Vote Leave campaigners branded ‘criminals’ amid allegations of ‘cheating’ in Brexit referendum
Vote Leave has been blasted on social media for a “subversion of democracy,” as an outraged public reacts to allegations that the group cheated to win votes in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Brexit whistleblowers Chris Wylie and Shahmir Sanni are calling for the Electoral Commission to investigate allegations that the group exceeded campaign spending limits. In a 50-page dossier, the lawyers claim Vote Leave circumvented the limit by donating £625,000 ($885,000) to pro-Brexit student BeLeave group, to which it was closely linked.
The donation, however, was allegedly used for Vote Leave, bringing its total spending over the legal limit of £7 million ($9.9 million), breaching electoral law.
The dossier is largely based on witness statements by former Cambridge Analytica employee Wylie, and Sanni – a volunteer who worked at both Vote Leave and BeLeave. Speaking to journalists on Monday, Wylie said the dossier contains evidence undermining the legitimacy of the EU referendum result, which could prompt a new one to be held. Vote Leave has strongly denied any wrongdoing and said the £625,000 donated to BeLeave in the final days of the 2016 campaign was within the rules.
The allegations prompted one Twitter user to claim they were “spoon-fed £9M worth of tax funded propaganda.” Another noted that, if the Commission fails to investigate the claims, then Britain is merely a “so-called democracy.”
Rules matter, and if Vote Leave cheated, that’s a scandal https://t.co/ENffugnpyI— Son of Robespierre (@sonofr) March 27, 2018
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign, also denied any wrongdoing, tweeting a denial. In turn, Channel 4 News challenged Johnson directly to answer questions live on air.
Please come on Channel 4 News on Sunday to explain how ‘utterly ludicrous’ the Vote Leave story is in your words https://t.co/degy0ikTIv— Hayley Barlow (@Hayley_Barlow) March 24, 2018
Then come on #c4news and answer questions in the studio. You still haven’t once since becoming foreign secretary. And as for legality shouldn’t you leave that to the electoral commission? https://t.co/rmP4IImDP1— Krishnan Guru-Murthy (@krishgm) March 25, 2018
Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Prime Minister Theresa May needs to ensure the commission has all it takes to investigate the allegations. He added: “I think we need to make sure that they were not aware of what was going on, and that’s why I think the resources are needed and if needs be the police should be resourced to investigate as well.”
Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat’s Brexit spokesperson, said the allegations were “stunning,” adding: “The British people expect fair play and campaigns to abide by the rules – they must not be cheated. These allegations must be examined by the police. If they represent what happened it is outrageous and shameful.
“The referendum had a very narrow outcome. One of the biggest exercises in democracy must not turn out to be one of Britain’s biggest electoral frauds,” he said, according to The Independent.
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