Wed 2 December 2020

The dark arts channelled by Johnson, Gove and Cummings are still infiltrating our politics – but we can change this if we act quickly

The last thing we at Byline Times want to do is write another piece about Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings.

For our eight months of existence, their wrongdoing while running the Vote Leave campaign has been a consistent theme of this newspaper. Only this week we published an article that had been rejected by another media outlet for ‘legal reasons’ by Ian Lucas MP, a senior member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which held Cummings in contempt for avoiding questioning and is still seeking answers from Michael Gove. 

But, with an election in the offing, we can’t back off. All the same problems that vitiated the EU Referendum campaign threaten to undermine any general election. As a Vote Leave insider told Byline Times earlier this year, everyone tries to walk away with the data, and all those hacked Facebook profiles and illicitly gained voter details are still available for party campaigning now. 

Then there’s the massive illegal overspends which Vote Leave pioneered. The campaign accepted it broke electoral law and the Met Police are (still) investigating. But the truth is that, given modern finance and digital campaigning, neither the Information Commissioner’s Office nor the Electoral Commission can do much until after the event, and merely impose derisory fines which are described these days as a ‘cost of business’. 

The only way to combat the dirty data and dark money is urgent legislation, something which both watchdogs have asked for. 

But here comes to the rub. The prime beneficiaries of election cheating are Johnson, Gove and Cummings – who are currently in power. Why would they indict themselves by prosecuting practices they have pioneered? This would be like turkeys voting for Christmas.

Oh wait. We are being expected to vote at Christmas. The only way to stop the next general election turning into a turkey shoot is by the majority of MPs, who are not with the current administration on most issues, actively passing legislation to secure the next election and protect our democracy from foreign interference, overspending and targeted disinformation.  

Stay up to date with news from the Byline Times Team

Thank youfor reading this article

New to Byline Times? Find out about us

Our leading investigations include Russian Interference, Coronavirus, Cronyism and Far Right Radicalisation. We also introduce new voices of colour in Our Lives Matter.

Support our journalists

To have an impact, our investigations need an audience.

But emails don’t pay our journalists, and nor do billionaires or intrusive ads. We’re funded by readers’ subscription fees:

Or donate to our campaign to commission more investigations.

More stories filed under Editorial

More stories filed under Argument