Electoral Commission “Monitoring Compliance” of Non-Party Campaigners

The Electoral Commission have just sent us this statement:

“In order to maintain voter confidence, it is important that all parties and campaigners comply with the rules and campaign responsibly. Ahead of final confirmation, we will shortly publish updated guidance for candidates, political parties and non-party campaigners to help them comply, and we will monitor compliance throughout. As in every election, we will share donation reports during the campaign and spending reports after the campaign, so voters can see how parties and campaigners are funded and how they spend their money.”

Following on from this morning’s story about Momentum fundraising in excess of the legal spending limits, without having registered, we put 3 questions to Momentum’s press office:

  1. Can you confirm the position with Electoral Commission registration?
  2. Has the Labour Party officially authorised Momentum to spend money as part of their campaign?
  3. If not, what do you propose to do with the funds raised over the lower limit? (Was £40,000 in 2017)

No response from the comrades as yet…

NCA Concludes Banks Didn’t Break Law

The National Crime Agency has concluded that Arron Banks and Leave.EU did not commit a criminal offence after the Electoral Commission referred allegations to them.

The NCA has full access to bank transactions and found nothing illegal or untoward. Carole Cadwallader’s absurd conspiracy theories have once again been found to have zero credibility – she should make a settlement offer this afternoon…

The conclusion reads as follows:

The NCA investigation has concluded that:

  • Mr Banks took a loan from Rock Holdings Ltd, a company of which he is the ultimate beneficial owner. He was legally entitled to do so.
  • Mr Banks was legally entitled, in his capacity as an individual, to release these funds to Better for the Country Ltd, by instructing another of his companies, Rock Services Ltd, to make the transactions on his behalf.
  • Rock Holdings Ltd was not involved in these transactions in a manner which contravened PPERA.

The NCA has found no evidence that any criminal offences have been committed under PPERA or company law by any of the individuals or organisations referred to it by the Electoral Commission. It will therefore take no further action against Mr Banks, Ms Bilney, Better for the Country Ltd or Leave.EU in respect of this specific matter.

Despite successive recent defeats, the Electoral Commission have refused to back down, saying, “We urge the UK’s governments to act on those recommendations to support voter confidence”, today’s Electoral Commission defeat is another example of how it simply isn’t fit for purpose…

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Electoral Commission Not Appealing Darren Grimes Case

After keeping everyone guessing for weeks about whether they were going to blow even more taxpayers’ money on trying to appeal against their comprehensive defeat in the Darren Grimes case, the Electoral Commission have finally decided that they will not be appealing. Today was the deadline for them to appeal, they have confirmed to Guido that they aren’t.

It finally draws a line under three years of their vindictive pursuit of one young Brexit campaigner, with the Electoral Commission resorting to trying to string Grimes up on a technicality after failing to find anything substantive over the course of multiple investigations. Without the generous support of Guido readers, Brexit hero Darren would never have been to challenge their perversion of justice in the first place. Grimes can now rest easy, meanwhile the pressure on the Electoral Commission is continuing to mount

Kate Hoey Calls for Electoral Commission to be Disbanded

Labour MP Kate Hoey has called for the Electoral Commission to be disbanded after the “travesty of justice” over the way they handled the Darren Grimes case. Incredibly, the Commission are still considering an appeal against the judge’s decision despite their case being comprehensively dismantled. Blowing hundreds of thousands more of taxpayers’ cash in vindictive pursuit of one campaigner…

As Hoey says, clearly there does need to be a body that oversees elections. The highly partisan members of the current Commission and the asymmetric way they have dealt with the two sides in the referendum since means there is no confidence left in its abilities. Time to start again from the ground up…

UPDATE: Tory MP Craig Mackinlay has backed Hoey’s call to disband the Electoral Commission:

“Couldn’t agree more with @KateHoeyMP. The @ElectoralCommUK has made too many mistakes, hounded too many innocent people (I should know), given too much incorrect advice, changed its mind repeatedly, made interpretations of the law ‘on the hoof’. It has no further worth.”

Electoral Commission Grilled Over Darren Grimes Cock-Up

The Electoral Commission had to face two Parliamentary Select Committees today after their humiliating defeat in court by Darren Grimes last Friday. Craig Mackinlay – who knows Electoral Commission incompetence only too well, took Chief Executive Bob Posner to task over their decision to relentlessly pursue Grimes while failing to fully investigate Remain campaign spending irregularities. Posner mumbles something about following those “strands” and “maybe” fining a couple of groups. They did nothing of the sort

Instead Posner makes clear that the Electoral Commission are still considering appealing against the Darren Grimes judgement despite having already spent half a million of taxpayers’ cash on the case, although Posner points out that part of that was on the Vote Leave aspects of the case. The High Court having previously found that the Electoral Commission caused the problem in the first place by giving Vote Leave incorrect legal advice

It’s worth looking at the specifics of the Grimes case. Guido was in the courtroom:

  • The Commission’s case against Grimes himself was nothing to do with the spending limit issue around Vote Leave. So they went after him on a technicality instead…
  • The Commission’s first charge was that he had not filled a form in correctly to register as an ‘unincorporated association’ rather than an individual. An issue they didn’t flag at all in their first two investigations into Grimes – which found nothing.
  • They then slapped a second offence notice on him for subsequently submitting an “over-complete” spending return. Kafka-esque.
  • The judge found their form itself was highly confusing and that Grimes had filled out the majority correctly, and to the extent he hadn’t it didn’t matter. The dispute centred around a single box…
  • The judge also found that the Commission had essentially constructed their case the wrong way round. In effect they assumed Grimes’s guilt first and then challenged him to prove his innocence beyond reasonable doubt.
  • This led them to exclude a large amount of evidence in Grimes’ favour. Precisely the opposite of how the law is meant to work.
  • The judge also ruled that even if they hadn’t been wrong on the offences themselves, the maximum £20,000 fine was still disproportionate. It was vexatious.

The full judgment is yet to be published, but the outcome of the case was clear. The Electoral Commission weren’t just defeated, their whole case against Grimes was thoroughly debunked. Their QC James Eadie didn’t even bother to turn up to hear the judgment. The fact that their apparatchiks are now considering dragging it out and blowing even more taxpayers’ money just to try to save face is beyond belief…

Darren Grimes Wins Appeal Against Electoral Commission

The County Court has ruled in favour of Darren Grimes’ appeal, exonerating him of the Electoral Commission’s kangaroo court imposed fine. The Commission’s argument for their egregious fine hinged on Darren’s accidental registering as an individual campaigner rather than a group. The Court has found that this is clearly disproportionate for ticking the wrong box…

Darren won on both alleged offences. The notice has been quashed.

While the Government spent almost half a million pounds fighting him, Guido readers’ generous donations supercharged Darren’s appeal helping to raise over £90,000 to take the fight back to the Remain establishment. The average donation was just £30…

Responding to the news, Darren said that “today’s verdict is a victory against the Remain Establishment which has done all it can to try and discredit the biggest electoral victory in this country’s history.” 

Darren tells Guido:

I am delighted and relieved that the Court has found me innocent.

This case has taken a huge toll on myself and my family, and I’m thankful it’s now over. I will be eternally grateful to all those people who have supported me – your generosity and kind words of encouragement have kept me going.

The Electoral Commission’s case was based on an incorrectly ticked box on an application form – something that it had been aware of for over two years and had not been raised in two previous investigations. Yet the Commission still saw fit to issue an excessive fine and to spend almost half a million in taxpayer cash pursuing me through the courts. This raises serious questions about its conduct both during and after the referendum.

Today’s verdict is a victory against the Remain Establishment which has done all it can to try and discredit the biggest electoral victory in this country’s history. The powerful vested interests in this country don’t like the idea of the people taking back control. This victory is for every one of the 17.4 million who dared to defy the doomsayers and who want the referendum to be respected.

There has been a well- funded, coordinated campaign against me and those that have stood up to the Remain Establishment. Well today they have lost. I just hope that their attempts to overturn our democratic structures don’t put more people off from getting involved in politics. It is vital that people from my generation get involved in democracy and help shape the future of our country. I hope the Electoral Commission’s actions do not put young people off from engaging in politics.

One in the eye for the Remain Establishment!

Electoral Commission Attack the Police Over Referendum Investigation

After the Metropolitan Police’s legal letter responding to the latest loony Brexit lawsuit which eviscerated the Electoral Commission, the Electoral Commission have hit back strongly at the police themselves, accusing them of a “startling argument” and making “unfounded, misleading and incorrect” assertions:

“The letter from Metropolitan Police lawyers contains a number of assertions about the work of the Commission which are unfounded, misleading and incorrect. This a startling argument, put forward as part of an organisation’s defence of its record on timely investigatory work. It is also directly contrary to recent positive comment made by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner about collaborative working between our organisations. We are writing to her to seek urgent assurance of her position in relation to this correspondence.”

Bold move…

Met Police Slam Electoral Commission, Demolish Latest Loony Remoaner Lawsuit

FBPErs were wetting themselves with excitement recently over a fresh no-hope anti-Brexit lawsuit brought by Remainiac MPs Tom Brake, Ben Bradshaw and Caroline Lucas. The Met Police’s lawyers have now responded to the legal threat, it doesn’t make pretty reading at all for the Remainers. Not that it’s stopping lawsuit-happy lawyers having a field day creaming cash from gullible Remainers on cases that have no chance of success…

First off they point out that the MPs themselves have no relevance to the case themselves – as required by law to actually bring the case. They then note that the Remainers’ expensive lawyers, Bindmans, have “not cited a single authority” where the courts have intervened in a police investigation in the way they want – by forcing them to bring a prosecutorial decision or hand over their entire investigation to the CPS within fourteen days. Politicians attempting to use the courts to compel the police in this way is truly extraordinary, this is real kangaroo court stuff…

However the people who’ll be squirming most reading it are the hapless Electoral Commission. The police lawyers list a truly remarkable catalogue of fundamental errors made by the UK’s electoral regulator:

“The proposed claim appears to be premised on the assumption that… when the EC referred those matters to the MPS it supplied all potential relevant documents… That assumption is incorrect…

“When the EC referred the matters to the MPS, the EC did not provide the documentation from its own investigation as your Letter of Claim asserts. Instead the EC required the MPS to make a request for disclosure pursuant to the Data Protection Act 2018 (a process that the MPS does not consider was necessary)…

“That documentation was not indexed or organised in what the MPS considered to be a systematic or logical fashion. The EC did not provide (and has not provided) the MPS with a comprehensive schedule of all used and unused material held by the EC from its investigation of the kind that the police would compile in a criminal investigation.

“The EC’s approach to the gathering and disclosure of evidence does not appear to the MPS to have complied with the letter or the spirit of the Criminal Procedure and Investigation Act 1996 and associated guidance…

“The MPS formed the view that EC has not disclosed all the documents in its possession or control that are potentially relevant to its investigation. The MPS has sought further disclosure from the EC on a number of occasions… The MPS remains of the view that the EC has not disclosed all of the documents in its possession or control that are potentially relevant to MPS’ investigation.

“Your letter of claim has only served to reinforce this view.”

This is a staggering indictment of the levels of pure unbridled incompetence at the heart of the quango that is trusted to be judge, jury and executioner of the UK’s electoral system. No-one in their right mind would hand such a bunch of rank amateurs yet more discretionary power over the UK’s democracy, the Tories are sensibly pushing back against it. Yet more evidence that the Electoral Commission is simply unfit for purpose

UPDATE: The Electoral Commission have hit back strongly against the Police, accusing them of “unfounded, misleading and incorrect” assertions. Read their response in full here

Read the original letter in full below:

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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.[…] Read the rest

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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.

[…] Read the rest

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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.[…] Read the rest

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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.[…] Read the rest

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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”. […] Read the rest

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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.[…] Read the rest

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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. […] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

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