Oxford Professor’s Car Crash Attempt to Discredit Referendum Result

The online-only Independent’s “front page” today breathlessly reported that “illegal Facebook spending ‘won 2016 vote for Leave'”. Philip Howard, a professor at the “Oxford Internet Institute” said it was his “professional opinion” that it was “very likely” that “excessive spending by Vote Leave altered the result of the referendum”. Howard is due to put his “evidence” to the High Court tomorrow…

On closer inspection, it appears “very likely” that Howard’s evidence is a load of utter rubbish, with statisticians having a field day tearing apart his numbers on Twitter. Howard’s calculations get off to a good start with his assumption that 80 million people saw Vote Leave Facebook ads during the so-called “period of excess spending”. That’s in a country of 66 million people, with an electorate of 46.5 million. By Howard’s calculation, 172% of the electorate saw Vote Leave’s ads…

Of those 80 million people, Howard then claims to use a “conservative industry estimate” that 10% of people who saw the ads would have clicked on them. Of that 10%, he claims that 10% believe, and then “a further 10% of that number can be expected to do something”. Except in his own calculation, he entirely emits his own final step, claiming that 800,000 people (10% of 10% of his imaginary electorate of 80 million) had their votes swung by the ads in the final week of the referendum, rather than 80,000 as his own model predicts. Leave won by over 1.2 million votes…

Moreover, the source he cites for his “conservative industry estimate” estimate of 10% click-through rate – a book called New Media Campaigns and the Managed Citizen – says “banner ads on politics topics generally had a 1 percent click-through rate”. The author of this venerable source? A certain Professor Philip Howard…

Even glossing over Howard’s other major errors, including… deep breath… conflating organic Vote Leave post impressions with paid ad impressions, assuming that the entirety of his imaginary electorate uses Facebook, ignoring the fact that Stronger In were also running huge numbers of Facebook ads and that more people made up their minds to vote Remain than Leave in the final week, assuming that everyone who decided to vote Leave after seeing an ad had previously been planning to vote Remain, the maximum number of people whose votes could have been swung – according to his own methodology – is 4,650. There’s wishful thinking, and then there’s pure and utter fantasy…

UPDATE: For any readers looking to enjoy more of Howard’s stellar “research”, Guido can heartily recommend this paper where he defines all Twitter accounts tweeting more than 50 times a day as bots. Although if you do fall into that category yourself, Guido might suggest getting a few other hobbies…

Information Commissioner Crushes Carole’s Conspiracies

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”…

UK Will Lose Rebate if it Stays in EU

The EU’s Budget Commissioner has confirmed that Britain would lose its budget rebate in the highly unlikely scenario that the UK stays in the EU. Gunther Oettinger made it clear that the UK would not keep the “mother of all rebates” if it held a second referendum and decided to stay in the EU:

“Even if, in the improbable but pleasant case if the UK were to Remain… the gradual exit from the rebate would still be kept. I think that it is something that is no longer appropriate…”

Spendthrift Eurocrats have had their sights set on the UK’s rebate ever since it was created – losing it would mean over £5 billion more of UK taxpayers’ money going to the EU every year. Vote Leave always insisted that the rebate should be included in the UK’s contributions as it was not a fixed entity and was continuously at risk of being demanded back by the EU. They have been proved right…

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…

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?

Darren Raises in 24 Hours What Shahmir Raised in 100 Days

Carole Cadwalladr’s Vote Leave ‘whistleblower’ Shahmir Sanni (also known as Zoolander) started his own crowdfunder page, despite already having expensive lawyers and mysterious generous powerful donors, on 16 April, more than 100 days ago.

BeLeave Brexit legend and victim of the biased Electoral Commission Darren Grimes started his crowdfunder yesterday, backed by hard-working Guido readers.

In that time you have raised £46,000 for Darren’s case (averaging £32 each), eclipsing the £45,000 Zoolander raised in over three months. On average that’s £18/hr for Remain and £1,917/hr for Leave. Power of the 17.4 million…

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…

Remain Campaign Used Same Spending Tactics as Vote Leave, But Far Worse

Since this issue is in the spotlight again, Guido brings you a reminder that the Remain campaign did exactly the same thing that Vote Leave is accused of, only far, far worse. In the month before the vote the Remainers set up FIVE new campaigns and funnelled a MILLION pounds into them so they could stay under the spending limit:

  • DDB UK Ltd registered as an independent campaign on 25 May 2016, less than a month before the referendum. DDB UK Ltd received £191,000 in donations.

  • Best For Our Future registered as a permitted participant on 27 May 2016, less than a month before the referendum. It received £424,000 in donations

  • The In Crowd registered on 10 June 2016, less than two weeks before the referendum. It received £76,000 in donations.

  • Virgin Management Ltd registered as a permitted participant on 3 June 2016, less than three weeks before the referendum. It received £210,000 in donations.

  • Wake Up And Vote registered as a permitted participant on 24 May 2016, less than a month before the referendum. It received £100,000 in donations.

The Remain campaign did exactly the same thing as Vote Leave, only with more money and with five new campaigns…

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…

How Dominic Cummings Cost Taxpayers £20 Billion

Months ago Dominic Cummings was shopping around polling that he had done showing that the Tories could win the next election almost only by conceding the NHS argument and splurging more money on it. Remember Boris going public on the need to spend more money on the NHS at the beginning of the year? He had seen the polling and been won over by the argument. Which of course also conveniently solved that exhortion-on-the-side-of-a-bus problem for Boris which obstructed, like a stalled bus, the path to him becoming PM. Theresa May today calling the £20 billion NHS spending hike “a Brexit dividend” paves the way for Boris to argue at either a leadership hustings or a general election that the government has delivered on the exhortion he made. That’s why he’s happy…

Jeremy Hunt of course wanted the money, as all Health Secretaries do, whatever he spins about threatening to resign it wasn’t his pleading alone that won the day. Brexiters in government are being bought off by Theresa May, Leave-backing ministers have consistently demanded that the Brexit dividend be spent on the NHS. Given the PM is about to deliberately deliver the de minimis Brexit possible consistent with actually exiting the EU, giving Leavers in government a win to point at is a necessary lubricant for the shafting they are about to get. Whatever your view of the likely magnitude of the Brexit dividend it is clear that it will not be reaped for a good few years yet. This NHS splurge is about politics and will be funded by increased borrowing and delaying the balancing of the budget for a generation. Electorally it takes away Corbyn’s best card, out-flanking him on spending on the NHS…

The Conservative Party in parliament and in the country will swallow it because they would privatise their grandmothers to stop Corbyn and McDonnell getting into Downing Street. Cummings is now one step closer to being chief-of-staff to Prime Minister Boris… or Gove.

Cummings Threatens Commons Poster Protest

John Bercow has entertained the ridiculous charade of grandstanding Remoaner Damian Collins attempting to compel Vote Leave boss Dominic Cummings to come to his committee, allowing a debate on the great pressing issue of our nation tomorrow. Guido is reliably informed that Cummings is threatening to mount some form of protest from the public gallery. One suggestion being  considered, inspired by the epic CBI ‘voice of Brussels’ stunt during the referendum, is that Cummings could unveil a banner during the debate which says “Where the f**k is our £350 million a week for the NHS?” Wouldn’t be the first time he’s hijacked the Six O’Clock News with Vote Leave’s core message…

Ex-Vote Leave Staff Targeted With Dodgy Data Pitch

Former Vote Leave staff have been targeted with a dodgy business proposition promising to make them “serious amounts of money” if they share their campaign secrets. This email has gone to several ex-Vote Leave staffers, who smell a rat:

I have a new proposition, which is completely left field, but we believe will disrupt the traditional advertising TV model, and will disrupt the big advertising agencies as well.

We (that is myself and a few colleagues) are almost there with the technical solution, which is being developed in Finland, but we need a marketing plan to build the scale fast, and that is where we were attracted to your profile, particularly with your work with Vote Leave, which addressed real people rather than the ad industry. We will need a Facebook/ Instagram campaign to recruit thousands of people in a short period of time.

This promises to make serious amounts of money, and we would love to discuss this further with you, if you were able to meet us in London some time?

Yesterday Guido reported that Dispatches journalists were on a fishing expedition attempting to get former Vote Leave staffers to flip. Watch out…

Brexit Drama Cast List in Full

Channel 4 have today announced a new drama about the referendum starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Dominic Cummings. Guido has some suggestions for the rest of the cast…

Rimmer from Red Dwarf as Vote Leave boss Matthew Elliott. He’s already nailed the mannerisms.

Vote Leave comms chief Paul Stephenson would have to be played by Bob Odenkirk, aka Saul from Breaking Bad. “Better Call Saul” becomes “Better Call Paul”.

Surely Damian Lewis as Vote Leave spinner Rob “Roxstar” Oxley? He already has the coat and scarf.

Vote Leave’s Lee Cain and James Starkie, above right, were key players behind the scenes and are now SpAds for Boris and Gove respectively. They’d be played by Right Said Fred.

Seriously, how good is this one?

Perma-tanned Leave.EU wind up artist Andy Wigmore would be played by Deuce Bigalow’s Rob Schneider. He knows why.

Cambridge Analytica’s Alexander Nix is the spit of Stephen Merchant. And about as comical a character. 

This being Channel 4, the show will no doubt be a big Remainer whinge about data. Sheldon from Big Bang Theory is BeLeave money man Darren Grimes.

Kelly Osbourne just needs a slight trim and a pair of glasses and she is Observer whistleblower Chris Wylie.

Fellow whistleblower Shahmir Sanni promised Watergate and delivered a dodgy Zoolander. He’d be played by Ben Stiller.

And, guest starring as Carole Cadwalladr, Homeland’s Claire Danes.

Coming soon…

UK Contribution to EU is £363 Million-a-Week*

According to the latest official figures from the ONS, the UK contribution to the EU was £18.9 billion in 2016. That is £363.5 million a week, slightly more than was on the side of the Vote Leave bus…

After the rebate is taken into account the net figure becomes £13.9 billion or £267 million a week. The ONS reports that a further £4.4 billion came back to the UK public sector and private sector in credits in 2016, taking the net figure down to a final £9.4 billion or £180 million a week. That is £143 for each man, woman and child a year.

Simon Stevens Embraces £350 Million For NHS

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens used to hype up the risks to the NHS of leaving the EU. He even went on Marr during the referendum to personally condemn Vote Leave’s £350 million a week figure. So Guido welcomes Steven’s conversion to the cause at today’s NHS conference in Birmingham, where he has called on the government to spend the Brexit dividend on the NHS: “Vote Leave for a better funded health service – £350 million a week”. Having his cake and eating it? Or is Stevens finally embracing the benefits of Brexit…

Momentum Use Vote Leave Actress in Student Debt Video

Momentum last night posted a rushed rebuttal video attempting to limit the damage of Corbyn’s student debt u-turn. An eagle-eyed co-conspirator has noticed they employed the services of the same actress who starred in Vote Leave’s famous campaign video on the NHS back in May 2016. Sources confirmed the curly-haired blonde is indeed one and the same person. Does this mean Labour will be promising £350 million a week for the NHS?

Dom Cummings’ Referendum Night Victory Speech


Complete with ceiling smash…

Vote Leave Boss Matthew Elliott Joins Legatum Institute

Vote Leave boss and EU referendum mastermind Matthew Elliott is joining the Legatum Institute. Elliott joins as a Senior Fellow and will work on the “progress and possibilities of a UK-US trade deal and exploring and researching the rise of Populism abroad, with special focus on the US and those countries facing significant elections this year and next (France, Netherlands and Germany)”. Baroness Stroud, Legatum Institute CEO said: 

“Matthew’s proven campaigning skills, strength of thought leadership and ability to deliver transformational results make him key to that vision. We could not be more delighted that he has chosen to come and join the Legatum team.”

Elliott said:

I’m delighted to be joining the Legatum Institute as a Senior Fellow because Philippa and her team are uniquely placed to provide clear thinking for not only the UK Government, but also for policy makers right across the world. Brexit provides us with an opportunity to promote global prosperity by strengthening free trade, and the Institute is one of the only think-tanks with the skills and global reach to achieve this important objective. Clarity of thought is also required on the rise of Populism, and I look forward to analysing the similarities and differences between public opinion in Britain and overseas.”

A great hire to work on some very timely topics…

Vote Leave Alumni Tell May To Spend Brexit Dividend on NHS

brexit

Thirteen leading Leave campaigners including Michael Gove and Gisela Stuart have urged the government to keep Vote Leave’s referendum pledge and spend the Brexit ‘dividend’ on the NHS. Buried in Wednesday’s OBR report was the revelation that Britain will get back an extra £32 billion when we leave the EU, approximately the £250 million per week figure which Vote Leave said was the net amount currently being paid to Brussels. During the referendum Vote Leave famously suggested that money could be spent on the NHS. Today Gove, Gisela, Steve Baker and others say:

“When we leave the EU we will be able to take back control of the billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money we send to Brussels each year. We will be able to decide how we spend that money rather than EU bureaucrats. The OBR has revealed that the British people will get back over £10 billion net a year once we leave the EU. We believe that this Brexit dividend should be spent on our priorities – the most important of which is our NHS.”
The OBR verdict is that Vote Leave’s referendum pledge can ultimately be kept by Theresa May, it is up to her whether she wants to do it. It’ll be very interesting to see Number 10 and the Treasury’s reaction, the Brexiteers are starting to reassert themselves…

Referendum Battle Bus Challenge

buses

Above are the real life buses that Vote Leave, Britain Stronger In Europe, UKIP and Labour In used for the EU referendum campaign. But can you guess which one is which? Answers in the comments..[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Andrea Leadsom told BBC Radio 4’s Today

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