Darren Grimes is a digital campaigner and pro-Brexit activist.
On Tuesday last week, my trusty virtual assistant Alexa went off as usual with the on-the-hour pips of the Today programme. However, my morning ritual of dipping in and out of consciousness during the morning bulletin, thanks to a stubborn refusal to get out of bed, was brought to an abrupt end.
That morning the bulletin – and an appearance from the head of the Electoral Commission – alerted me to the fact that I was to be given the Commission’s maximum fine and referred to the police, without any warning or notification before the announcement hit the airwaves.
It’s quite something that Westminster’s press pack knew about this before I did; the cruellest part of that morning was that I had no opportunity to warn my family of very ordinary means that this was going to happen.
So today I want to ask you for help. I want to fight the Commission’s verdict and I want to do this for two reasons. First, I think its judgment against me is wrong, terribly unfair and vindictive. Second, I fear that, if we allow the Electoral Commission to get away with this, it will do the same to others.
In my opinion, I am just the latest in a long line of Leave campaigners against whom the Commission has issued such charges. It has consistently refused to allow Leave campaigners an opportunity to defend themselves. And it has consistently refused to launch a similar investigation into Remain – despite being offered reams of evidence. In short, I believe it is evident that the Electoral Commission is only going after those who supported Brexit two years ago.
Now, I know it may sound eccentric or ill-mannered to question the Electoral Commission’s motives. But I do not regard it as a neutral body. I think it is highly partisan. It says BeLeave didn’t exist at a time when the organisation was even writing to the Commission as BeLeave; and it has broken an undertaking to my solicitors to disclose material that the Commission now says it relies upon.
Everything I have seen and been through in the last two years has convinced me that no amount of evidence and no amount of facts will dissuade the Commission from finding me and other Leave campaigners guilty. It has not followed due process – instead it has simply ignored evidence that shows I and others didn’t do anything wrong. Material submitted to the Commission never sways its reports. BeLeave and I have been cleared several times now, so the Commission has gone after me again without fresh evidence.
It says I worked to a ‘common plan’ with Vote Leave when I ran my own original plan, but is unable to provide a single piece of evidence showing I took orders from Vote Leave. There is no evidence because I am completely innocent. This is not a neutral body.
I know what I am saying is shocking. I know what I am saying will be seen by some as being beyond the pale. But it’s the truth.
This is 21st Century Britain. This shouldn’t be happening now. This shouldn’t be happening here.
I’d also like to point out that the Commission has failed to show due process over the last two years. It failed to provide particulars of the allegation that I had a ‘common plan’ with Vote Leave; launched proceedings against me for something it knew about in 2016 and said I wouldn’t be prosecuted for; accused me of not fully co-operating without saying in what respects; and imposed the maximum penalty on me when it does not say there was dishonesty and I declared all of the relevant expenditure.
Even if you don’t believe that the Electoral Commission is acting with political bias, it appears to be vindictive.
Again, this shouldn’t be happening now. This shouldn’t be happening here.
I am not a rich person by any stretch of the imagination. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to pay the maximum fine.
But more importantly, I don’t want to let the Commission get away with this. We depend on organisations like the Commission to safeguard our democracy. Politics relies on people to put their head above the parapet and get involved – but who in their right mind would do so now?
I believe the Commission’s judgement against me was the result of bias – not the result of proper due process. I think this undermines our democracy, and I am asking for your help to stop it.
I have just three weeks to file an appeal.
According to expert legal analysis, the Commission is wrong in law, wrong in fact and has been wholly unreasonable. I am very confident that the Appeal Court will overturn the decision – and in doing so will force the Commission to reconsider the way it conducts itself. But I need your help to do it.
My appeal is going to cost tens of thousands of pounds. Please help me to see off these unfair accusations, and highlight the Commission’s failings. You can find out more at my CrowdJustice page here.