Both the major Leave campaigns in the 2016 EU referendum campaign have been caught breaking the law. Leave EU broke its spending limit so blatantly that it has been handed a fine. Vote Leave, according to an opinion drawn up for the DCMS Committee, has been involved in lawbreaking on such a scale that several of its principals should expect to have criminal charges levelled against it - including more busting of spending limits.
And yet, and yet: still the smears, persistently suggesting that it was the Remain side that were the real lawbreakers, keep on coming, mainly though the efforts of disgraced former Tory minister Priti Patel. Her claims have been obediently amplified by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog.
The barrage of propaganda from The Great Guido has been incessant, and indeed has ramped back up over the weekend. Written up by teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, Ms Patel’s frankly lame attempts to smear the Remain campaign have been given top billing. So the question has to be asked - why dedicate so much effort to a lost cause?
Ms Patel’s accusations are introduced with the Ron Hopeful-style assertion “Priti Patel has handed a dossier of evidence to the Electoral Commission that demonstrates beyond doubt that the various Remain campaigns coordinated their spending in breach of the rules”. But one look at her claims over third party videos shows no such thing.
Here’s a few samples: “The remainder of the cost appears to have been funded by a mixture of payments and donations from other campaigns and major Remain donors [she doesn’t know] … it is unclear what precise advertising it is for [still doesn’t know] … multiple campaigns were reported to be involved in producing the videos [someone else says They Done It] … it was reported that the ads were made for We Are Europe [ditto]”.
There was more: “it was reported that the videos are a ‘collaboration between agencies’ [more second hand claims] … it was reported that the ad was made for Britain Stronger In Europe [ditto] … it was reported that the ads were made for We are EU (presumably ‘We are Europe’) [ditto, plus a little presumption]”.
Posting third party video content on social media, as I’ve pointed out previously, is fine. It’s not collusion, it’s not against the rules, and it’s therefore going nowhere. Yet this is not the only salvo from the Fawkes rabble - there has been another one today, aimed at Channel 4 Dispatches. Once again, there is a claim of Remain collusion.
“Journalists from Dispatches are ringing round former junior Vote Leave volunteers on a fishing expedition to find the next Chris Wylie or Shahmir Shah. Guido understands the programme is focusing on alleged co-ordination between Vote Leave and BeLeave” tells Wickham, before trying to persuade readers to Look Over There.
You’ll love this one. “For some strange reason Channel 4 don’t seem interested in investigating the much greater evidence of co-ordination between the various Remain campaigns, which the Electoral Commission is also looking into. Is this an impartial use of taxpayers’ money?” But there isn’t any evidence, Ms Patel and her cheerleaders are just travelling hopefully, and the Electoral Commission will most likely throw their claims out.
At which point the question has to be asked - is The Great Guido undertaking this ultimately pointless work without any prompting? My Occam’s Razor tells me, in view of Staines’ mercenary expertise, that he isn’t. So who is paying? What do they expect to get out of the exercise? Isn’t it obvious that this is no more than time wasting?
The evidence against both Vote Leave and Leave EU is conclusive, to the extent that criminal charges are possible against the former, with a fine having already been levied against the latter. Just posting a string of items saying “the other lot did it too because we said so” isn’t going to cut it. Nor is sniggering “Guido hopes their ability to clock a Walter Mitty is better than the shambolic Carole Cadwalladr charade with the less than reliable Wylie and Shahmir”. Ms Cadwalladr is a reliable journalist; the Fawkes mob is neither.
So once again the question has to be put. Whose interest is the Fawkes rabble serving by what looks like a pointless attempt to sling mud at the Remain campaign? It ain’t just a pet project of Staines and Wickham. What’s the game?
Of course, the result of that game is an easy one: it will get nowhere. Another fine mess.