EU Election Blame Game

There have been numerous reports of EU citizens being turned away from polling stations today despite having supposedly completed their two-stage registrations for it correctly. There’s plenty of noise on Twitter about it although it’s not clear yet how widespread the problem actually is…

Either way the blame game has already started in earnest, with people variously pointing fingers at the Government, local councils, the Electoral Commission, loopy Ed Davey has even accused the Tories of “deliberately” engineering a “bureaucratic shambles”. It’s pretty obvious to anyone watching the Tories recently that they’re too shambolic deliberately engineer a bureaucratic shambles if they tried…

The Electoral Commission themselves are trying to blame the Government for the “very short notice” they gave them of the elections. While the Government were officially still in denial until earlier this month, what the Electoral Commission seem to have forgotten is that David Lidington actually gave them official instruction to start preparing for the EU elections seven and a half weeks ago on 1st April. Which is longer than they had to prepare for the 2017 snap General Election…

Judging from most of the reports from EU citizens online, the fault appears to lie largely at local council level – EU citizens have been told they can vote by their local councils but clerical errors mean that databases have not been updated, despite councils having had 12 days to do so. The Guy Newsroom can confirm from personal experience the levels of sheer unbridled incompetence at many local councils’ electoral departments. Trying to blame Brexit is a bit rich when exactly the same problems were reported five years ago, five years in which councils have still failed to get their acts together…

“Led By Donkeys” Unmasked as Greenpeace Campaigners

Guido’s campaign for transparency over big-spending anti-Brexit campaign ‘Led By Donkeys’ has paid off. The Electoral Commission now are reporting details of who the mysterious campaign are – who have raised almost half a million pounds to fight Brexit in the last few months. Guido can now unm-ass-k the donkeys. You may spot a pattern…

  • James Sadri (Secretary): Sadri is the former ‘Head of Mobilisation’ at Greenpeace, he’s led numerous Greenpeace digital campaigns over the years including their ‘VW Dark Side’ and ‘Save the Arctic’ campaigns and previously worked for the BBC and the UN. Mysteriously, his Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts all appear to have been recently deactivated, although the internet never forgets
  • Ben Stewart: Stewart is Head of Speacial [sic] Projects at Greenpeace and was previously their Head of Campaign Communications and was one of six activists acquitted over causing £30,000 of criminal damage to a power station in 2008. His Twitter account has also been recently deleted
  • Oliver Knowles: Knowles is a… Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner and their Global Tuna Campaign Leader, his LinkedIn described him as a Senior Advisor/Strategist although it has also recently disappeared. However, his Twitter account is still active and busy retweeting Led By Donkeys…
  • Will Rose: Rose is a photographer for (you’ve guessed it) Greenpeace, he’s taken photographs all over the world for Greenpeace campaigns before turning his attention closer to home. No social media to speak of but he’s got plenty of nice photo galleries

Lefty environmentalists are famously not very good with money, nonetheless Guido looks forward to them declaring how they’ve managed to buy over £230,000 worth of advertising for less than £159,750. Why have they been so keen to go dark on social media and hidden their Greenpeace connection?

Guido takes his hat off to them, they’ve come up with an original, eye-catching campaign, even if it hasn’t convinced the Guardian. It doesn’t matter how clever the campaign is, they’ve still got to play by the rules…

“Led By Donkeys” Questions for the Electoral Commission

Despite Guido presenting them with compelling evidence that anti-Brexit billboard campaign ‘Led By Donkeys’ are in breach of EU election spending limits, the Electoral Commission tell Guido that they are simply “monitoring the activities” of Led By Donkeys. They add that Led By Donkeys are “fully aware” that they will have to register if they spend more than £20,000 in England, or £10,000 in any other part of the UK. According to their own figures they’ve already spent over £230,000…

Since the Electoral Commission haven’t found the time in between staging Brexit Party stunts to open their investigation so far, Guido thought he would help them out with their inquiries. Here’s what we know so far:

  • Led By Donkeys (LBD) have crowdfunded over £438,000 to support their anti-Brexit campaign.
  • The spending limit for Non-Party Campaigns (in England) is £159,750 – if they’re registered with the Electoral Commission.
  • LBD do not appear on the register with the Electoral Commission.
  • LBD have catalogued over 230 anti-Brexit billboards they’ve put up in England alone.
  • LBD themselves estimate the cost at £1,000 each.
  • The Electoral Commission’s guidance says that activity counts as regulated campaign spending if it is both aimed at the public (“the public test”) and is intended to influence voters to vote for or against particular parties or candidates (the purpose test”).
  • Guido has analysed every billboard put up by LBD and found that over 200 (205) directly target politicians from just two parties: the Conservatives and the Brexit Party.
  • Just 8 target politicians from any other party – over 96% are targeted at two specific parties.
  • LBD’s own stated aim is “showing our fellow citizens that this Brexit failure was founded on lies and hypocrisy”.
  • LBD have recently started producing even more sophisticated adverts directly mimicking the Brexit Party’s branding.
  • They’ve also created an entire fake website for the Brexit Party which features on their posters.
  • Design costs, staff travel, website design and hosting all also count as regulated spending.

Here’s what we don’t know:

  • Who are Led By Donkeys? They’re completely anonymous, their crowdfunder is anonymous, their fake website is registered through a third party.
  • Why are they not registered with the Electoral Commission? They’ve clearly spent over £20,000 which is the limit for registration. If they want to play a big part in an election the public has a right to know who they are.
  • How have they managed to buy over £230,000 worth of political advertising – according to their own figures – without breaching the spending limit of £159,750 in England for Non-Party Campaigners? And what’s happening to the remaining £279,000 from their crowdfunder?
  • Have their donations even come from permitted UK donors? Until they register, we just don’t know.

Led By Donkeys probably think they’ve been clever enough to get around the rules by not sticking ‘VOTE LIB DEM/CHANGE UK’ on their billboards. As the Electoral Commission’s own guidelines make clear, their hundreds of billboards still clearly qualify as regulated campaign spending. Clever political adverts are still political adverts. At least the Electoral Commission can proceed with their investigation much more quickly now we’ve done their work for them…

UPDATE: Following Guido’s campaign for transparency, Led By Donkeys have now registered with the Electoral Commission. It turns out they are all Greenpeace activists

See also: Anti-Brexit Billboard Campaign in Massive Apparent Breach of Electoral Law

Farage Accuses Electoral Commission of “Outrageous Act of Political Interference”

Nigel Farage has accused the Electoral Commission of an “outrageous act of political interference” for deciding to come and investigate the Brexit Party’s offices just two days before the EU elections. Farage claims that Commission had already given the party a “clean bill of health” and been invited to visit their offices last week, but the Commission said they were too busy to visit, while refusing to put their assessment in writing. A few tweets from Twitter’s resident FBPE cranks and a “powerful intervention” from Gordon Brown later and suddenly the Electoral Commission decide to drop everything and raid their offices the next day…

As Guido pointed out last night, pretty much every single political party and campaign also follows the £500 donation threshold including People’s Vote and the Labour Party, it has been a standard feature of political donations for countless election cycles. The fact that the Electoral Commission suddenly decided the Brexit Party – and no-one else – required urgent investigation over it shows that they either don’t have sufficient understanding of the law they are meant to enforce, or their investigations are not politically neutral. Or more likely, both…

People’s Vote’s Shameless Donations Hypocrisy

People’s Vote campaigners have spent the last few days frothing at the mouth over the Brexit Party’s £25 donations, to the extent that the sycophantic Electoral Commission have dropped everything to go and physically investigate its offices tomorrow. So naturally you’d expect the People’s Vote campaign to have the highest standards for donations to its own “European elections battle fund”. Think again:

They’ve set their limit at £499 – £1 under the limit – and then literally told their supporters that it’s a deliberately move to avoid them having to check individual donors. Hypocrisy in politics is nothing new but this is on another level. Guido eagerly awaits the Electoral Commission hot-footing it down to People’s Vote HQ tomorrow to check their donations too…

H/t Julian Jessop

Electoral Commission Spends £36,000 Just on Printing for Darren Grimes Case

Fresh from the revelation that the Electoral Commission have blown almost half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money trying to fight Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes over a £20,000 fine for a minor administrative error, Guido has learned that they have claimed a staggering £36,000 in printing costs alone. What have they been printing on – gold-edged vellum?

Assuming they did just use normal office paper, at a conservative estimate of 5p per sheet that adds up to a gobsmacking 720,000 sheets of paper. That’s almost 100 trees that have been cut down in their vindictive pursuit of a single 25-year old Brexit campaigner…

Prize Competition: Design a TIG Logo Win a Mousemat!

It seems grossly unfair that the Electoral Commission has rejected the TIG logo application for their party on the grounds that it is “likely to mislead voters, contains a link to online material”. Which isn’t really fair, though as Darren Grimes will tell you, the Electoral Commission is far from fair…

“The emblem contained a hashtag, and we cannot assess the material linked to a hashtag, which will change over time, against the legal tests. The emblem also contained the acronym TIG, which we were not satisfied was sufficiently well known.”

So because “TIG” was not sufficiently well known they banned it. Guido suspects that the Electoral Commission have done the TIGgers a favour. Could you design them a better logo? We’ll give the designer of the best new TIG logo a mousemat:Remember no hashtags. Email your design to team@order-order.com. We’ll let the readers vote between the two best designs selected by us. It will be a bit like the Tory leadership selections. Like the 1922 Committee we might change the rules…

Tory People’s Vote Campaign Loses Most of its MPs Despite Burning Through £40,000 of Dark Money

The Tory awkward squad launched their own “distinctive” People’s Vote campaign last month under the excruciatingly bad name-pun of ‘Right to Vote’. At the time of their launch Right to Vote widely claimed to have 10 Tory MPs on board, although Phillip Lee only counted eight at the launch event – Sam Gyimah, Heidi Allen, Dominic Grieve, Justine Greening, Guto Bebb, Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and himself.

That number appears to have shrunk even further by the time of their latest ‘intervention’ this week, with just four MPs putting their name to their letter calling for Brexit to be delayed – Gyimah, Lee, Grieve and Bebb along with two hardline Remainer Lords. They seemed so desperate for MP support that the letter even originally listed “Baroness Altmann MP” as a signatory before the amusing mishap was corrected…

Incredibly, Right to Vote have reportedly spent a whopping £40,000 so far, despite not even having a website or a Twitter account at the time they launched, and their woeful lack of impact generally. As a campaigning organisation specifically made up of members from only one party they also clearly satisfy the Electoral Commission’s definition of a ‘members association’, which means they have should have registered with the Electoral Commission and declared every donation they have received over £7,500 by now – they haven’t. By law, the public have a right to know exactly whose dark money they’ve been fruitlessly burning through…

Mackinlay Slams Electoral Commission as “Unfit For Purpose”

Craig Mackinlay, who after a staggering four-year legal battle was finally cleared of any wrongdoing last week by Southwark Crown Court, has launched a seething attack on the “abstract and confused law” that has wrought so much unwarranted stress for him and his family. Writing for The House magazine he declared that his “greatest annoyance is reserved for the Electoral Commission” who have a “responsibility to interpret the law into understandable guidance for candidates and agents and have extra-statutory authority to produce guidance and rules to assist the electoral process.” Something they have clearly failed to deliver on…

Last year the High Court found that the Electoral Commission issued incorrect advice to campaigners during the EU referendum. Mackinlay has called for all political parties to come together to create coherent, understandable law and consider the status of the Electoral Commission. His whole article is worth a read

Labour Slapped With Record Fine Over Inaccurate Donations

The Labour Party has been slapped with a record fine of £12,000 by the Electoral Commission for failing to declare its donations accurately. The Electoral Commission said it was the “highest fine we have issued for an offence of this kind” and added that “as a well-funded political party [Labour] should be able to meet its legal requirements”If this was the Tories or a pro-Brexit campaign it would be all over the media…

Government Splurging Taxpayer Cash to Fight Darren Grimes

On Friday Brexit hero Darren Grimes attended court to find out the date when his full case against the biased Electoral Commission will be heard. He is facing a fight from the top QCs and solicitor firms in the country, including First Treasury Counsel James Eadie QC, thanks to the Commission’s support from the Government Legal Department, all funded by taxpayer cash. You can still donate to his grassroots crowdfunder hereThe case will be heard in the summer of next year…

Police Rubbish Remoaner Conspiracy

Remoaners have been working themselves up into a tizzy over the last few weeks over an Open Democracy report which claimed that the police weren’t investigating the Leave campaigns due to “political sensitivities”. Carole was all over it, David Lammy had a Twitter tantrum while 74 MPs, Peers and MEPs including Vince Cable, Chuka Umunna and Lammy signed Ben Bradshaw and Molly Scott Cato’s cranky letter to the Police. Damian Collins even had a stern-looking Observer photoshoot

The Met Police’s response has left the conspiracy brigade looking incredibly silly. Far from “stalling” the investigation, the police revealed that they had only received over 2,000 documents relating to the case from the Electoral Commission last month and were therefore still assessing the documents. No conspiracy, just another Electoral Commission cock-up…

They also issued a stern rebuke to Bradshaw and Scott Cato’s suggestion that they had “been approached by government representatives to suggest that you soft-pedal this investigation due to political sensitivities”, revealing that the only people who had been putting them under political pressure were them and their fellow Remoaners:

“The operational independence of the police is central to our policing system. There has been no contact from any government representative making enquiries into the status of the MPS enquiries. The only approach from any elected politician, political party, official or representative has been your correspondence, or similar correspondence from other seeking the MPS undertakes a wide ranging investigation into the EU referendum.”

The only ones trying to externally influence the police are the ones shouting loudest about “police independence”…

Amidst Calls for CEO to Resign, Electoral Commission Appeals High Court Ruling

The Electoral Commission are appealing after their humiliating defeat in the High Court last week. They maintain that the advice they gave regarding the ability of Vote Leave to donate to other campaigns was correct. If they win this appeal then Vote Leave acted properly on their advice, if they lose it confirms they gave dodgy advice during the referendum. Either way this shows up the Electoral Commission to be an utter shambles.

Vote Leave boss Matthew Elliott has called on the Electoral Commission’s CEO Claire Bassett to “at the very least” consider her position:

“Leggatt’s judgement last week would drive a coach and horses through electoral law, so it’s understandable that the Electoral Commission is appealing it. But it also marked a humiliating defeat for the Commission, who were shown to have given duff advice to Vote Leave.

Along with the other Commission shenanigans of recent years, this whole situation raises questions about whether they are fit for purpose. At the very least, Claire Bassett should be considering her position.”

The call for heads to roll at the Electoral Commission is cross party…

New “Chris Grayling is a Moron” Party Thwarted

Embattled Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has not been having a great time of it of late. However, he earned a brief respite this afternoon as Guido learned that the Electoral Commission has thwarted an attempt by a group of disgruntled commuters to launch a new “Chris Grayling is a Moron” party to take him on in his Epsom and Ewell seat.

The Electoral Commission told the peeved passengers that it was likely to refuse the proposed name on the basis that it “could be considered offensive” and could also include “words the publication of which would be likely to amount to the commission of an offence”. Spoilsports…

Full Text of Electoral Commission’s High Court Defeat

Read the full text of the High Court’s verdict on the Electoral Commission:

High Court Finds Electoral Commission Unfit For Purpose

The High Court has made a remarkable ruling in the long-running legal battle over Vote Leave’s spending in the EU referendum, finding that the Electoral Commission itself issued incorrect advice to Leave campaigners during the referendum.

Their mistake means that Vote Leave and other Leave campaigners have been embroiled in a hugely costly legal battle for two years – solely as a result of erroneous advice given to them by the Electoral Commission in the first place.

Vote Leave are clear that they would not have made donations in the way they did had they not secured explicit written advice from the Electoral Commission that it was legal to do so. Former Vote Leave Chief Executive Matthew Elliott described it as an “Alice in Wonderland” situation:

“We find ourselves in a complete Alice in Wonderland situation. Vote Leave asked for, and received, the Electoral Commission’s advice. We followed that advice. During the judicial review, the Electoral Commission tried to avoid admitting that it had given that advice to us, but we were able to establish that they had – and the judges clearly ruled in the Preliminary Hearing that we had received that advice. Yet we are now told that, by having followed that advice, we broke the law.”

Elliott added that the situation was a “mess of the Electoral Commission’s own making” and that the ruling had thrown electoral law “into total chaos”:

“The Electoral Commission’s defeat in the High Court today has thrown electoral law for future elections and referendums into total chaos. Either the Electoral Commission is wrong or the High Court is wrong.

“Should the Electoral Commission choose not to appeal this judgment, they will be admitting that they gave Vote Leave incorrect advice and they should immediately reconsider the unfair fines they are seeking to impose on us because Vote Leave would not have made the donations that it did had it not been for the Commission’s clear advice.

“This whole situation is a mess of the Electoral Commission’s own making, and their defeat in the High Court today must force a rethink. They now have a chance to rectify their errors. They should do the right thing.”

The law on campaigners working together is notoriously unclear, which is why Vote Leave sought to clarify it with the Electoral Commission in the first place. How can the Electoral Commission go ahead with fining Vote Leave entirely on the basis of an error they made themselves?

The High Court’s judgement describes the Electoral Commission as “unconstructive”, “arbitrary” and lacking “any rational basis” for its actions. They have ruled that the Electoral Commission itself does not understand electoral law. How can the Electoral Commission possibly be fit for purpose if it does not even understand electoral law itself?

Tories Raise Twice as Much as Labour Did Last Spring

UKIP appear to have raised more than the SNP and Greens. Note that these totals represent the sum of those donations large enough to be above the legal thresholds – so this does not include smaller donations. The Communist Party obviously suffering now their support is going direct to Corbyn…

Guido Readers Supercharge Darren’s Fightback

Darren Grimes will be submitting his Appeal to the County Court this week, following the overwhelming response of Guido readers, supporting his righteous fight against the biased Electoral Commission. An incredible 97% of Darren’s target has been raised so far from almost 2,000 donors, each making an average pledge of just £32. 25% of the 1803 pledges came from people aged 25-34.

You can get him to his £60,000 target by donating here…

Lord Gnome Copying Guido Again

Remainer rag Private Eye has clearly been reading Guido again, with their satirical take on Darren Grimes’ righteous crusade to fight the biased Electoral Commission. Guido thinks that Private Eye’s public schoolboys should try punching up at the cheating monied remainers rather than kicking down at the working class kid from County Durham.

You can donate to Darren’s crowdfunder here. Just £3,000 to go…

Electoral Commission Whitewashes Remain Collusion

The Electoral Commission has today announced that it will not be pursuing Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) over the five last minute campaigns that Remain campaigners set up in the month before the referendum, into which more than £1 million was funnelled.[…] Read the rest

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