Guido readers will be well-versed in Carole Cadwalladr’s various conspiracy theories about how a secret nexus of data companies conspired to rig the Brexit vote. As well as the corrections that would inevitably follow her front page ‘revelations’, buried on page 50 of the next week’s Observer…
In an inconvenient twist for the Orwell Prize-winning journalist, the report out today from the Information Commissioner’s Office has crushed most of her central claims. Terrible when a good story gets undermined by basic facts…
Carole claimed that Leave.EU was working with Cambridge Analytica. The ICO found that there was “no evidence of a working relationship between Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU” beyond “preliminary discussions”:
“[B]oth parties stated that only preliminary discussions took place, and the relationship did not move forward when Leave.EU failed to attain the designation as the official Leave campaign… Based on our enquiries, testimony and interviews, we conclude that this is indeed the case – there is no evidence of a working relationship between CA and Leave.EU proceeding beyond this initial phase.”
Carole claimed that the Canadian data firm, AIQ, who worked with Vote Leave, was effectively the “Canadian branch” of Cambridge Analytica, although she has since retracted this claim. The ICO scotched this one too:
“Whilst there was clearly a close working relationship between the entities and several staff members were known to each other, we have no evidence that AIQ has been anything other than a separate legal entity… ultimately we have concluded that this was a contractual relationship.”
Carole’s whole conspiracy centered around the notion that AIQ and Cambridge Analytica had shared data in the referendum. In fact the ICO found no evidence that either Cambridge Analytica or its parent company SCL Elections were involved in any data analytics work on the referendum at all:
“We found no evidence of unlawful activity in relation to the personal data of UK citizens and AIQ’s work with SCLE. To date, we have no evidence that SCLE and CA were involved in any data analytics work with the EU Referendum campaigns.”
Meanwhile Vote Leave was given a clean bill of health for its data work with AIQ:
“We know that Vote Leave had a commercial relationship with AIQ. In respect of that work, we have not obtained any evidence that Vote Leave transferred or processed personal data outside the UK unlawfully – or that it processed personal data without the consent of data subjects… Our further investigations into AIQ revealed no evidence of the unlawful processing of UK personal data.”
After massively bigging up the report yesterday, Carole has been unusually quiet on Twitter since it landed, mainly complaining that no-one was paying attention to the “MUCH bigger story” (was it being “deliberately buried”?) and even accusing Buzzfeed – of all places – of doing Arron Banks’ “dirty work”. Maybe she’s still feeling a little bit sore after *that* article…
Remainers were hoping for an explosive report to blow up Brexit. Instead it revealed that it’s the Remain campaign and the Lib Dems who are under investigation for potential data breaches, while Arron Banks’ looming fines are almost entirely for using his Leave.EU mailing list to flog insurance after the referendum, not for activities during the campaign. The only thing the report blew up was Carole’s conspiracy. She was after all, as Isabel Oakeshott famously said, “chasing unicorns”…
Guido can shed more light on the Information Commissioner’s Office investigation into the use of data by campaigns during the EU referendum.
The report reveals that the ICO is “still looking” into breaches of data by BSE that may require further action. After the referendum, BSE became Open Britain, and this summer re-branded again as the ironically named People’s Vote campaign. All while the investigation was ongoing…
The campaign’s re-branding leads to priceless tweets, but it doesn’t get them out of the serious ICO investigation.
The People’s Vote campaign is still under investigation by the ICO for potential serious breaches of data privacy.
“‘During the course of our investigation, we obtained information that the Liberal Democrats had sold the personal data of its party members to BSiE for approximately £100,000.”
“In June and July 2018, we served information notices on Open Britain, the successor organisation to BSiE, and the Liberal Democrats, under the DPA1998, to investigate these issues.”
“We are still looking at how the Remain side of the referendum campaign handled personal data, including the electoral roll, and will be considering whether there are any breaches of data protection or electoral law requiring further action.”
The ICO has placed an enforcement notice against AIQ handling any UK data in the course of its investigation. Shouldn’t the ICO – in the same way – suspend the People’s Vote campaign from using any UK data while they investigate and determine the source of the data?
UPDATE: BSE responds: “This assertion is entirely untrue. Britain Stronger in Europe did not receive, or pay for, Liberal Democrat members’ personal data at any point.”
The Guardian has quietly changed its online copy of today’s newspaper story about the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum. In the paper they refer to “the Remain campaign, now called the People’s Vote”. The corrected version now says: “The People’s Vote campaign, which is supported by prominent anti-Brexit groups”. Could it be that someone at the continuity Remain campaign (now called the People’s Vote) was angry at the first more accurate description of their organisation and demanded a change?
After losing the referendum, changing their name to Open Britain and failing to keep us inside the single market and customs union (well, so far…), beleaguered Britain Stronger in Europe have re-branded once again, this time in support of second referendum. In the press release launching Open Britain they stated: “The referendum decided that the UK would leave the European Union”. They will be merging their social media clout (570,000 Facebook likes) with the ailing People’s Vote campaign (which has a mere 10,000).
Despite the UK being on course for a very soft Brexit, with Philip Hammond and Greg Clark remaining in the Cabinet and the Brexiteers quitting in protest, Theresa May’s capitulation to the Remainers only has only encouraged them to push for more. Remember when Soubry and Wollaston backed Chequers, before deciding days later that actually they wanted more concessions? Open Britain used to say they respected the result of the referendum. Now they want a second referendum. It could all have been different if May had challenged the Remainers rather than surrendered to them, and actually backed Brexit properly…
When Alastair Campbell attacked Nigel Farage for attending an “elitist party” at the Ritz on Wednesday night it was tempting fate. Guido wondered aloud, where was Bad Al that night?
@campbellclaret And where were you having dinner last night? 📷
— Guido Fawkes (@GuidoFawkes) November 24, 2016
Turns out that Campbell was dining at the Michelin starred River Cafe restaurant in Hammersmith, attending an elitist establishment party of his own with fellow Remain campaign losers Peter Mandelson and Sir John Sawyers, the former boss of MI6, BSE chairman and tycoon Sir Stuart Rose as well as billionaire Remain donor Sir Charles Dunstone.
The River Cafe menu offers slow-roasted veal shin for £37, wood-roasted grouse for £40 and wines at over £2,000 a bottle. The very next day Campbell had the gall to call out Farage for attending an “elitist party” – hypocrisy at its most delicious…
The remnants of the Remain campaign have descended into an almighty squabble over their future direction. Britain Stronger In Europe has rebranded as Open Britain, a new lobbying group which has ditched the commitment to freedom of movement, a pillar of Europhile principle. On Sunday, Open Britain’s founders wrote:
“The strength of feeling is clear. Free movement of people cannot continue as it has done. It has to be reformed.”
This has caused other prominent Remainers to kick off. Guido hears a letter is being circulated among pro-EU groups condemning BSE and Open Britain. Signatories include the man in charge of Scientists for EU, previously one of BSE’s main backers. Meanwhile the CEO of the European Movement, Matthew Fulton, says “our red lines are protecting freedom of movement”. When asked whether BSE and the European Movement were still on the same side, Fulton responded:
“At the time we were, but now with their lack of commitment to freedom of movement – I know it’s not popular thing in the country at the moment – but there needs to be people making that argument.”
Soft Remain versus hard Remain…