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Vote Leave broke law on election spending

Monday 23rd July 2018 | Jake

The watchdog on election spending, the Electoral Commission, has fined Vote Leave, the official designated campaign to leave the European Union, £61,000 and reported their conduct to the police.

Allegations of overspending have dogged the Vote Leave HQ since campaigning began, and now the commission say they have found “significant evidence” the group coordinated funds with BeLeave, a fellow campaign group fronted by fashion student Darren Grimes.

The commission found that Vote Leave had spent £500,000 more than the legal spending limit of £7m for the campaign, while also refusing to cooperate with the commission’s report and rejected requests for interviews. The commission’s chief executive, Claire Bassett, bemoaned Vote Leave’s antics, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme “over a three-month period we actually made five attempts to interview Vote Leave and we [the Electoral Commission] were unable to.”

Vote Leave initially insisted that it was the commission that had been uncooperative over the investigation, upon the release of the report into election spending, however, the group would only say they found the commission’s findings “wholly inaccurate.”

Vote Leave have consistently denied breaking electoral spending limits, despite fastidious media attention and now the surveying eye of the law. However, the commission has been explicit in its criticism of the group’s conduct during the investigation. Vote Leave repeatedly asked for the investigation to be closed, also sending legal letters to the commission promising to judicially review the investigation. Furthermore, the commission says having fought a trying battle to obtain relevant documents from the campaign group, said documents were either incorrect or incomplete.

The commission’s Bob Posner reflected that the investigation had exposed “serious breaches of the laws put in place by parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums.” All of which begs the question, what now? The law was broken, the purity of a democratic process was defiled (nothing new here), and the fallout appears to be a fine and a firm slap on the wrist (again, nothing new).

The status quo of Britain in transition has resumed. The fleeting hope resultant of a brexit related shambles has made way for despondency once again for beleaguered remainers; Theresa May has batted away any notion of another referendum, this commission barely registering within her purview, apparently. And all the while brexiteers continue to pedal spurious, tinfoil hat claims of unfair bias and surreptitious political agendas out to wreak havoc on the idyllic brexit reality.

As the irony of Vote Leave supporters deploring the unfairness of the investigation eventually transitions from funny to sad, it’s worth noting the greater irony: as Vote Leave desperately attempted to market itself as the campaign that championed the virtues and principles perceived to make Britain great, they only went and broke most of them. Vote Leave cheated in order to gain an advantage, lied continuously and wilfully refused to be honest and fair.

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