to the police. The Commission found that Vote Leave had spent some £500,000 more on advertising than it was legally permitted to do so, money which it largely spent on targetted advertising on social media. Dodgy donations, dodgy democracy.
A 22 year old fashion student, Darren Grimes, who until now most of us had thought was that guy from the Walking Dead, received £675,000 as a prezzy from Vote Leave. Only he never actually received it, and Vote Leave just spent this money “on his behalf”. Vote Leave did so in order to circumvent the strict rules on election spending. Before he got the dosh that he didn’t really get from Vote Leave, Darren’s BeLeave campaign had managed to raise the amazing sum of £21.51 by its own efforts.
It’s worse than that however, as the Electoral Commission found that Vote Leave, the official taxpayer funded Leave campaign, broke electoral law on numerous occasions. And then it refused to cooperate with the Electoral Commission’s investigation. The Electoral Commission says that Vote Leave failed to respond to several contacts it made in order to arrange an interview with its campaign chief Matthew Elliot. When records were finally passed on to the Electoral Commission they were incomplete or incorrect. That’s the same Matthew Elliot who went on the BBC a few weeks ago to preempt the report and tell the world that the Electoral Commission was refusing his offers of meeting with them to clarify his position.
After being stitched up and used by Vote Leave as a political prostitute, Darren Grimes has now been fined £20,000. Vote Leave’s official David Halsall has been fined £61,000. Vote Leave illegally spent £675,000, and there is still no clarity about where the DUP’s mysterious £435,000 came from, money which it used to spend on a full page pro-Brexit advert in a newspaper which isn’t published in Northern Ireland. Yet the fines imposed by the Electoral Commission are less than 10% of the money that Vote Leave illegally spent, and mere pocket money for the dark money donors behind right wing and British nationalist political organisations in the UK. So that’s really going to teach them a lesson.
Meanwhile Ruth Davidson continues to be unavailable on the subject of the Scottish Conservatives’ dodgy donations. She is of course being doorstepped by the Scottish press exactly like Michelle Thomson was, hounded by the journalists encamped outside her home, waiting to pounce as soon as she pops out to get her Great British branded groceries from Tesco. British democracy is being bought and sold.
The Labour and Conservative parties which benefit from this appalling state of affairs are not calling for investigations and reform of the electoral laws. They’re not calling for stiffer penalties for breaking the electoral laws we do currently have in order to make the punishments meaningful. They’re saying nothing and hoping it will all go away while they continue to tell us that the result of a referendum which was won on the back of illegal campaigning must be respected. And the press are for the most part complicit with them.
You might think that after giving Vote Leave such a platform to attack the findings of the Electoral Commission before they were even published, that the BBC would be making the issue of donations and electoral spending its top story today. While British democracy is as healthy as a 30 stone 60 a day smoker with diabetes and raging alcoholism, what was the topic de jour on Radio Scotland? Yes. It was ageism. And they weren’t talking about the senile British state either. They were talking about how it’s terribly wrong to bear ill feelings towards all those old Tories who voted to keep Scotland a part of the UK, the same ones who voted for Brexit and to deport their care assistants to Romania.
Vote Leave wasn’t just any campaign. It was the official campaign and it was headed by senior members, or recently resigned senior members, of the current government. Michael Gove was intimately involved in the campaign. He met daily with its top officials to discuss its progress. What did Gove know? Either he knew that the campaign was engaged in illegal activities in which case he should resign, or he didn’t know that the campaign was engaged in illegal activities in which case he’s incompetent and should resign.
In either event, the UK is being taken out of the EU, into a hard Brexit or crashing out with no deal, causing massive disruption and the potential for thousands of job losses, all on the basis of an unfair and pauchled vote. Some like Liam Fox continue to argue that the outcome wouldn’t have been different so we need to press ahead. Well he would say that wouldn’t he.
That argument doesn’t wash in far more trivial matters. Lance Armstrong might very well have won all those Tour de France contests even without doping himself with enough drugs to enable a six stone weakling to win a sumo wrestling match, but that doesn’t mean he got to keep the crown. Students who cheat in exams might very well have passed anyway, but they don’t get to keep their pass marks. It’s only in British elections that there is no meaningful consequence for cheating. But hey, who need a functioning democracy when you can get a blue passport.
If there was any justice the Brexit vote would be declared null and void and the vote held again. There is no mandate for Brexit now. Theresa May’s pathetically weak government shows not the slightest indication that it’s going to do so, so the Scottish government must do it for her. If Theresa May won’t offer the people of the UK a new vote on this illegal and unfair Brexit, then the Scottish government must offer one to the people of Scotland. The question is no longer, should Scotland be a independent country, it’s should Scotland ensure that there are meaningful consequences for breaking electoral laws. Because only if there are meaningful consequences for breaking electoral laws can a country call itself a democracy.
WEE GINGER FUNDRAISER
It’s that time of year again. It’s been a year since I last did a fundraiser. This year is going to be a particularly expensive one for me personally. There’s a wedding to pay for, and I need to ensure that my earnings are sufficient to prove to the Home Office that I am able to import my American spouse into Scotland to live here permanently. As well as the need to demonstrate a minimum level of annual income, £18,600, there are also hefty legal and visa fees to pay.
I really don’t like doing fundraisers, and I really don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I work my wee socks off for the independence movement. I publish this blog, and I do talks to local indy groups all over Scotland without asking for a fee. Don’t get me wrong, I greatly enjoy it. It’s a huge privilege to meet all the wonderful, talented, and committed people who make the Scottish independence movement something really special. However it takes up a lot of time and energy to keep blogging and doing public talks, time and energy that I could be using to generate an income to prove to the Home Office that I am able to support my American spouse.
The truth is that if every regular reader of this blog gave just one pound a year, I’d be pulling in well over £100,000 annually. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. Publishing and selling books and maps helps, as does selling t-shirts, but it’s pretty hit and miss. I do get paid by The National for my twice weekly articles, but that doesn’t pay anything like as much as you might think it would. In order to be confident that I can meet the minimum income requirements demanded by the Home Office, cover the cost of a wedding on both sides of the Atlantic, and cover the fees required to pay the visas and associated legal costs, I need to do a fundraiser for £10,000.
Any help you can give would be immensely appreciated. Help me to keep campaiging, and help me to show that Scotland is a welcoming place for migrants – at least one special migrant in particular, the man I’m going to marry in October.
You can donate by clicking the following link and donating on my Gofundme page.
Alternatively you can donate by clicking on the Paypal “Donate” button on this page, or by logging in to www.paypal.com and making a payment to me at email@example.com If you would prefer to donate by some other method, cash, cheque, or bank transfer, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Many thanks for all your support. You’ve no idea how much it means to me.
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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.