The people writing the rule books that protect our democracy are only belatedly getting to grips with a new reality of technology that enables rule breaking.
Whether you voted to remain or to leave, we should agree that rules must be the same for all.
For democracy to work, we need rules that ensure that the rich and powerful can’t buy undue influence and that the flow of donations and other payments are transparent. Our democracy can only function successfully when those in authority enforce the rules and punish wrongdoing.
And that is why it is not acceptable for the Met Police to sit on the evidence given to them by the Electoral Commission 11 months ago that found individuals involved in the 2016 European Union Brexit referendum campaign had broken the law on campaign spending limits and transparent and accurate spending reports. Three individuals and two campaigns were found to have committed these offences, with the Electoral Commission using the full force of its powers to impose the highest fines permitted by statute.
In their reports, the Electoral Commission specifically drew attention to the fact that it had found, beyond reasonable doubt, that electoral offences had been committed. The electoral offences that the Electoral Commission found were breached mirror criminal offences under the same statute. In line with their Enforcement Policy, the Electoral Commission referred the matter to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), who have since sat on the information.
That is the reason why I have joined with MPs Caroline Lucas, Tom Brake, and Ben Bradshaw to send the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) a ‘letter before claim’. This is the first step towards launching a legal challenge of the Met Police’s inaction over the referendum rule breaking and to seek an explanation as to their failure to reach a charging decision.
This follows a letter that Green MEP Molly Scott-Cato helped organise, from 77 parliamentarians, to ask the Prime Minister if any pressure had been put on the Met Police to ‘soft-pedal’ the investigation into law-breaking, following the referral by the Electoral Commission.
In this age of twitter bots, targeted social media ads, and anonymous funds flowing through PayPal accounts, the regulations and their enforcers are failing to keep up with the technology. The result is a steady stream of accusations about bad practice and rule-breaking pulled together by investigatory journalists like Carole Cadwalladr, who forensically examined the links between the technology, the manipulators and the dark money. The people writing the rule books that protect our democracy are only belatedly getting to grips with this new reality.
This crowdfunder aims to prompt the MPs into activity, but the impacts will go beyond this specific case of wrong-doing. I urge you to support this crowdfunder because action on the referendum rule breakers is part of a wider cultural change that is needed in order to defend our democracy.
Baroness Jenny Jones, a member of the House of Lords for the Green Party, voted leave in the Brexit referendum.
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