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Thu 18 July 2019
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Even though they’re crucial to the security of future elections, the British institutions supposed to be safeguarding democracy are playing the game of passing the buck.


The Fierce Emergency of Now

The Met Police yesterday accused the elections watchdog of withholding information relevant to its investigation into the alleged criminal wrongdoing by the Leave campaigns during the EU Referendum – yet another diversion by our decaying institutions, putting the UK’s democracy in danger.

Both the Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaigns were referred by the Electoral Commission to the Met Police for potential criminal investigation into breaches of electoral law more than a year ago now.

With a general election looming and the political parties fragmented, this institutional spat leaves the UK vulnerable to more overspending, foreign influence and digital dark arts.

Boris Johnson, favourite to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, was the figurehead of the official Vote Leave campaign. Shahmir Sanni, a staffer at its offshoot BeLeave who turned whistleblower last year, told Byline Times that Johnson “must have known” about the cheating during the EU Referendum.

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage is facing an Electoral Commission investigation into the PayPal funding of his new Brexit Party, after Turlough Conway exclusively revealed in Byline Times that the security settings for its fundraising were the least secure possible – with the implication that much of the £2m plus donations in a month that Farage claimed were crowdfunded could be ‘impermissible’ and need to be returned.


Killing Time: Passing the Buck

Byline Times asked the Met Police in February about the progress of its investigation and about reports that up to 11 politicians are subjects of interest.

This newspaper also reported the concerns of Labour politicians, including David Lammy and Stephen Kinnock, who fear that a “cover-up” of sorts may be at work.

Last week, MPs Ben Bradshaw, Caroline Lucas, Fiona Mactaggart, Tom Brake and peer Jenny Jones announced that they would be bringing a judicial review against the Met Commissioner Cressida Dick over the force’s delays.

But, in an extraordinary tale of ‘pass the buck’, a legal letter from the Met Police in response to this has pointed the finger back at the Electoral Commission.

It stated: “The Metropolitan Police formed the view that the Electoral Commission has not disclosed all of the documents in its possession or control that are potentially relevant to its investigation. The Met has sought further disclosure from the commission on a number of occasions. Some further disclosure has been provided to the commission… The commission remains of the view that the commission has not disclosed all of the documents in its possession or control that are potentially relevant to the Met investigation.”

The Electoral Commission slammed the Met Police, in turn, saying that these allegations were “unfounded, misleading and incorrect”.

The bickering of the two agencies responsible for ensuring the rule of law and safety of our elections is not only irresponsible. With a general election looming, and our political parties fragmented, this institutional spat leaves the UK vulnerable to more overspending, foreign influence and digital dark arts.

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