Was anyone really in any doubt why the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr was so viciously shouted down by those backing the Leave campaign in the 2016 EU referendum? Anything and everything she said or did was latched on to and rubbished, any correction issued by her paper paraded by the less principled and easily led as conclusive evidence that whatever she said about misbehaviour in that campaign was wrong.
Dominic Cummings ... perhaps goings
Well, now we know - officially, and with the backing of a number of leading QCs - that Ms Cadwalladr and her colleagues were not only on the right track, but had their story right too. The law was broken by the Leave campaign. Just let that sink in, as they say.
The opinion prepared by Matrix Chambers for the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has reviewed the evidence presented, and states “On the basis of this evidence, we consider that there are strong grounds to infer that Vote Leave was involved in the decision by which the AIQ payments were made (by it, to AIQ, ostensibly on behalf of Darren Grimes), that it was aware of the scope of the work which would be conducted pursuant to those payments, and that the payments were incurred by Vote Leave to promote the outcome for which Vote Leave campaigned, and/or in concert with BeLeave”.
And their conclusion? “We consider that there is a prima facie case that … electoral offences were committed by Vote Leave in the EU referendum campaign and that these require urgent investigation so that consideration can be given to whether to refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision on whether to prosecute”.
Stephen Parkinson ... desperate outing explained
A number of offences under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) and European Union Referendum Act 2015 (EURA) are then detailed. The first name in the frame is Vote Leave’s “responsible person” David Halsall. But he is not the only one who should be worried right now.
The opinion continues “The evidence also suggests that among the prominent people at Vote Leave who were engaged in discussions between Vote Leave and BeLeave were Dominic Cummings, employed at relevant times as Vote Leave’s Campaign Director;
Stephen Parkinson, at relevant times Vote Leave’s National Organiser … and Cleo Watson, at relevant times Head of Outreach at Vote Leave”. Do go on.
“We consider that on the current information there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the offences under ss 118(2) and 122(4)(b) were committed with the knowledge, assistance and agreement of Mr Cummings”. Hello Dominic Cummings.
“There are certainly reasonable grounds for the Commission to use its powers under Schedule 19B PPERA to investigate whether any election offences committed by Vote Leave and Mr Halsall were committed with the knowledge, assistance and agreement of other senior figures/officers in Vote Leave, including Mr Parkinson and Ms Watson. If so, by virtue of section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977, they would be guilty of conspiring to commit those offences. They may also be guilty of the substantive offences as aiders and abettors”. That explains rather a lot. So let me sum up.
Dominic Cummings has spewed a whole torrent of verbiage in response to Ms Cadwalladr’s investigation, and even threatened to resort to legal action, although, as I pointed out at the time, he had not even bothered to avail himself of a lawyer.
Stephen Parkinson, now an apparently indispensable member of Theresa May’s Downing Street team, viciously outed Shahmir Sanni. The opinion provided to the DCMS Committee goes a long way towards telling why he would do such a thing in order to shut Sanni up.
The revelation of lawbreaking by the Leave campaign calls the entire referendum process into question, and therefore puts the legality of the result in doubt. Hence all the shouting down and calls of “non-story” coming from the Leave side and their supporters.
And as if that were not bad enough news for the Leave side, we now have a third whistleblower coming forward, with Ms Cadwalladr promising more news, which will presumably come with Sunday’s edition of the Observer.
This afternoon, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have fallen silent on the subject. So is mercenary shouter-downer Isabel Oakeshott. And Tim Shipman. And Andrew Neil. As are the rest of the Leave-backing naysayers whose only response to the gathering storm was to pretend it wasn’t there.
The conclusion is clear: the Leave campaign is now on a clear trajectory to being bust. As Winshton once put it in another context: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.