Nicholas Mazzei is a former Army Officer who now works for BT.
Earlier this year, I wrote on this site that “it’s unfair to tell us diehard Remainers to ‘get over it’”.
The article was in response to a post by Paul Goodman, who argued that we should “drop the conspiracy theories” and attacked the motivations of Chris Wylie and Shahmir Sanni, the two whistle lowers from Cambridge Analytica and BeLeave, the youth-orientated pro-Brexit group. The pair claimed that electoral law had been broken, with funds funneled illegally from Vote Leave to BeLeave, and that co-ordination had taken place between them.
At the time I said that:
“I am strongly in favour of accusations against the Remain campaign – of improper activity and spending – being investigated fully by journalists and the Electoral Commission. Leave campaigners should be equally horrified at the accusations that British democracy has been subverted by Russian interference on social media, or the breaking of spending limits by Vote Leave and BeLeave”.
On the 4th July, Vote Leave leaked their preview of the report (which they were given so that they could respond to the inquiries findings ahead of the main publication), so that they could push out claims that they were never interviewed and create a false narrative based on people’s emotions.
This was incorrect: Vote Leave repeatedly refused to attend interviews and this was revealed in the Electoral Commission’s full report. As a response, Vote Leave was fined £61,000 for the breaking of electoral law and Darren Grimes, who led BeLeave, has been fined £20,000.
And so I have waited, patiently, for the chorus of cries from Conservatives about being misled by Vote Leave, criminal activity in our electoral system and damning the experienced campaigners who sat on the board of Vote Leave and now occupy senior positions in government. I have waited for the many journalists who attacked me on Twitter to apologise for accusing me of being a promoter of post-truth arguments supporting Remain. Neither the outcry nor the apologies have come.
Today, however, I see a concerted campaign by Brexit-supporting Conservatives, journalists, and this very website, to support Grimes in appealing against the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission has referred their evidence to the police and this could result in criminal charges against Grimes and the Directors of Vote Leave, one of whom is now our Brexit Secretary. Wylie was attacked for being a member of the Lib Dems, while Grimes (who in 2015 was a Lib Dem and hailed Charles Kennedy’s leadership) is celebrated a hero of Brexit.
In his article on this site yesterday, Grimes wrote that the Electoral Commission “has consistently refused to allow Leave campaigners an opportunity to defend themselves. And it has consistently refused to launch a similar investigation into Remain”. Both of these are incorrect.
The report itself says that the Vote Leave campaign refused to be interviewed and work with the investigation. His claim that the Remain campaign wasn’t investigated is not only incorrect, but also Remain campaign was fined £19,000 for failing to declare its spending properly during the EU referendum campaign. The Liberal Democrats were fined £18,000 of that for “failing to provide acceptable invoices or receipts for 80 payments”.
In the words of Sanni: “Vote Leave are used to not giving the facts. And only presenting people with the ‘opinion’. What we are looking at here are literally the law vs opinion. Whose side are you on?”
The law has been broken. This is not about so-called treasonous Remainers sitting on the Electoral Commission, or unpatriotic Brits trying to usurp the democratic “voice of the people”. This is about illegal activity. The Conservative party supports the rule of law and in the UK, the law always wins. We should choose to be on the side of it.