Those who dismissed the idea that wrongdoing in and around the 2016 EU referendum campaign was like the Phone Hacking scandal, but only worse, may have had cause to stop and think today, after the good people at Open Democracy showed that it was actually far, far worse. Because this time, the Metropolitan Police are not merely making excuses - they aren’t making anything at all.
Back in 2009, after Nick Davies at the Guardian had begun to prise the lid off the can of worms that the Murdoch mafiosi would rather have kept firmly sealed, it was Yates of the Yard who claimed there was nothing to see here, and that we should therefore all move along. What was suspected, and confirmed soon afterwards, was that Yates was sitting on enough evidence to show the Murdochs had been in charge of a criminal enterprise.
This time, after both Vote Leave and Leave EU were shown to have broken the law by the Electoral Commission, there was no mere suspicion that criminal activity had taken place - we already knew that. So it was doubly shocking to read “Police still not investigating Leave campaigns, citing ‘political sensitivities’ … Months after Scotland Yard received ‘substantial’ evidence of potential criminality by pro-Leave groups, nothing has happened”.
The investigation by Adam Ramsay and Jim Cusick, the latter having foregone a payout from his former employers at the Independent so he could blow the whistle on their shameful cave-in to the bullies of the press establishment over the John Whittingdale revelations, pulls no punches on calling out the Met for its inertia.
“Despite being handed their first dossier of evidence of potential crimes committed by pro-Leave groups over five months ago, the police force has made no progress nor logged a formal case into the activities of either Vote Leave, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, or Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit campaign bankrolled by Arron Banks”, they tell.
They go on “The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) was then expected to investigate whether key individuals, including Leave.EU’s campaign chief, Liz Bilney; Vote Leave’s board official, David Halsall; and the founder of BeLeave, Darren Grimes, had committed related criminal offences … the Met revealed it has yet to start any formal investigation, and has remained effectively stalled for months in ‘assessing evidence’ … a Scotland Yard spokesman admitted there were issues and ‘political sensitivities’”.
But the EC has presented them with the evidence. Small wonder the likes of Jolyon Maugham have called the situation “profoundly troubling”. Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has also registered his disappointment. They were not alone.
The Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr has set out why: “Met police NOT investigating criminal behaviour by Leave campaigns citing ‘political sensitivities’. AFTER Electoral Commission rules they broke law and hands over evidence”, and Peter Jukes of Byline Media has reminded us “This happened with Murdoch phone hacking in 2009, political pressure stopped Met from investigating. Now the stakes are much much higher, and we cannot afford a two year coverup”. Not with Brexit rapidly coming down the track we can’t.
Anyone might conclude someone wanted this hushed up. I’ll just leave that one there.
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