There is no word this morning from mercenary hack Isabel Oakeshott; just spin and deflection from the Vote Leave campaign: the official Leave campaign has been confirmed to have broken the law. As the Guardian has reported, “Vote Leave … broke election spending law, the Electoral Commission said this morning. The commission has imposed fines on Vote Leave and on Darren Grimes, the founder of BeLeave, another leave campaign, which the commission says was spending money on behalf of Vote Leave.”
There was more bad news: “Grimes and a Vote Leave official have also been reported to the police ‘in relation to false declarations of campaign spending’”. The BBC has finally conceded “The investigation found ‘significant evidence of joint working’ between the group and another organisation - BeLeave - leading to it exceeding its spending limit by almost £500,000.” Half a million quid of overspend.
Vote Leave ... the lies ...
Also, “Vote Leave also returned an ‘incomplete and inaccurate spending report’, with almost £234,501 reported incorrectly, and invoices missing for £12,849.99 of spending, the watchdog said”. And Grimes’ involvement? “BeLeave founder Darren Grimes has also been fined and referred to the police for breaking the group's spending limit by more than £665,000 and wrongly reporting the spending as his own”.
... and the liars who told them
Vote Leave is trying desperately to spin its way out of this, blustering “It is astonishing that nobody from Vote Leave has been interviewed by the commission in the production of this report, nor indeed at any point in the past two years”. That’s because, as Electoral Commission CEO Claire Bassett has pointed out, “I’m disappointed nobody was interviewed from Vote Leave as well. We asked them five times over a period of three months to provide somebody to be interviewed and they didn’t do so”.
As Vote Leave tries to extricate itself from a hole of its own making, those who doggedly pursued this story have once again been vindicated, not least the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, who has noted “It’s not @matthew_elliott who’s referred to the police, it’s his stooges including @darrengrimes_ who was a student at the time. Note ‘other related offences’ may have been committed & files passed to the police”. There is more.
“@BorisJohnson may have strategically jumped ship but other leader of the campaign @michaelgove still a minister. And it was @theresa_may’s political secretary who oversaw this overspending scheme. The govt is up to its neck in this & MUST be held to account”. So who is going to hold them to account? Don’t all shout at once.
The whistleblowers have also been vindicated, with Shahmir Sanni letting the world know he told them so. “The shit I went through to for this...now you all know that I was fired for this, outed for this by Number 10, character assassinated by the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Conservative Party. Now you know. They did it all to protect their friends. They backed CRIMINALS”. The press establishment have some explaining to do.
Not that we’ll get much of an explanation, if any. And Peter Jukes of Byline Media had harsh words for two of the key doubters. “So much for 'chasing unicorns' @IsabelOakeshott or 'conspiracist nonsense' @afneil Of course neither of you have the grace to apologise to @carolecadwalla. But in the end it doesn't matter. Your lack of judgement has been exposed”. Phone hacking all over again.
That should hurt Neil especially, as he called the latter scandal right from the word go. Meanwhile, others were picking up on Ms Cadwalladr’s point about the Vote Leave gofers being thrown under the bus, Jolyon Maugham musing “Vote Leave's own document says Michael Gove met on a daily basis to ensure ‘the Campaign is on track’. Did he really know nothing about this huge overspending of campaign funds, which has now been referred to the police?” Gove was close to all of this. How close?
The Tweeter known as My Sweet Landlord showed how close. “Michael Grove just popping out to the cash point? Or will Vote Leave just hang Darren Grimes out to dry?” The photo shows how close. And yes, he probably will be hung out to dry.
Someone else the authorities might want to interview is London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, especially given his recent claim “Observer/C4 story utterly ludicrous, #VoteLeave won fair & square - and legally. We are leaving the EU in a year and going global”. That’s the same person who called phone hacking at the Screws ”codswallop … looks like a politically motivated put-up job by the Labour party”.
The official referendum Leave campaign cheated. It’s highly likely their counterparts in Leave EU did so too. They lied wilfully and repeatedly. It is now time for Government to do something about it. Because if they don’t, it legitimises lawbreaking. End of story.