Journalist and filmmaker Edward Lawrence was happy to report last night that the documentary he had been working on recently was a wrap. “It's 12.30am on the 30th March, an hour and a half after we're supposed to have left the EU … IT’S A WRAP!!! Thanks @bbclaurak for the past 9 months. The Brexit Storm airs Monday 9pm on BBC Two. #brexit”. A smiling Laura Kuenssberg was at front of shot.
The BBC’s political editor may not be smiling so much at other Brexit-related news this morning, though, as Jim Pickard of the FT told yesterday: “Vote Leave has dropped its appeal against the Electoral Commission, the elections watchdog has announced”. Steve Peers observed “It's now definitive that Vote Leave broke election spending law. They dropped the case on Friday afternoon in the hope that no one would notice”.
So what was the big deal? The EC put it directly. “Vote Leave has today withdrawn its appeal and related proceedings against the Electoral Commission’s finding of multiple offences under electoral law, committed during the 2016 EU referendum campaign … We have been advised that Vote Leave has paid its £61,000 fine”. That’s what.
And that’s why Ms Kuenssberg might best advised not to smile too much right now: she did, after all, effectively take dictation from Vote Leave’s Matthew Elliott when the lawbreaking was first revealed, the BBC report spinning Vote Leave’s behaviour as mere “rule-breaking”. Ms K even told “it is not thought that the new information was decisive in proving a breach of the law”. When there had been a breach of the law.
Moreover, Theresa May’s adviser Stephen Parkinson was intimately involved in the lawbreaking. VL’s political supporters were suspiciously adjacent to the wrongdoing, too - notably Michael “Oiky” Gove and London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. And here was the BBC sweeping it under the carpet.
Unsurprisingly, Jo Maugham had one question after seeing VL drop its appeal. “Hey, @bbclaurak. As I recall, you offered the BBC up as @matthew_elliott's de facto press agency when he alleged this was all but mere allegation. Any chance of you covering it now he's in effect admitted Vote Leave cheated?” He was not alone.
The Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr reflected “The TIMING! On the day Britain was set to leave European Union, the official campaign finally admits it broke the law. Deliberately. Massively. And overseen by Theresa May’s closest advisor & one of her ministers”. And as to Bozza denying there was any cheating, she had one more question.
“Johnson led this campaign. He oversaw a huge deliberate fraud. He’s never been asked questions about it. #VoteLeave did not win ‘fair & square’. Will you now retract this comment?” Well, will you, Bozza? Do you feel … lucky?
Worse for those out there on the right, VL dropping their appeal means flap-mouthed nonentity Darren Grimes is next in line for paying his particular version of Two Dollars. Never mind the documentaries, Ms Kuenssberg - let’s see some credible reporting.
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