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. They concluded that the daily phone calls co-ordinating the various Remain campaigns did not “meet the threshold for an investigation to be opened”, claiming such phone calls were merely ‘advisory’. And it gets worse…

The Electoral Commission claims that videos hosted on the BSE website but paid for by one of those five late registering campaigns did not count as evidence of a ‘common plan’. Did investigators not think to ask BSE how they came across the videos? A reasonable assumption would be that BSE asked the producers for a copy. Did the EC ask to be supplied with any such communications?

Similarly, different media outlets at the time reported different campaigns had funded the videos. The Electoral Commission’s response is that the “evidential weight we can reasonably put on these accounts is limited, as they do not offer reasons for their claims and are contradictory”. But did the EC even bother to ask the authors of the articles who had briefed them these stories? Any competent investigation would realise that the easiest way to discover the reasons for the different media reports would be to ask the media outlets themselves.
BSE used a video from another campaign and passed it off as its own without having to pay for it, and the Electoral Commission rejects the idea that this could be circumventing campaign spending rules.

The Electoral Commission found one part of Priti Patel’s comprehensive dossier to warrant official investigation, namely whether the campaign ‘Wake Up and Vote’ incurred joint spending with the adverting firm that registered as a campaigner, DDB Ltd. Leaving BSE to get away with it…

Whatever you think about Brexit, whatever you think about the referendum, this is objectively a double standard from the Electoral Commission. They have been presented with clear evidence of Remain campaign collusion, and yet claimed it does not meet the threshold. Says it all…

Electoral Commission Fine Paid in Small Change

David Banks, who volunteered for the Leave group ‘Veterans For Britain’, has suffered four investigations by the Electoral Commission. He had to spend a year of his life combating their allegations, working on exonerating himself alongside working full time and being a carer. After all that, the only problem the Commission could find was one date error, which Banks himself corrected during the reporting stage and which he admitted from the start. For this he was fined the princely sum of £250.

Another leaver who has been hounded, targeted, and scraped over by the biased Electoral Commission, trying to find any tiny detail to delegitimise the votes of 17.4 million people. All this while they refuse to investigate the Remain campaign…

Watch the full video by Politics UK here.

Darren Thanks Guido Readers as Crowdfunder Hits £20,000 in 2 Hours

Brexit hero Darren Grimes’s crowdfunder to help him appeal the Electoral Commission’s ridiculous fine has reached its £20,000 target in just two hours, after hundreds of Guido readers reached into their pockets to donate. As we go to pixel a whopping 564 people have donated, the average donation so far has been £35. Cash raised will make sure Darren has the best legal case to take to court and fight the Electoral Commission. You can donate here.

Help Darren Grimes Fight and Expose Biased Electoral Commission

Darren Grimes, the BeLeave Brexit hero of the revolution who has been hit with a huge personal £20,000 fine by the Electoral Commission – for the crime of accidentally ticking the wrong box – is crowdfunding an appeal. Darren is raising £20,000 to fight the decision and expose the Electoral Commission’s shameless Remain bias. The Remainer-stuffed Electoral Commission has repeatedly refused to investigate the Remain campaign despite the huge evidence against them, setting a different standard for the Leave campaign and vindictively pursuing a 24 year-old Brexiteer with the maximum fine for the flimsiest of charges. Darren says:

“I want to fight the Commission’s verdict. I want to do this for two reasons. One, I think their judgment against me is wrong, terribly unfair and vindictive. Two, I fear that, if we allow the electoral commission to get away with this, they will keep going after those who support Brexit. According to expert legal analysis, the Commission are wrong in law, wrong in fact and have been wholly unreasonable. I am very confident that the Appeal Court will overturn their decision – and in doing so will force the Commission to reconsider the way it conducts itself. But I need your help to do it.”

Whatever you think about Brexit, the Electoral Commission’s behaviour over Darren Grimes has been patently disproportionate. You can help donate to his Crowdfunder to appeal the decision and expose the biased Electoral Commission here

Electoral Commission Email Reveals They Refused to Speak to Vote Leave

After finding Vote Leave guilty of breaking electoral law this morning, the Electoral Commission are claiming that officials from the Brexit campaign refused to attend interviews. Yet this email from Louise Edwards, the Tory-hating Electoral Commission boss, to lawyers for the Vote Leave officials says otherwise:

Eh? Which is it? And how on earth can they reasonably find an organisation guilty of breaking the law without hearing their side of the story? Justice – Electoral Commission style…

This was Louise Edwards excuse to Vote Leave boss Dominic Cummings for failing to speak to him, emailed yesterday. Essentially, she is arguing the Electoral Commission only made claims about Vote Leave as a whole so don’t need to speak to the key players involved. Which does not seem to be justice in any sense. Real possibility the Commission could be sued here…

Electoral Commission Ignored Evidence Disproving Central Claims Against Vote Leave

The Electoral Commission is facing difficult questions this morning after it emerged they are to find Vote Leave guilty of breaking electoral law despite refusing to hear evidence that would have disproved the central claims. BeLeave’s Darren Grimes, who was 22 at the time, is expecting to be fined £20,000 for filling in his forms wrongly. The Commission failed to interview a single senior Vote Leave staff member during its investigation, or at any point in the last two years. They heard evidence from the discredited whistleblowers making the allegations, yet didn’t allow Vote Leave figures to defend themselves against the claims, despite multiple attempts from Vote Leave officials to meet the Commission and provide evidence. This is a real breach of natural justice – whatever you think of Brexit and the merits of the case, is it justice if the Electoral Commission find someone guilty of a criminal offence without allowing them to give a defence? 

It gets worse, the Electoral Commission’s failure to discuss any of their accusations with Vote Leave means that many of them are just factually incorrect. The central finding was reached because the Commission wrongly claimed that a bombshell email from Dominic Cummings to donor Anthony Clake proved that Vote Leave were raising donations for BeLeave with the intention of obliging the latter to spend that money on AIQ. They missed evidence from other internal emails that BeLeave had in fact requested money to spend on AIQ weeks before. So the Electoral Commission’s bombshell email… isn’t.

The Commission claims that BeLeave’s messaging was controlled by Vote Leave, yet they again refused to speak to anyone from Vote Leave to challenge that assertion. They even ignored evidence from the whistleblowers themselves that the messaging was in fact controlled by BeLeave. This point just looks nakedly partisan from the Electoral Commission – even Carole Cadwalladr doesn’t make this claim.

There are basic factual errors, the Commission claimed BeLeave was established in May 2016, it was in fact established and was active for many months before. The Commission’s own former retained barrister, Tim Straker QC, has noted that their continual mistakes amount to “an error in law”.

This is all without mentioning the Electoral Commission’s refusal to investigate the wealth of evidence that the Remain campaign colluded on a much greater scale. Guido can understand why Remain campaigners want to do in Vote Leave and overturn Brexit, but this stitch up from the Electoral Commission is objectively not justice…

Priti Hands Dossier of Remain Collusion Evidence to Electoral Commission

Priti Patel has handed a dossier of evidence to the Electoral Commission that demonstrates beyond doubt that the various Remain campaigns coordinated their spending in breach of the rules. The Commission’s guidance is clear: “you are very likely to be working together if you have joint advertising campaigns”. That is exactly what the various supposedly independent campaigns did regarding the “Don’t F*ck My Future” advertising campaign. Guido cannot see how the Remain campaigns can claim they did not co-ordinate.

Having looked through the documents on the Electoral Commission’s website, I note that, according to Adam & Eve/DDB’s returns, producing these advertisements cost in excess of £76,000. However, only one campaign – Wake Up And Vote – ever paid an invoice to DDB for producing the videos, and only for £24,000. The remainder of the cost appears to have been funded by a mixture of payments and donations from other campaigns and major Remain donors.

Wake Up And Vote

Directly invoiced by ‘Adam and Eve’. Asked to pay £24,000 for the video

Wake Up And Vote received the entirety of their funding (£100,000) from Lisbet Rausing, one of the main donors to Britain Stronger in Europe and Conservatives IN 

Britain Stronger in Europe

Gave £7,467 to DDB on 1 June for ‘advertising’, but this was declared as notional expenditure with ‘Adam & Eve’, so no invoice or further details were provided. This means it is unclear what precise advertising it is for.

We Are Europe

Gave £10,000 to DDB on 29 June but did not declare any joint spending 

We Are Europe received the majority of its funding from two of Britain Stronger in Europe’s main donors, Lord Sainsbury (£116,000) and Ian Taylor (£99,000)

Britain Stronger in Europe, Wake Up And Vote, We Are Europe, and DDB were all registered as independent campaigners in their own right but none declared this as joint spending. Despite only one campaign paying an invoice for the advertisements and registering this with the Electoral Commission, multiple campaigns were reported to be involved in producing the videos:

14th June – it was reported that the ads were made for We Are Europe 

14th June – in an interview with the co-founder of ‘We Are Europe’, it was reported that the videos are a ‘collaboration between agencies adam&eveDDB and Kin&Co, alongside campaign groups Wake up & Vote and We Are Europe’ (link)

15th June – it was reported that the ad was made for Britain Stronger In Europe 

24th June – it was reported that the ads were made for We are EU (presumably ‘We are Europe’) 

Britain Stronger in Europe, Wake Up And Vote, We Are Europe, and DDB all distributed these videos widely on social media. And despite not reporting any payments towards the cost of the video, Britain Stronger in Europe hosted the advert on its website, with no branding added to suggest that it was not an official Britain Stronger in Europe video. It is important to note that the video on the website was not ‘shared’ (which might be seen as in keeping with the rules), but was actually hosted. This means that Britain Stronger in Europe were provided with a service which they then made use of in their advertising. To anyone visiting their website, it would have appeared that the video was produced by Britain Stronger in Europe for their campaign purposes. This is a clear breach of the spending rules.

Priti quite reasonably says:

This goes further than any accusations levelled at Vote Leave about having a ‘common plan’ for campaign activity. This provides demonstrable evidence that Remain campaigns colluded in producing adverts with a ‘common plan’, and in doing so avoided the cost of the project being included in Britain Stronger in Europe’s spending.

The Electoral Commission say they are considering the evidence. It would be a joke if they do not investigate this clear evidence of spending coordination…

Priti Demands New Probe Into Remain Spending and Questions Electoral Commission Impartiality

Following fresh revelations today about the Remain campaign overspend during the referendum, Priti Patel has written to the Electoral Commission calling for an investigation. Readers will remember the Electoral Commission refused to investigate previous evidence of Remain overspending, despite investigating Vote Leave for the same thing.[…] Read the rest

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