Adam Ramsay https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8858/all cached version 18/12/2018 16:12:39 en The stories fascist Europe tells itself, and how to correct them https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/stories-fascist-europe-tells-itself-and-how-to-correct-them <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">What can the UK learn from those fighting the far right across Europe? Take history seriously</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6297_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6297_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Memorial to "the victims of the Nazis", Budapest.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Fascists are obsessed with history. Their ideology is less a doctrine about the economy or the future and more a story about identity and the past. It is harvested from half-truths about great victories and cruel injustices, spun into national myths about superiority and struggle, and applied as a bandage to wounded egos in times of trouble. Fascism is a story learnt in childhood, and the fight against fascism is a battle for truth about the past.</p><p dir="ltr">In Hungary, the front line in that argument was, for a moment, led by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-k-lm-n-s-t/k-lm-n-s-t-and-his-struggle-against-hungarian-dictatorship">Kálmán Sütö</a>, the homeless former truck driver who sells the country’s street magazine outside the gold-plated national parliament. When Viktor Orbán’s government erected a monument to “the victims of the Nazis” not far from Kálmán’s patch, he made a placard: “Horthy was the biggest Nazi of them all!”, and signed it “Kálmán the historian”. The iconography of the memorial implies that Hungary as a whole was the victim, deflecting from the historical reality that under Miclós Horthy, the country was fascist in its own right.</p><p dir="ltr">For Orbán, rewriting the national story of the second world war to make the Hungarian state the victim of Nazi aggression rather than a murderer of Jews, Roma, LGBTIQ people, disabled people, communists and trade unionists allows his regime to ignore the true lessons of history, and once more to draw boundaries around who counts as ‘us’, once more to promote hatred of those very same groups.</p><p dir="ltr">The protests against this rewriting of history became so big that Orbán was, Sütö told me, afraid. Hungary’s post-modern dictator erected a barrier around his monument to a false past, and our homeless historian was eventually arrested for decorating this fence with a more accurate account of what happened 75 years ago. At the police station, he told me with a smile, he insisted that the officers write on his papers the full list of his specific objections.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s not just warped stories about the second world war which scar Hungarian history. The treaty of Trianon, signed in 1920, confirmed peace between Hungary and the allied powers of the 1914-18 war. It was part of the end of the<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Trianon"> Austro-Hungarian empire</a> and, as far as Hungarians are concerned, they lost two-thirds of their country (the peoples who gained independence as a result have a somewhat different narrative).</p><p dir="ltr">Olivio Kocsis-Cake is the country’s first black MP and the leader of Dialogue for Hungary, a member of the European Green Party. He told me that a huge portion of Orbán’s rhetoric is focussed on history, and on the injustice of Trianon in particular. As he was in full flow, in English, his aide quickly intervened in Hungarian, telling him to clarify that the treaty was indeed unjust – which he duly did. Even Hungary’s Green Party doesn’t dare suggest support for a century-old treaty that gave some self-determination to Slovaks, Croats and Romanians.</p><p dir="ltr">I got a liftshare (along with my Hungarian friend) to Miskolc in the north-east of the country. The man who took us, an off-duty police officer, spent the whole journey talking about the Roma people in the city. The government, he said, had promised to clear them from their homes in “the numbered streets”. But he thought they were only saying it to get votes, and wouldn’t really act. Roma people, he believed, were all criminals. He talked about children growing up with mothers with “three lovers”. He didn’t talk with hatred, but with the banal practicality of a technician, saying that it’s important to understand that they had been raised this way. The ultimate solution would be to take the children away, and force them to be raised in boarding schools. </p><p dir="ltr">József Csendes, a local Roma sociologist and activist, said, unprompted, that he was worried the government would take their children away: “We don’t want to suffer the same fate as the native Americans,” he said, though he later downplayed the likelihood of this happening. Roma children in a school common room got me dancing to YouTube videos of what they called “gypsy music” (the term is contested, but they embraced it) and told me how they are forced to get on trams at the front so that their tickets can be checked, while everyone else gets on where they please. A couple of them, whose families are over the border in Slovakia, showed me a video containing evidence of Slovak riot police attacking their village and beating up its Roma residents.</p><p dir="ltr">Orbán – described by many of the people I spoke to as a dictator – has ramped up rhetoric against immigrants in recent years. But in a country with almost no immigration, the real meaning is clear. Just as his attacks on George Soros are coded anti-semitism, “migrants” really means “Roma”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Austrian victimhood</h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6201.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6201.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Kill the Jew" board game. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In Vienna I got a preview of a new museum that aims to tell Austrians a more accurate version of history than the one they have been taught. The country has long liked to tell itself that it was the first victim of the Nazis. But the reality is that it had a fascist ruler, Englebert Dollfuss, before Hitler deposed him, and, as photos displayed in the new museum show, the Fuhrer was greeted by huge “Sieg Heil”-ing crowds in Vienna when he arrived. Austrian women stitched swastika flags, and children played a board game called ‘kill the Jew’.). A huge Trojan horse at the centre of the exhibition is used to argue that the lie that Nazism was entirely imposed on the country allowed Austrian Nazis off the hook – to the extent that second-world-war fascists held government positions in Austria for four decades after the war.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, with Austria governed by a coalition between the conservative People’s Party and the far-right Freedom Party, this battle over the past has become urgent. The Freedom Party was founded by (‘ex’) Nazis in the 1950s, and its members wore blue cornflowers until a month before the elections late last year: in the 1930s, the cornflower was <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36342362">worn by Austrian Nazis</a> so they could recognise each other, though the anti-immigrant party founded by Nazis likes to pretend the connection is just a coincidence.</p><p dir="ltr">At the weekly protest against the ruling parties, though, people talked more about the present and the future. An ecologist at the local university described how a clamp-down on NGOs risks lakes and rivers. A young black man talked about the impact on refugees. A teacher talked about her fear of cuts to public spending. A disabled man talked about the assault on the rights of the disabled. A group of trans protesters talked about the attack on their rights. And one of the organisers talked about how the misogyny of the far right, how they are trying to push women back into the home, and how the resistance is feminist.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Italian memories and France’s ‘golden age’</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6693.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6693.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The squatted stables, Turin.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In Turin, I went to the former stables of the Italian royal family, now squatted, where a leading lawyer was talking about the new government’s proposed anti-migrant laws to a lecture theatre full of attentive students. As fire jugglers lit the courtyard outside orange, I spoke to a young artist who had taken a break from the talk because the stories being told were too horrifying. When I asked about the far-right Lega getting into government, she too began by talking about people’s view of history. In Italy, she believes, fascism has been blamed on one man – Mussolini. Rather than try to grapple with the murky undercurrents in their own national mythology, too many people in the country are content with focussing on a long-gone man. The result, she argues, is that many younger people don’t see fascism as a real, living threat.</p><p dir="ltr">Later that week, at the studio of a pirate radio station, I spoke to a vineyard worker who said he’s a communist, but his parents and many of his friends are fascists. My first question was, “What do they mean when they say they are fascist?” and, again, his first answer was that it was about an understanding of the past, a view of history and how that shapes your understanding of your culture.</p><p dir="ltr">In a week in Italy, more than one person talked about the sudden mushrooming of racism against black people, how people they hadn’t previously thought of as bigots had started using the Italian equivalent of the “N” word. A young barman in a village in the Alps (where everyone I saw was white) described how “older people hate black people” and how, watching the TV coverage of migrants arriving from North Africa, “people became racist”.</p><p dir="ltr">In Turin, while the refugee detention centre was covered in anti-racist slogans, this grafito showed a different view. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6638.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6638.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Roma = ovens" - grafitti in Turin</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In Paris, political organiser Maïder Piola-Urtizberea talked about Marine Le Pen’s obsession with France’s ‘golden age’ – an era that, she says, is never quite defined. And, as in Italy, Austria and Hungary, the second world war has played a major part in the political story of the French far right. Le Pen’s father and predecessor as party leader was a convicted Holocaust denier and, during the 2017 election, she and Emmanuel Macron fought<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/the-dark-history-at-the-heart-of-the-french-election/2017/05/05/d31235ee-301e-11e7-a335-fa0ae1940305_story.html?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.c300b7747fe0"> a bitter battle</a> over France’s responsibility for the arrest and deportation to death camps of 13,000 Parisian Jews during the war.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The fight back for history</h2><p dir="ltr">During that election, Macron<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/the-dark-history-at-the-heart-of-the-french-election/2017/05/05/d31235ee-301e-11e7-a335-fa0ae1940305_story.html?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.c300b7747fe0"> went to Algeria</a> and demanded that the French state apologise for what he later called “crimes against humanity” committed when the country was a colony run from Paris: a history which has re-emerged as debates about migration surface once more.</p><p dir="ltr">In Turin, there is a museum dedicated to the resistance against fascism. It is a collection of video testimonials that recount the experiences of people during the war: mostly partisans or people who were against the war, but also a man who had been a teenage supporter of Mussolini. It would be hard to leave with the reassuring belief that Mussolini was Italy’s lone fascist.</p><p dir="ltr">In Hungary, in the face of the most repressive government in the EU, people have protested against the warping of history. Like Italy, Austria now has a museum dedicated to telling the less savoury stories from the countries’ pasts. </p><p dir="ltr">But I wasn’t travelling around Europe to see the sights and gawp at their problems. I was there to study how Britain should respond to the rise of the far right here. And what was perhaps most striking is that, although no British government has imposed fascism at home, imperial revisionism and nationalist nonsense permeate almost all of our official historical institutions: not because they lie, but because of the truths they don’t tell.</p><p dir="ltr">This is the case with school text books and TV histories. But it’s worth for a moment just thinking about our curatorial failure. Although Liverpool does host a <a href="http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/">museum of slavery</a>, where is the collection which tells British people about the genocide British colonisers completed<a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-the-evidence-for-the-tasmanian-genocide-86828"> in Tasmania</a>? Where can you go to find out about the Irish famine, the Bengal famine, the<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Persian_Oil_Company"> plundering of Persia</a>, the castration of the Mau Mau, the looting of India? The first opium war? Or the second? Where can you learn about the brutal conquests in Africa? The<a href="https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/secret-colonial-era-files-reveal-british-cover-up-of-torture-in-aden-1.667507"> torture in Yemen</a>? The violence<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/12/cypriot-veterans-win-right-to-claim-damages-over-uk-torture-claims"> in Cyprus</a>? The invasion<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_Wars"> of New Zealand</a>? The treatment by the British of First Nation Canadians? </p><p dir="ltr">These are the stories of how Britain got rich, how we became who we are. And yet they are almost entirely undocumented in Britain’s vast array of galleries, museums and public collections. Go to the Imperial War Museum and there’s barely a whisper about any of the imperial wars, just endless artefacts from the second world war, the one moment Britain can lay claim to having been the good guy. Go to the British Museum and you’ll see a parade of plunder, displayed with pride, as though it wasn’t looted by vandals. Go round any of our major cities, and you’ll find it pock-marked with statues of imperial thugs.</p><p dir="ltr">Contemporary British history is a story about how this archipelago emerges from the shadow of empire. As with Hungary, and Italy, and Austria, and France, whether we escape into the light will be shaped by how we understand what brought us here. Fascism is a view of history. The fight against fascism is a fight over the past, and it’s time for Britain to start telling the whole truth.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-k-lm-n-s-t/k-lm-n-s-t-and-his-struggle-against-hungarian-dictatorship">Kálmán Sütö and his struggle against Hungarian dictatorship</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/samuel-salzborn/hungary-and-end-of-democracy">Hungary and the end of democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/mario-pianta/fear-loathing-and-poverty-italy-after-2018-elections">Fear, loathing and poverty: Italy after the 2018 elections</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item even"> Italy </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Austria </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK France Austria Italy Hungary fascism far right populism France Austria Italy Hungary Adam Ramsay Tue, 04 Dec 2018 15:17:13 +0000 Adam Ramsay 120839 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Dark money investigations: what we’ve found out, and why we’re looking https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/dark-money-investigations-what-we-ve-found-out-and-why-we-re-looking <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For the past two years openDemocracy has been tracking down the secretive, wealthy donors trying to influence British politics unseen.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Arron Banks Nigel Farage_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Arron Banks Nigel Farage_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks with Nigel Farage: two of "the bad boys of Brexit". Image, Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">It started with the Democratic Unionist Party. We forced them to confess that a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">huge Brexit donation</a> had come via a secretive group in Glasgow. We showed that the chair of that group was connected to the former <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">head of Saudi intelligence</a> and to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">a Danish man involved</a> in gun-running in India. </p><p dir="ltr">We travelled round Northern Ireland and the west of Scotland, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">banging on doors</a> and meeting sources, but were blocked at every turn. BBC Northern Ireland picked up the story and <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299">followed it to Kiev</a>. We still don’t know for sure where this cash came from, but we did help force a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/opendemocracy-has-forced-change-in-law-on-dark-money-but-we-still-need-to-do-more">change in the law</a>, so this could never happen again.</p><p dir="ltr">Then there were the Scottish Tories. We showed that a huge portion of their surge in 2016 was <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dark-money-driving-scottish-tory-surge">funded by money</a> from secretive sources, and eventually got one of those <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/major-scottish-tory-donors-fined-over-illegal-donation">groups fined</a>. An independent Scottish media organisation, The Ferret, <a href="https://theferret.scot/secretive-trust-scottish-tories-dark-money/">followed our story</a>, and forced an Electoral Commission investigation. And it’s not just the Scottish Tories. We exposed one of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/how-dark-money-is-drowning-british-democracy">key loopholes</a> allowing dark money to flood into the Labour Party, UKIP and the Lib Dems too.</p><p dir="ltr">And then there was “<a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/10/arron-banks-man-who-bought-brexit">the man who bought Brexit</a>”, Arron Banks. Did the millions he poured into the Leave campaigns really come from his own pockets? We showed that he didn’t appear to be nearly as rich as he claimed: it was hard to understand how he could have afforded his lavish donations. We worked with accountants to show his insurance businesses were verging on bankruptcy at the time of the referendum, and with a reporter in Lesotho to show that his diamond mines didn’t have many diamonds. </p><h2 dir="ltr">The Bannon emails</h2><p dir="ltr">We got our hands on emails from Banks showing that he’d asked Steve Bannon – advisor to Donald Trump, founder of Breitbart News and vice-president of Cambridge Analytica – for help fundraising in the US. We met sources who showed that he’d lied to Parliament, and then, when asked about our story on the BBC, that he’d lied again.</p><p dir="ltr">We looked at how the Brexit money was spent, showing how several supposedly independent campaigns used the same obscure merchandise company based at the end of a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">terraced row in Ely</a> (and yes, we went to Ely). We explained how <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica</a> itself is the result of the privatisation of military propaganda, and we examined the terrifying connections between the Brexit campaign and Britain’s growing role as the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">global hub of mercenary firms</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Our story on Darren Grimes, the 22-year-old given a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">£675,000 donation</a> by Vote Leave, triggered the court case which led to the conclusion that Vote Leave <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/high-court-found-that-vote-leave-broke-law-in-different-way">broke the law</a> and to the campaign being referred to the police. We then revealed that the police <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">waited months</a> before bothering to collect the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/revealed-met-police-ignored-brexit-campaign-evidence-for-month">key documents</a> relating to the case.</p><p dir="ltr">We investigated a group called Veterans for Britain, who had also taken a large donation from Vote Leave, and exposed <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">connections</a> to the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">expanding network</a> of privatised military and intelligence contractors – including the mercenary military propaganda firm SCL, and its subsidiary, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">We were one of the first outlets to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">seriously</a> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-demand-full-investigation-of-hard-brexit-backing-tory-party-within-par">investigate</a> the European Research Group. We showed how they were set up to turn the UK into “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/tory-ministers-taxpayer-cash-hard-Brexit-erg">a low-tax, offshore haven</a>”, that they were funded from the public purse and that they had members who <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">were ministers</a> – in breach of the ministerial code. We were the first outlet to disclose their membership, and that they’ve had an office in the Houses of Parliament since the 1990s. And that they got a donation via the same secret group who funnelled cash to the DUP.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Weird interests</h2><p dir="ltr">As Brexit ministers came and went, we investigated them, too. We showed <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">Steve Baker</a>’s web of weird interests, including that he took thousands of pounds from an arms company whilst sitting as vice-chair of the group lobbying for the arms industry in Parliament, and how he’s got longstanding links to the American radical right. When he stood down, we showed how his replacement, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab</a>, was moulded as a politician by the dark-money ‘think tank’ the Institute for Economic Affairs.</p><p dir="ltr">Which takes us to Britain’s dark-money-funded think tanks. We showed how a staff member for a group called the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum Institute</a>, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-legatum-s-extraordinary-secretive-monthly-meetings-with-brexit">connected to</a> a hedge fund in Dubai and owned by a disaster capitalist who made a fortune from the collapsing Soviet Union, had <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">unprecedented access</a> to government ministers during the Brexit process, despite the fact that no one is sure who is paying his wages. And when he took a job with a private lobbying agency despite sitting on Liam Fox’s committee of advisors, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal">our story</a> forced him to resign from that committee.</p><p dir="ltr">Our work has run in parallel to – and often intersected with – that of others: <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/profile/carolecadwalladr">Carole Cadwalladr</a> is, of course, the icon. </p><p dir="ltr">But here’s the bottom line. People have different interests and ideas, and politics is a negotiation between them. We are not investigating the dark money in British politics either because we are for Brexit or because we are against it. We are investigating dark money because the rich and powerful will always hide selfish demands behind the language of ideology and policy wonkery. They hide their political donations because they don’t want us to know that what their representatives say is paid-for propaganda. If we are to have an open and honest conversation about the future of the country, we first need to understand where everyone is really coming from, what people’s interests really are.</p><p dir="ltr">And that means we need to keep shining a light into the dark money poisoning our democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">So please, contribute to <a href="https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/expose-the-dark-money-driving-brexit?utm_campaign=nov2018&amp;utm_medium=website&amp;utm_source=articletext">our appeal</a>, so we can keep striving for an open democracy.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Arron Banks Brexit investigations Democratic Unionist Party Conservative Party DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Mon, 03 Dec 2018 16:45:17 +0000 Adam Ramsay 120818 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kálmán Sütö and his struggle against Hungarian dictatorship https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-k-lm-n-s-t/k-lm-n-s-t-and-his-struggle-against-hungarian-dictatorship <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A street magazine vendor led protests against prime minister Victor Orbán’s rewriting of history. He tells openDemocracy how his life led him to that point.</p> </div> </div> </div> <h2 dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6284-1_2.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6284-1_2.JPG" alt="Kálmán Sütö" title="" width="460" height="614" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>K&aacute;lm&aacute;n S&uuml;t&ouml;. Image, Adam Ramsay, cc2.0. </span></span></span></h2><p dir="ltr">In Budapest, I had coffee with Kálmán Sütö, a homeless man who sells a magazine outside the country’s parliament, and with a friend who translated. This is what he told me.</p><p dir="ltr">“I was a driver and many other things. Originally I was working on these old engines. I worked at a car plant outside Budapest. I was about to get a permanent post. But I had a stroke ten years ago. I have three young children but we separated [...] and now they are in care. They are still young children, they are in care. They are now in foster care and the foster parents are very good and they are all together and they have a good life. </p><p dir="ltr">“I am allowed to see them once a month. But they don’t live in Budapest but from time to time they come with their foster parents and we go on a tour – we go to the parliament or the zoo or the circus. The main thing is they keep them very well. They learn German. I suppose I couldn’t have given them such a good life that they have now. They are lucky now that they [...] got into the care system. There are always lucky breaks even in bigger misfortunes. </p><p dir="ltr">“So I had this stroke and I didn’t want to go the the doctor because I didn’t want people to find out. I didn’t want to go on sick leave, but somebody found out and they told the company. They had been going to make me permanent but after that they didn’t renew my contract. That was exactly around 2008 when this big crisis hit and already the companies were pulling back their production because they knew they didn’t have as many contracts and so they wanted a smaller workforce. So part of it was the stroke and part of it was the smaller workforce. The way they dealt with this, they found the people who were not yet permanent and the ones they didn’t want to keep, they lost their employment rights. I had been working there two years and they didn’t want to be sacking people. Exactly at the end of September my probation would have finished. So in 2008 not just the auto industry but a lot of industries got into crisis and a lot of people lost their jobs.</p><p dir="ltr">“I had a number of temporary jobs so for example working in agriculture. When it was the season I got more work, when it was not I didn’t. Then I was out on the public works programme – and this was before Orban, not after him. So it wasn’t Orban who came up with the public works programme.</p><p dir="ltr">“So at this time I was still married, but the social workers [who are usually from Fidez, the ruling party] broke up my family, getting involved where they shouldn’t. They were really overpowering and got involved in every little detail and just made it worse. So they broke up our family with their stupid advice and interventions.</p><p dir="ltr">“So I tried to get the children to be with me but I didn’t manage because I didn’t have a flat. Even though there were empty houses in the local authority housing stock, they would rather it sat empty than go to me.</p><p dir="ltr">“I don’t know why they don’t like me. I could only speculate. I really don’t know why they didn’t like me. But I think they were blinkered Fidez activists.</p><p dir="ltr">“So this was outside of Budapest in Mezökomárom, so I wasn’t living where I worked. But I couldn’t live there with no job and no housing so I came to Budapest about ten years ago.</p><p dir="ltr">“I worked on the new metro as a construction worker. I used to be a truck driver then I couldn’t find my driving licence one day and I couldn’t afford to get a new one but now I wouldn’t drive because my health isn’t good enough – for example I’ve had two bypasses on my legs – and if something went wrong anything could happen.</p><p dir="ltr">“We worked on the Metro 4 when the work lasted and that was hard work and you had to go up and down but when that finished it was done. Then I worked on the rubbish and it was just day work and there were people with permanent contracts and they just sat and watched while we did all the work and it was really hard work.</p><p dir="ltr">“That company, the refuse collection company, FKF, I couldn’t work there any more because I had a huge infection from one of the operations and I had to go all the way back to Mëzok and this is when I started selling the newspaper – this is my only income.</p><p dir="ltr">“I tried to get this big infection sorted and the hospitals wouldn’t help. So the original hospital that did my operation was not willing to help and they looked at my papers and saw I hadn’t come from Budapest and made me go back there to be treated. All the bureaucracy was so complicated. They think maybe a foreign body was left in my leg from the new treatment. I would have been at the front of the demo against the constitutional changes, but I was in hospital.</p><p dir="ltr">“Now I live in a workers’ hostel with about 30 of us. We’ve been living there for three years but it’s still not painted. It’s around the flyover that takes you to the airport, near the train station. It was the workers’ hostel of a big textile factory which is now shut.</p><p dir="ltr">“Of the three types of government [that he has experienced], I preferred democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">“I don’t have bad memories of the communist period. I was a young man then so I have good memories. We didn’t have freedom but we had more security – job and life security – and we were quite happy. It was my youth so it was definitely some of the best times.</p><p dir="ltr">“I cannot see the future.</p><p dir="ltr">“I just have wishes. I would like to see democracy reinstalled and this dictatorship come to an end. It’s really hard without the freedom of the press so I think that would be the first thing to put right. And the rule of law would be good to put back. Because right now we are governed by the mafia. Throughout Europe, we haven’t had this kind of mafia state for a very long time. It’s Putin and his lapdogs that are running this country. But you are also in trouble now in Scotland if I hear right. Putin and his lapdogs have done well, to kick you out of the European Union. Although we have much bigger problems than you, that’s true. Because we don’t have democracy. But he can still cause you problems. And then you have the Trump lapdogs.</p><p dir="ltr">“I think Trump is also a lapdog of Putin. Putin has created Trump.</p><p dir="ltr">“And then there’s the Chinese communist mafia coming too. So I don’t see much hope for the future. And the Germans are trouble too.”</p><p dir="ltr">At this point, Sütö took me to a memorial, built by prime minister Victor Orbán’s government, which claims to commemorate “the victims of the Nazis”, but the iconography makes clear that the “victim” was Hungary as a whole, rather than the real groups who were persecuted by both the Nazis and Hungary’s own fascist state.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6297.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6297.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The memorial to the 'victims' of the Nazis. Image, Adam Ramsay, cc2.0.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">“When they launched the Nazi ‘victims’ memorial I made a big banner saying ‘Horthi was the biggest Nazi of them all.’. I signed it ‘Kálmán the historian.’ The protests were so big that Orbán was afraid to come. It was fenced off with some protected material and I started writing on it and as soon as I started writing the police jumped on me took me to the police station and charged me with vandalism.</p><p dir="ltr">“I made sure that they wrote down in their statement that I protested against the illegal arrest. But I also wrote in what I accused them of and what my problem is with this statue.” </p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy asked Sütö’s permission to publish his comments online. He replied:</p><p dir="ltr">“I send greetings to Trump and to your government too!”</p><p dir="ltr">As we part, we pass people gathering signatures for the petition against the University of Central Europe – funded by George Soros – being kicked out of Hungary by the government. Sütö’s parting words are:</p><p dir="ltr">“I was the first one to sign the petition for the Central European university!”</p><p dir="ltr">(With thanks to the translator, who wishes to remain anonymous.)</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/bilge-yabanci/political-violence-civic-space-and-human-rights-defence-in-era-of-populism-and-authori">Political violence, civic space and human rights defence in the era of populism and authoritarianism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/james-burgess/refugees-banned-tourists-welcome-journey-through-hungarys-rural-wes">Refugees banned, tourists welcome: a journey through Hungary&#039;s rural west</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/samuel-salzborn/hungary-and-end-of-democracy">Hungary and the end of democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Hungary Orban far right Homelessness free press fascism Kálmán Sütö Adam Ramsay Fri, 30 Nov 2018 16:58:09 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Kálmán Sütö 120787 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Right-wing think tank accused of promoting tobacco and oil industry “propaganda” in schools https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/right-wing-think-tank-accused-of-promoting-tobacco-oil-indu <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Institute of Economic Affairs’ magazine distributed to tens of thousands of British schoolchildren promotes tobacco tax cuts, climate change denial, tax havens, and privatising the NHS – but doesn’t say where its money comes from </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/11443527473_d1730c4b4e_o_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/11443527473_d1730c4b4e_o_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="337" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Economic Affairs” published an article arguing against the scientific consensus on climate change. Image, Quarrie Photography.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Institute of Economic Affairs has been accused of “pumping seemingly paid-for propaganda” into schools after analysis by openDemocracy found that its free magazine for A-Level students has carried articles arguing against tobacco taxes and climate change science, and in favour of NHS privatisation. The magazine does not tell readers who funds the IEA. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA, a registered educational charity, sends copies of the magazine <a href="https://iea.org.uk/ea-magazine/">EA</a> free of charge to every school teaching A-Level economics or business studies in the UK. </p><p dir="ltr">The influential ‘think tank’ does not disclose its funding but it has received money from <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/jun/01/thinktanks-big-tobacco-funds-smoking">British American Tobacco</a>, <a href="https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2018/07/30/bp-funding-institute-of-economic-affairs-gambling/">oil giant BP</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/31/jersey-finance-paid-iea-to-trash-hotbeds-of-tax-evasion-claims">Jersey Finance</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/30/casino-owners-donated-iea-after-thinktanks-pro-gambling-report">gambling</a> lobbyists and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">right wing US foundations</a> pushing to privatise the NHS. While articles on many of these topics have appeared in the IEA’s schools magazine, it does not disclose these financial links. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA has also argued that Brexit could be a boon for Britain. Its head of international trade, Shanker Singham, recently accompanied pro-Brexit MPs including David Davis on a <a href="https://www.fginsight.com/news/ex-brexit-secretary-lobbies-washington-for-trade-deal-beneficial-to-us-farmers--74921">trade tour to the US</a>, talking up American access to UK markets. </p><p dir="ltr">A shadow cabinet minister has called for the Charity Commission to broaden its <a href="https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/charity-commission-assessing-concerns-over-think-thank-iea-after-guardian-investigation.html">ongoing probe of the IEA</a> to include the schools magazine.</p><p dir="ltr">Labour shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett said: “It is a debasement of both politics and education when an organisation, posing as a charity, pumps seemingly paid-for propaganda into our schools. </p><p dir="ltr">“In the interests of transparency and democracy, we need to know who funds these organisations and what exactly their purpose is. Because what they say, and what they actually do, too often simply doesn’t match up.” </p><p dir="ltr">Tamasin Cave from Spinwatch, which investigates the PR and lobbying industry, said "we are now awake to the fact that the IEA is not an independent think tank. It is a lobby group for private interests. Most are secret, but we know it is funded by oil giants, the tobacco industry and a tax haven. </p><p dir="ltr">“The IEA’s magazine provides a means for these people to feed their propaganda into schools, whether that’s climate change denial, or opposition to public health policies. Just as the public are exposed to it through the IEA appearing on the BBC.”</p><p dir="ltr">When asked by openDemocracy how the magazine was funded, the IEA would only say that the think tank covered the costs of the <a href="http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends51/0000235351_AC_20161231_E_C.PDF">47,000</a> copies sent to students every year. The think tank’s funders are not disclosed publicly, however it denies that its editorial content is driven by its donors interests.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Opposing tobacco taxes… and funded by a tobacco company</h2><p dir="ltr">Since 2013, the IEA’s magazine has frequently featured articles arguing in favour of positions supported by groups that have been shown to fund the right-wing think tank. The spring 2014 edition, for example, includes an article <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-Spring-soundbite-SMALL_0.pdf">arguing against</a> “sin taxes", including those on cigarettes and alcohol. <br /><br />The magazine does not mention that the IEA receives regular donations from <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs#2015_.22Broadly_Similar_Basis_to_2014.22">British American Tobacco</a>, including roughly £40,000 <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs#2015_.22Broadly_Similar_Basis_to_2014.22">in 2014</a>. The group also has links with the <a href="https://iea.org.uk/events/exiting-the-eu-reclaiming-trade-sovereignty/">sugar industry</a>, and has argued against sugar taxes.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Climate change denial… and funded by BP </h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/8735887323_697b6d9039_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/8735887323_697b6d9039_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dust cloud. Image, Zooey, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In autumn 2013, the magazine <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-Autumn-soundbiite-lores.pdf">ran an article by Roger Bate</a> entitled “20 years denouncing eco-militants”, in which he argued that “evidence of climate impact is still hard to prove, and harm even more difficult to establish”, and dismissed calls for a ban on the insecticide DDT as “green alarmism”. </p><p dir="ltr">These are not the only subjects in which Bate has swum against the tide of scientific consensus. In the late 1990s, while he was <a href="https://www.industrydocumentslibrary.ucsf.edu/tobacco/docs/#id=grfn0073">funded by the tobacco industry</a>, Bate argued against the science which shows that exposure to tobacco causes cancer. In the words of The Ecologist, he also “<a href="https://theecologist.org/2018/sep/19/secret-love-affair-between-roger-bate-and-big-tobacco">midwived British climate denial</a>”. </p><p dir="ltr">The magazine did not inform its student readers that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe that evidence of climate impact and harm are both proved. Likewise, the magazine did not inform the pupils that Bate’s employer, the American Enterprise Institute, has long been <a href="https://exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=9">funded by ExxonMobile</a>, while the Institute for Economics Affairs itself is funded by <a href="https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2018/07/30/bp-funding-institute-of-economic-affairs-gambling/">British Petroleum</a>. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Promoting privatisations and tax havens</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Elizabeth_Castle_in_front_of_Noirmont,_Isle_of_Jersey_(2006)_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Elizabeth_Castle_in_front_of_Noirmont,_Isle_of_Jersey_(2006)_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="283" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Elizabeth Castle, Jersey. Image, Luc Van Braekel, wikimedia commons.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Articles written by IEA staffer Kristian Niemietz in several editions advocate privatisation of the NHS. But at no point does the magazine mention that in 2014, the think tank received a grant of $155,000 from the US-based Templeton Foundation to “<a href="https://templeton.org/grant/encouraging-independence-and-enterprise-for-a-healthy-old-age">seek alternatives</a>” to “public, pay-as-you-go financed systems of pensions, disability insurance, healthcare and long-term care”, and promote privatisation of each of these areas, according to the Templeton Foundation's website. Niemietz was one of two project leaders for the grant.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/hzJiChO7ZTFsqLjy9DBAFbo8TAJIcCl5fwE82GwtMJzDSeYGXon8-pcH51E45-VunX1R44Cjsih60ZKrrK9Ov57z7yyGRXaYIJFrB6HC8q4GCqwk7lw26VK-1z9bVq-7WV-pK0o6" alt="" width="427" height="302" /></span></p><p dir="ltr">The glossy 64-page magazine has also called for the <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-Spring-2015_CITY-VIEW.pdf">BBC</a> to be privatised.<br /><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/UNPsmHt7luGsfv64YcBIoMM7VWPrpIe8NEr_MUnLyiXDLNDWlg_Nu1lBCY2SgRvK1Xx4KwUuEYXDZn3jcfzOe6p_6mtDLRRtkT7hJwbFU5JmizuhUznlni51HT-g5CBW87E_iSiK" alt="" width="259" height="320" /></span></p><p dir="ltr">An autumn 2016 piece in the magazine’s Idealog section was labelled as a “defence of <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/EA-AUTUMN-2016_FOR-WEB.pdf">tax havens</a>”. The IEA has long promoted tax havens, and does not disclose how this work is funded. However, earlier this year, it was revealed that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/31/jersey-finance-paid-iea-to-trash-hotbeds-of-tax-evasion-claims">Jersey Finance</a>, which promotes Jersey as a financial centre, paid for an IEA report published in June this year that attacked the idea that offshore financial centres were “hotbeds of tax evasion”. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Pro-Brexit</h2><p dir="ltr">In 2015, before the European Union referendum, EA carried a double-page spread by economist Patrick Minford entitled ‘<a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-Spring-2015_VIEWPOINT.pdf">Why Britain should leave the EU</a>’. The piece concluded that the case for Brexit was “overwhelming”. Minford’s modelling has since been described as “<a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2017/08/23/economists-for-brexit-predictions-are-inconsistent-with-basic-facts-of-international-trade/">inconsistent with the basic facts of international trade</a>” by fellow economists. </p><p><span><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/AHwP-ZI6kH5Lq-gRA3NPaEqa8KbHPbLoVZDIlJ4042q-4KzLZUYchSTkNx2XpiC-gkFj34hCoFBbvTEhEkAr0CA1LOpZjU-XAms0e82dP854AgGbpBLG44Byi_A6dq76KGTwTkAU" alt="" width="504" height="402" /></span></p><p dir="ltr">EA did not carry any article in favour of remaining in the EU before the referendum. The IEA has become a favourite think tank of many Brexiters, <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2018/09/28/the-ieas-plan-a-for-free-trade-is-the-product-of-fanaticism/">publishing papers arguing that Britain would benefit</a> from leaving the customs union and single market.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Under investigation</h2><p dir="ltr">In July, the Charity Commission announced that it was investigating the IEA after an <a href="https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2018/07/29/a-hard-brexit-think-tank-offered-a-prospective-us-agribusiness-donor-the-chance-to-influence-its-report-on-green-brexit/">undercover sting</a> by The Guardian and Greenpeace revealed the identity of a number of the IEA’s funders, ands that senior staff had offered potential US donors access to government ministers and civil servants in order to fund its work on post-Brexit trade deals.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA was recently named in <a href="https://www.bindmans.com/uploads/files/documents/17_July_2018_-_Particulars_of_Claim_(As_Lodged).pdf">court papers</a> as one of a number of “linked” right-wing think tanks which work closely together and operate out of offices a few metres from each other in Westminster. Other groups include the TaxPayers’ Alliance, <a href="https://www.desmog.co.uk/directory/vocabulary/14991">Civitas</a>, the Adam Smith Institute, Leave Means Leave, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Brexit Central, and the Centre for Policy Studies. </p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, shadow chancellor <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/11/brexit-whistleblower-shahmir-sanni-taxpayers-alliance-concedes-it-launched-smears">John McDonnell told The Guardian</a> that the IEA are lobbyists, not thinktanks”, and called on the BBC to reflect that when introducing their spokespeople.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Powerful friends</h2><p dir="ltr">The IEA, founded in 1955 by Anthony Fisher, describes itself as the "UK’s original free market think tank". It has the charitable objects of "the promotion and advancement of learning by research into economic and political science and by educating the public therein", according to its entry on the Charity Commission’s online register.</p><p dir="ltr">IEA representatives regularly appear in the news media, and the think tank has strong links with a number of senior Conservative figures, including <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/new-health-secretary-matt-hancock-12891819">Matt Hancock</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab</a>. The former Brexit secretary credits the IEA with supporting a book he co-authored with Tory MPs, Britannia Unchained, that described British workers as “<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19300051">among the worst idlers</a>”.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA regularly receives the <a href="http://whofundsyou.org/">lowest rating</a> for transparency from campaign group Who Funds You? The American Friends of the IEA, a US entity set up to allow US-based corporations and individuals to donate to the institute, raised at least $1.69m in the past decade, according to recent analysis by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/28/us-groups-raise-millions-to-support-rightwing-uk-thinktanks">The Guardian</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Asked who funded the schools magazine, the IEA’s director Mark Littlewood said: “EA is funded by the Institute of Economic Affairs. It is sent to over 99% of schools in the UK that teach economics – more than 1,300 schools across the country.”</p><p dir="ltr">EA is circulated to students in both private and state schools across the UK. Contributors include IEA staff and members of other prominent right-wing groups from both sides of the Atlantic, Including the Cato Institute and the TaxPayers’ Alliance. </p><p dir="ltr">As well as publishing the magazine, IEA research staff tour the UK <a href="https://iea.org.uk/list-of-sixth-form-events/">visiting schools</a>, hosting 20 conferences in the past financial year. Many of these conferences follow similar themes to the pages of EA. In February, lower-sixth economics students in Portsmouth listened to talks that included a discussion on “why the minimum wage may not necessarily help those it is intended to”. Another conference looked at “whether there really is sexist prejudice in businesses or whether campaigns manipulated stats for their benefit”.</p><p dir="ltr">Responding to a question from openDemocracy about how the IEA provides “balanced and neutral” information to students attending their talks, IEA executive director Mark Littlewood said:</p><p dir="ltr">“The talks given by the IEA provide an analysis of factual evidence and data.</p><p dir="ltr">“Furthermore, the teachings of free-market economics almost always relates to topical or ‘politically charged’ issues of the day. So does any lesson in any school about history: the political history of the UK, the advent of female suffrage, the founding of the National Health Service, the destruction of South African apartheid by Nelson Mandela and the ANC, and an endless list of other issues.</p><p dir="ltr">“We suggest this content should not be banned, and it would be unwise to believe that some ‘neutral’ state agency is best placed to determine the ‘truth’ as against ‘opinion’.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Responding to questions about the funding of the EA magazine, a spokesperson for the IEA said, “The Institute’s editorial and policy output – in both our reports and our educational material – is decided by its research team and Academic Advisory Council only. Any funding we receive does not, under any circumstances, influence the focus or conclusions of our research. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“Your insinuation is that we only purport certain analysis and views because we are paid to. This is categorically untrue. If you really believe that IEA authors and spokespeople are socialist, tax-loving, big-state advocates at heart, who only advocate free-market economics for a pay cheque, then you are badly mistaken”.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/revealed-how-uk-s-powerful-right-wing-think-tanks-and-conse">Revealed: how the UK’s powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MPs work together</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab: is he the IEA’s man in government?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/mapped-shanker-singhams-unparalleled-access-to-government-ministers-a">Mapped – hard Brexit guru Singham&#039;s &#039;unparalleled&#039; access to government </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal">Liam Fox caught in fresh “lobbyists as advisers” scandal</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk ourNHS Brexit Institute of Economic Affairs climate change Climate change denial tax havens tobacco American Enterprise Institute DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Wed, 28 Nov 2018 12:45:22 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 120732 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Debates about poppies are nothing new, but the tone has changed in Brexit Britain https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/debates-about-poppies-are-nothing-new-but-tone-has-changed-in-brexit-britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The poppy hasn't suddenly been co-opted. It's always been a little piece of propaganda.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Blood_Swept_Lands_and_Seas_of_Red_-_Roll_of_Honour_at_sunset.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Blood_Swept_Lands_and_Seas_of_Red_-_Roll_of_Honour_at_sunset.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Tower of London poppy instillation in 2014. Image, Oosoom.</span></span></span></p><p>For some, the key moment was when they painted a poppy on the side of an RAF Tornado. For others, it was the sense that the symbology was being used to silence criticism of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It has” tweeted second world war RAF veteran&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/Harryslaststand/status/528977651856605184" target="_blank">Harry Lesley Smith</a>&nbsp;in 2014 “been co-opted”.&nbsp;</p><p>For others, it’s a moved from a quiet sign of Remembrance to an icon of Brexit nationalism. The author Matt Haig&nbsp;<a href="http://I&#039;m%20not%20wearing%20a%20poppy%20this%20year.%20I%20think%20it%20is%20shifting%20from%20a%20symbol%20remembering%20war&#039;s%20horror,%20to%20a%20symbol%20of%20war-hungry%20nationalism." target="_blank">tweeted</a>&nbsp;“I'm not wearing a poppy this year. I think it is shifting from a symbol remembering war's horror, to a symbol of war-hungry nationalism.”</p><p>Poppies always draw out passions, and it’s important to acknowledge that meaning is in the mind of the wearer: that someone does or doesn’t pin a piece of paper to their lapel doesn’t indicate that they sign up to everything that’s said about it. But it seems to me that there are two fascinating things about the sorts of statements I’ve quoted above.&nbsp;</p><p>First, red poppies have always been contentious.&nbsp;</p><p>They were chosen by Lady Haig (wife of the famous Field Marshall) in 1921, in a moment of vital historical context. The preceding years had seen the Easter Rising, the Russian revolution and the ‘flu pandemic. The war itself had been rife with&nbsp;<a href="https://leftfootforward.org/2014/08/ww1-the-hidden-story-of-soliders-mutinies-strikes-and-riots/" target="_blank">soldier strikes</a>, mutinies and protests, and had been ended by working class German sailors leading&nbsp;<a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/by/paul-mason/blogs/world-war" target="_blank">a massive rebellion</a>&nbsp;against their aristocratic commanders.&nbsp;</p><p>In 1919, there had been an attempted revolution&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_George_Square" target="_blank">in Glasgow</a>, riots in&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/23/soldiers-riot-luton-first-world-war-1919" target="_blank">England</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epsom_Riot" target="_blank">and</a>&nbsp;<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7923380.stm" target="_blank">Wales</a>. Strikes rippled through the country. Just as the USA had struggled through its “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Summer" target="_blank">Red Summer</a>”, Britain had seen its “year of revolution”.&nbsp;</p><p>When the government had organised a number of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.historyextra.com/remembrance" target="_blank">victory parades</a>, some of the soldiers refused to participate. When they instead held the first, more sombre Armistice Day, in 1919,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/z229kqt" target="_blank">a number of the veterans protested</a>&nbsp;against the conditions they were expected to live in.</p><p>The poppy was chosen as a symbol, by the wife of perhaps the most controversial military figure in British history, at a moment when Britain’s blundering ruling class was more terrified than perhaps it had ever been that it was going to be overthrown. In that context, it has to be understood for what it was: a propaganda tool, functioning to silence protest by demanding national unity: the ubiquitous strategy of threatened establishments. &nbsp;</p><p>She chose a poppy, specifically, because of a piece of rhyming propaganda for war, written by a Canadian military doctor called John Macrae,&nbsp;<em>In Flanders Field</em>, whose final verse is an explicit statement that refusing to continue to fight is an insult to those who have already died.</p><p class="m_-4723772025692197668gmail-poem"><em>Take up our quarrel with the foe:<br />To you from failing hands we throw<br />The torch; be yours to hold it high.<br />If ye break faith with us who die<br />We shall not sleep, though poppies grow<br />In Flanders fields.</em></p><p>Similarly, the poppy hasn’t just recently become a nationalist symbol. It always has been. Until last summer, there was a famous memorial on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey, to the Anzac soldiers who fought against the Ottoman empire there. Supposedly quoting Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, it reads, “There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours”.</p><p>The contrast with the British legion’s statement, under the banner “what we remember” on their website: “The Legion advocates a specific type of Remembrance connected to the British Armed Forces, those who were killed, those who fought with them and alongside them.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/future-soldiers-300x199.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/future-soldiers-300x199.jpg" alt="" title="" width="300" height="199" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image, Royal British Legion website, (via Forces Watch), fair use.</span></span></span></p><p>The red poppy is – and always has been – explicitly about remembering ‘our’ military dead, not all the victims of war. Not those killed in bombing raids. And certainly not the German or Turkish or Japanese or Italian or Afghan or Iraqi people against whom British soldiers have fought.</p><p>It was because of all of these debates and disagreements that the Women’s Co-operative Guild finally settled on the white poppy as a new symbol of Remembrance – in 1933. Unlike the red poppy, it commemorates all victims of war.</p><p>So, if this debate is as old as Remembrance itself, why do so many&nbsp;<em>feel&nbsp;</em>that something has changed?</p><p>First, of course, something&nbsp;<em>has&nbsp;</em>changed. It’s certainly the case that poppies these days are more bling than they once were, more commercial in feel (as the Twitter account&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/giantpoppywatch" target="_blank">@giantpoppywatch</a>&nbsp;documents).&nbsp;</p><p>And it’s certainly the case, as Michael Gove&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2532923/Michael-Gove-blasts-Blackadder-myths-First-World-War-spread-television-sit-coms-left-wing-academics.html" target="_blank">admitted in 2014</a>, that the government wants to use the centenary of the First World War to re-write our national story about it, to teach us that, no, this isn’t a warning against a blundering ruling class but in fact “a just war”. It’s a convenient moment to make such a case, just as the last generation which fought in it is no longer able to respond.</p><p>Similarly, there does seem to be a stronger tide of ‘poppy fascism’ – the sense that those who choose not to wear one in public will be slated, and&nbsp;attendance at Remembrance parades does seem to be growing: people in Shirebrook in the East Midlands last year told me that it's the&nbsp;<a href="https://civilsocietyfutures.org/brass-bands-brexit-culture-culture-war-case-shirebrook/">only community event</a>&nbsp;that's got bigger in recent years, and the Tower of London poppy installation of 2014 attracted an estimated five million people, meaning it is surely the biggest 'live' cultural event in modern British history.</p><p>It seems to me that much of this is really about is the same thing that the First World war was really about: Empire. The combination of the financial crisis, and losing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (let’s be honest with ourselves), has forced much of Britain to realise that we no longer rule the waves. The cultural spasms and backlashes resulting from that realisation are playing out in a number of ways: including Brexit, British Empire kitsch and poppy fascism. It’s a century old argument, but it’s surfacing now for a reason.</p><p><em>A version of this piece first appeared in <a href="https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/politics/why-we-musnt-forget-the-origins-of-the-rememberance-day-poppy">Prospect </a>last year.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/hiding-behind-cenotaph-cameron-will-seek-to-re-write-history">Hiding behind the Cenotaph, Cameron will seek to re-write history </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/arms-bazaar-needing-wars-eating-lives">Arms bazaar: needs wars, eats lives</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/red-poppies-and-arms-trade">Red poppies and the arms trade</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/vron-ware/no-place-like-home">No place like home</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/vron-ware-ben-wadham/ww1-and-battle-of-national-myth">WW1 and the battle of the national myth</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Civil society Conflict The Iraq War World War I empire Poppies Adam Ramsay Thu, 25 Oct 2018 10:20:25 +0000 Adam Ramsay 120267 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trying to milk a vulture: if we want economic justice we need a democratic revolution https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/trying-to-milk-vulture-if-we-want-economic-justice-we-need-democratic-revolution <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> This is the concluding chapter of openDemocracy's e-book New Thinking for the British Economy. You can download the full e-book here for free. “It is not possible to build democratic socialism by... </div> </div> </div> <em>This is the concluding chapter of openDemocracy's e-book New Thinking for the British Economy. You can download the full e-book <a href="http://bit.ly/2pjYvQw">here</a> for free.</em> “It is not possible to build democratic socialism by using the ancient institutions of the British state. Under that, include the present doctrine of sovereignty, Parliament, the electoral system, the civil service, the whole gaudy heritage. It is not possible in the way that it is not possible to induce a vulture to give milk.”<a href="#_edn1" name="_ednref1">[1]</a> As the forces of entropy have continued to pull at the threadbare remnants of Britain’s empire state, Neal Ascherson’s claim in 1985 has become more potent than ever. This “gaudy heritage” includes the House of Lords where a combination of the only hereditary legislators in the world, the only automatic seats for clerics outside Iran, and hundreds of appointed cronies get a say on all the UK’s laws. This valve in the British state allows the interests of the powerful to flow freely, while holding back progressive change. When the Conservative party pushed through the Health and Social Care Act in 2012, which undermined the foundations of the NHS, a quarter of its peers had shares in private health companies.<a href="#_edn2" name="_ednref2">[2]</a> To begin the building of the welfare state in 1910 the Commons first had to limit its influence, but it still has the power and desire to delay and disrupt much of what is proposed in our e-book. There’s the Royal family, and the empire-kitsch nationalism it encourages, allowing tabloids to imply that anyone who isn’t loyal to Britain’s iniquitous institutions is a traitor to their country. There’s the fact that 86% of the land, 90% of the biodiversity<a href="#_edn3" name="_ednref3">[3]</a> and an unknown but large proportion of the wealth for which the British state is responsible lies outside our North Atlantic Archipelago. Stretching from the Cayman Islands to Gibraltar, from the UK’s military bases in Cyprus to the US military bases on the British Indian Ocean territory, the Overseas Territories spin a dark web around the world, allowing the mega-rich to launder their spoils in the shadow of vestigial empire and prompting the leading expert on the mafia to call the UK “the most corrupt country on earth”.<a href="#_edn4" name="_ednref4">[4]</a> There’s the constitutional oddity of the City of London, which sits at the centre of this web, which has managed its own affairs since before the Norman Conquest with a corporate-elected council, has its own police force (dating back to Roman times) and enjoys the only constitutionally mandated permanent lobbyist in parliament, known as the “Remembrancer”. There’s the absurd concentration of power which ensures that decisions of the state are held out of reach of ordinary citizens. Local government in Britain is both less local, and has less power to govern, than almost anywhere else in the western world, helping produce a country with the most extreme regional inequality in Western Europe.<a href="#_edn5" name="_ednref5">[5]</a> There’s the mess of asymmetric devolution, the now multidimensional West Lothian Questions it delivers, and demands for more autonomy from Cornwall to Shetland. There’s the collapsed institutions of Northern Ireland; the immunity of the Bank of England from democratic influence; and the towering power of the Treasury, whose wonky models often seem to shape government policy more than the manifestos of the parties we elect. There’s an electoral system which encourages millions to believe that voting can never make a difference, that democracy is defunct. There’s a civil service whose culture and revolving doors with the institutions of British capital ensure that it would likely be as much of a barrier to change today as when it was founded as a check against the growing enfranchisement of working class men in the 19th century, on the back of the Northcote-Trevelyan report<a href="#_edn6" name="_ednref6">[6]</a>, whose co-author, Sir Charles Trevelyan, is most famous for his genocidal approach to the Irish famine, and who based its structure on the lessons of the colonial administrators of the East India company. There’s the lack of constitutional protections for human rights or civil liberties. One of the central exhibits in the Stasi museum in East Berlin is a bug inserted inside a kitchen door, which had recorded family conversations for years. But the Edward Snowden revelations showed that the UK spy agency GCHQ’s Optic Nerve programme collected images of millions of people through their laptop cameras and smartphones: a level of surveillance that the government of the German Democratic Republic could only dream of, and which poses a drastic threat to the activism and journalism needed to hold power to account. As the Guardian revealed at the time: GCHQ had a “sustained struggle to keep the large store of sexually explicit imagery collected by Optic Nerve away from the eyes of its staff” <a href="#_edn7" name="_ednref7">[7]</a>. While the US has constitutional protection to stop the government spying on civilians without a warrant, the UK doesn’t, and the ability of structurally racist security services to collect both data and meta-data, tracking our networks and movements, gives it capacity for unprecedented social control, including new tools for undermining social movements and trade unions during protests and strikes. The UK sits at 40th in the latest rankings for press freedom, behind almost every other Western country.<a href="#_edn8" name="_ednref8">[8]</a> After Beijing, London is the most watched city in the world, while the shifting terms of citizenship as Britain has made its way from an empire to an EU member to neither – is the beaker holding the poisonous conversation about immigration. Underlying all of this is the ultimate principle of the British constitution, that sovereignty lies not with the people, but with the crown in parliament: the compromise of failed democratic revolutions, which stumbled as the bourgeoisies of previous centuries were bought off with the plunder of empire and slavery. But these questions are as relevant today as ever. Neoliberalism is the process of shifting decisions from one person one vote to one pound – or dollar or Euro or Yen – one vote. It’s no surprise that it has thrived most in those countries in which the democratic revolutions were least complete, in which people are most easily convinced that markets are a better way to make decisions than politics. Most of the policy proposals in this volume demand a different approach: that democratic institutions of various flavours take some kind of control over major areas of decision-making. And if they are to do so, it’s vital that they are genuinely democratic, that they are responsive to the needs of the population, and that they act in the interests of those they are supposed to serve. And if these proposals are to survive beyond the lifetime of more than one government, then their implementation must come alongside a process of empowering citizens to defend those policies and institutions which work. One of the many lessons from the Blair/Brown era is that much of the good they did do – Sure Start Centres and rising public sector pay – was swept away within the term of one austerity happy government. <strong>What is to be done?</strong> [caption id="attachment_3521" align="alignnone" width="979"]<img class="size-full wp-image-3521" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/10/CrackedWinshield-630x411.jpg" alt="" width="979" height="639" /> Image, K99.com[/caption] Britain’s constitutional debate often feels like a car owner attempting to repair a smashed-up windscreen by trying to mend each fracture separately. A much better approach would be to replace the whole mess with a constitutional convention.<a href="#_edn9" name="_ednref9">[9]</a> Specifically, the government should gather a jury of citizens – representative of different races, genders, ages, classes, regions and nations of the UK – to draw up a new constitution, and then hold a referendum or series of referendums on whether to accept it. It was a similar process in Ireland which triggered the magnificent referendums there on equal marriage and abortion rights, which have both undone huge historic injustices, and also unleashed an energy which has helped change Ireland. But while a huge amount can be learned from the Irish process<a href="#_edn10" name="_ednref10">[10]</a>, the UK, without a codified constitution to start with, begins from much further back. Of course, once such a group was convened, it wouldn’t be up to the government to decide what it concluded. But progressives should absolutely be free to advocate for particular decisions during the process, and what follows are a number of the changes I would wish to see. <strong>What rights?</strong> Human rights can be an atomising way to see morality and they are of little use in determining the most complex questions, which arise when rights conflict. However, democracy requires protection for the marginalised and minorities, for the unloved and unlovable, and for everyone against the powerful. The current set-up means that any government – especially without the framework of the EU – could quickly pass a law abolishing any right it didn’t like. This is why most countries enshrine rights in constitutions, which require deeper democratic mandates to amend. A bottom up Convention should help ensure that such rights are seen not as an imposition from some ‘metropolitan elite’ as they are sometimes described, but as emerging from a conversation among the people. Among the principles that should be enshrined is the core of the Magna Carta – equal access to the justice system, which has been so corroded by years of cuts to legal aid. Such a principle is core to any economic reforms: how, for example, can we ensure minimum wage laws are enforced or tenants’ rights are protected unless workers and renters can access the courts on equal terms with their bosses or landlords? A set of rights for women would be important in our systemically sexist society. While they should of course be drafted by women themselves, I’d include rights to equality in pay, property and political representation as well as reproductive rights such as access to safe abortions. Similarly, people of colour, LGBTQI people and disabled people face structural discrimination and their rights should be enshrined. Recent scandals around both the state and corporations spying on trade unionists and environmental activists show the need for protection of both privacy, and of collective organising. And the story that the Home Secretary will allow people accused of terror charges to be sent to the United States to face a potential death penalty shows the potential fatal consequences of elected dictatorship.<a href="#_edn11" name="_ednref11">[11]</a> The 2016 Trade Union Act drastically undermined the capacity of workers to organise collectively, and in 2018 the International Trade Union Congress ranked the UK alongside Russia and the Congo as a country where there are “regular violations of workers’ rights”<a href="#_edn12" name="_ednref12">[12]</a>. A constitution should enshrine collective rights for workers, and for marginalised groups such as the UK’s traveller community, who have been victims of cultural vandalism in recent years. Likewise, we should guarantee not just civil and political rights but also social and economic rights. It seems likely that a list of rights drawn up by a representative sample of British people would include a right to healthcare, and legal protection for the NHS as a universal service, making future attempts at eroding it much harder, and similar rights should exist to education, social care, housing, food and digital access. And when other countries have debated rights in the modern era, some have chosen to think beyond people. The constitutions of both Bolivia<a href="#_edn13" name="_ednref13">[13]</a> and Namibia<a href="#_edn14" name="_ednref14">[14]</a> enshrine protections for nature, which mean environmentalists and indigenous people have legal recourse to challenge corporate polluters and plunderers in the highest courts in the land. If the point of constitutions is the long-term stewardship of a civilisation, then it ought to build in protection for the planet. The same is true of digital rights. If data is the new oil, then asking who owns it means asking who owns much of our economy. A modern democratic revolution should have Google and Facebook in mind alongside government and finance. There are important questions to be asked about how this sort of data should be owned, stored and used. Our current governance structures have proved woefully incapable of even asking those questions – it is clueless when it comes to contemplating possible answers. And the flip-side of data protection is transparency. The 2001 Freedom of Information Act has helped sweep aside some of the deep corruption of the British state. Without it, we wouldn’t have had the expenses scandal or known as much as we do about corporate lobbying and the revolving doors between the civil service and big business. But with MPs dodging the Act with WhatsApp groups, and government departments now turning down Freedom of Information requests wholesale, with more and more of the functions of the state being privatised beyond the reach of the Act (for now) there’s a deep need for new rules – and a newly empowered Information Commission – to ensure our government is transparent. And just as the Information Commission needs to be renewed, so the Electoral Commission and the rules protecting our democracy from big money need to be comprehensively refreshed. In the 2010 election – which took place immediately after the banking crash – more than half of the donations to the Tories came from the City of London.<a href="#_edn15" name="_ednref15">[15]</a> They were paid to not regulate the banks, and they didn’t: a historic dereliction of duty. As I write this, I’ve spent nearly two years investigating where much of the cash that paid for various campaigns to leave the EU came from, and I couldn’t tell you the answer with certainty, other than that it came through tax havens and loopholes in the British constitution, from people with vast wealth who believed that Brexit was in their interests. Without either public funding for political parties, or much tougher enforcement of stricter laws on funding, British democracy is in real trouble. Similarly, the 2000 Elections Act was written before the advent of Facebook or Twitter. These are new spaces for democratic debate and they need new rules. <strong>Regulation, regulation, regulation</strong> There’s another way to look at the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Electoral Commission. Both emerged during the Blair/Brown years, where regulation became part of a “third way” compromise between public and private ownership, and led to a set of organisations which blur the old constitutional lines between judiciary, legislature, and executive. For the most part, though, as Anthony Barnett has pointed out Britain has regulated goods and services in an increasingly complex and globalised market by participating in the EU. <a href="#_edn16" name="_ednref16">[16]</a> And if we are to leave the EU, then we will need to rapidly take on many of these functions, and in that context, there is important thinking to be done about what sorts of regulators we want in the future. If, for example, the Food Standards Agency, or the Financial Conduct Authority, or the Care Quality Commission, or Natural Resources Wales, or the General Pharmaceutical Council, or the Social Care Inspectorate, or all of the new regulators the UK will have to create as we take on work previously done at an EU level – are to have the powers they will need to hold the powerful to account, then they will need the legitimacy of democracy in some form. Otherwise they will find themselves in the same position as the EU: facing accusations of being unaccountable legislators. And this applies as much to those who regulate democratic and non-profit institutions as it does those who oversee the market. Britain’s current regulatory structure was mostly built by a New Labour administration which was largely populated by the great and good of bureaucratised NGOs and elites from within the public sector. As such, it is essentially a new form of unaccountable governance by those elites. It will either find a way to democratise itself, or it will be torn down by those it ought to be regulating, and their allies in the media. <strong>The basic functions of the state</strong> [caption id="attachment_3522" align="alignnone" width="500"]<img class="size-full wp-image-3522" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/10/G4S_0.jpg" alt="" width="500" height="520" /> Image, 'inspector gadget' with thanks to Clare Sambrook.[/caption] At the very core of the state sits two groups. First, there are those who run it: the civil service. Second is those who administer its most defining power: the monopoly on legal violence. In recent years, the work of the civil service has been increasingly outsourced to the big four accountancy firms, Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG. To take just one of them, PwC has played a key role in everything from military procurement<a href="#_edn17" name="_ednref17">[17]</a> to Brexit negotiations<a href="#_edn18" name="_ednref18">[18]</a>, to the justice system<a href="#_edn19" name="_ednref19">[19]</a> to healthcare<a href="#_edn20" name="_ednref20">[20]</a> and almost any other function of the state you might imagine. The big four audit all but one of the FTSE 100 and 97% of US public companies<a href="#_edn21" name="_ednref21">[21]</a>, meaning they were responsible for signing off the books of all of the major banks which would then go on to collapse in 2007/8.<a href="#_edn22" name="_ednref22">[22]</a> PwC is also the UK’s “leading provider of tax services”<a href="#_edn23" name="_ednref23">[23]</a>, and in 2015 was accused by Margaret Hodge, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee of “promotion of tax avoidance on an industrial scale”.<a href="#_edn24" name="_ednref24">[24]</a> In 2018, the firm was banned from auditing listed companies in India after a company it had audited turned out to have committed a billion dollar fraud (PwC denied any wrongdoing).<a href="#_edn25" name="_ednref25">[25]</a> Ahead of the 2015 election, PwC was, after the trade unions, the biggest donor to the Labour party<a href="#_edn26" name="_ednref26">[26]</a>, having seconded staff to the offices of then shadow ministers Chuka Umunna and Ed Balls to write the party’s policy on tax and education. Given the key role that it plays in writing, shaping and delivering government (and opposition) policy, PwC, alongside the other big-four firms, should be understood as a key component of the modern British state (and of most other Western states). As the journalist Ellie Mae O’Hagan has pointed out, there was until 2010 a public body called the Audit Commission, which audited 11,000 public bodies, but which was abolished by the coalition government. <a href="#_edn27" name="_ednref27">[27]</a> It’s vital that we bring back the Audit Commission, and I would suggest that as well as all public bodies, all major firms ought to be audited by it, rather than being allowed to choose who will check their sums. More broadly, any progressive government is likely to find it impossible to deliver its agenda with a hollowed out civil service, which relies heavily on the big four to deliver any major project: the reforms in this volume conflict directly with the interests of most of their corporate clients, and of the big four themselves. This means there will need to be a major project in re-building and re-skilling the civil service. Similarly, the monopoly on violence has become more of a competitive marketplace for physical force. From the G4S employees who suffocated Jimmy Mubenga to death<a href="#_edn28" name="_ednref28">[28]</a>, to the guards in our privatised prisons and the staff at the firm Maximus<a href="#_edn29" name="_ednref29">[29]</a> (who determine whether or not people are fit to work), the right to decide who lives and who dies is increasingly being outsourced to private firms. And as the NGO War on Want has revealed, this is equally true outside the country.<a href="#_edn30" name="_ednref30">[30]</a> Since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the work of war has increasingly been contracted to mercenaries, whose industry has grown exponentially. The industry is now worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and is one of the few sectors in which the UK is the world leader, in part because the government allows it to regulate itself. This process had a direct impact on British and American democracy when SCL, a mercenary psychological operations contractor hired by NATO and the defence departments of various of its members, realised it could apply the skills it had developed in warzones to domestic campaigns, and set up a subsidiary called Cambridge Analytica, which secured the contract to run Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, while its close associate, AggregateIQ, effectively ran the pro-Brexit campaign. In both cases, the firms won by smearing racism across the internet.<a href="#_edn31" name="_ednref31">[31]</a> Private armies, mercenary military propagandists and social-media monopolies are drowning our democracy. We need robust independent media and democratically refreshed public broadcasters. And if prisons, the police and the military are to exist (that’s another debate), there must be a constitutional requirement that any monopoly on legal violence and the broader work of war is held directly by a democratically accountable state, not outsourced to mercenaries. <strong>Where is British?</strong> [caption id="attachment_3523" align="alignnone" width="1500"]<img class="size-full wp-image-3523" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/10/British_Overseas.png" alt="" width="1500" height="1240" /> British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. Image, George Bozanko, Wikimedia Commons.[/caption] The geographical reach of the British state peaked in 1920 at around 25%<a href="#_edn32" name="_ednref32">[32]</a> of the surface of the earth and remains much larger than most British citizens realise – with most of it still falling in the Southern Hemisphere. There are, by my count, 18 legislatures sitting under Westminster’s wings; with varying degrees of autonomy over populations ranging from the 5.3 million citizens of Scotland to the 50 people on Pitcairn, descendants of the mutineers of HMS Bounty and the women they kidnapped and raped. First, there’s the five recognised nations of the UK. Recent polls in Scotland have consistently shown majorities of people under the age of 55 supporting independence<a href="#_edn33" name="_ednref33">[33]</a>, and sooner or later, Westminster will find itself facing a constitutional choice similar to the one which has been bungled by the Spanish government in Catalunya: if Holyrood demands a legally binding independence referendum, will Westminster block it? Similarly, the sickly Good Friday Agreement – the official discussion of which has been described by Robin Wilson as a constitutional re-enactment of Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch<a href="#_edn34" name="_ednref34">[34]</a> – requires that the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland hold a referendum on Northern Ireland’s constitutional position “if at any time it appears likely to him [sic] that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.”<a href="#_edn35" name="_ednref35">[35]</a> How the Secretary of State is supposed to divine such a likelihood is, however, left unsaid, and it doesn’t take much imagining to ponder a scenario in which disagreement about this reaches crisis point, producing further chaos in what is already one of the poorest corners in Northern Europe. In the meantime, as I write, every institution set up by the Agreement apart from the police service is not operating, and the likely imposition of border controls with the Republic risks bringing with it chaos and queues. Meanwhile, England and Wales are going through their own, different, and ongoing, processes of emergence from empire, in which England maintains the arrogance of believing it isn’t just a normal country, while Cornwall<a href="#_edn36" name="_ednref36">[36]</a> – a recognised national minority and the second poorest region of Northern Europe<a href="#_edn37" name="_ednref37">[37]</a> – normally goes unnoticed, despite strong support for devolution there. Then there’s the fourteen British Overseas Territories: Akrotiri and Dhekelia; Anguilla; Bermuda; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands; St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands; and Turks and Caicos Islands. Each of these has its own complex stories, from the disgraceful expulsion of the Chagosians from the British Indian Ocean Territory to the child rapes on Pitcairn<a href="#_edn38" name="_ednref38">[38]</a> to the financial secrets of Cayman and Gibraltar. Finally, there’s the Crown Dependencies: the Isle of Man, which has the oldest (and only tri-cameral) parliament in the world, and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, the latter of which includes three jurisdictions: Guernsey itself, Alderney and Sark. These are the property of the Crown and have a series of complex arrangements with the British government, particularly around defence. Twice since 1980, Britain’s armed forces have fought wars in defence of Overseas Territories. In 1982, the Falklands War revived Thatcher’s ailing government and so played a key role in shaping a generation of British politics. In 2003, the famous ‘dodgy dossier’ declared that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed within 45 minutes against Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Britain’s mini-military dictatorship on Cyprus, where 8,000 Cypriots live under the rule of an appointee of the Department of Defence. This is what provided the supposed legal justification for the invasion which triggered the ongoing disaster in Iraq, and which has helped shape much of British politics ever since. Under the protection of Britain’s armed forces, but without the scrutiny of international politics, the Crown Dependencies and many of the Overseas Territories play a key role as the world’s most important network of tax havens and secrecy areas. More than half of the companies registered in the Panama papers were listed in Britain or its Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. A distinct part of any constitutional convention would probably have to look at the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies in conversation with those who live in them and their governments. Each has a different history, different controversies and by their nature, each will have a slightly different relationship with the UK. However, here is my fairly simple proposal. First, England should be given a parliament of its own and treated as the biggest in a family of nations, not the imperious parent. If the people of Cornwall wish their own, separate chamber, then they should have one too. England’s regions (such as Yorkshire) should also have their own assemblies. While this will be attacked as “more politicians” by neoliberals, a growing state, with publicly owned public transport, water, regional investment banks and other renationalised services means more work for elected officials, and such services will often be best managed at a regional level. Second, if the people of any given Overseas Territory wish to remain under the purview of the British state and to nestle under the protective wings of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force, then the government should offer a basic set of rights and responsibilities, including the two or three MPs between them that their collective population merits. They should be allowed legislatures of their own, like Scotland or Wales, where they can develop their own health and education systems. But corporation tax rates, transparency laws and basic rights for citizens should be shared: no more tax havens and secrecy areas. They should not be allowed to use the British state as a protective screen as they hide wealth for the crooks of the world. Thirdly, each constituent nation of the British state – from the citizens of Scotland or England to the people of Pitcairn or Montserrat – should be given a legal right to vote for their own independence or to join with another country of their choosing, with a referendum triggered by a petition signed by a pre-agreed portion of registered voters: say, a fifth. Those who wish to remain within the UK should negotiate between them which powers they wish to delegate up to Westminster, and which they wish to retain at a national level. <strong>How to arrange our democracy</strong> [caption id="attachment_3524" align="alignnone" width="4096"]<img class="size-full wp-image-3524" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/10/PA-1685558.jpg" alt="" width="4096" height="3116" /> Ester Tewogbade, 3, from London, helps support her mother Dolapo show support for reform in the House of Lords. Image, Michael Stephens/PA Archive/PA Images[/caption] Then there’s the basic infrastructure of our democratic processes. The question of what to do with the House of Lords is long running. As Anthony Barnett has pointed out to me, if it were replaced by a proportional senate but the Commons left unreformed, then it would immediately become the more representative chamber and accrue more moral legitimacy. And so, both must be reformed at once. Proportional representation is both fairer and tends to produce more progressive governments<a href="#_edn39" name="_ednref39">[39]</a> – citizenries, on the whole, are more egalitarian than their establishments. Endless dull texts have pondered which system is best, and I don’t propose to mull here on the various advantages of STV over AV+ or D’Hont<a href="#_edn40" name="_ednref40">[40]</a>, but it seems clear that a switch to a system in which every vote contributes to the final result would be an important step towards restoring faith in democracy. The institution of Westminster is itself damaging to British democracy, as the disciplinarian mother of parliaments insists that its citizens are seen but not heard. Both Caroline Lucas<a href="#_edn41" name="_ednref41">[41]</a> and Mhairi Black<a href="#_edn42" name="_ednref42">[42]</a> have written well about their experiences as MPs entering a building that intimidates anyone unfamiliar with the cloisters of an old public school or Oxford college, where you are given a hook for your sword but have to fight for desk space. It is closer to Versailles – which aimed to awe subjects into submission – than it is to more egalitarian institutions, such as the Scottish Parliament. The fact that only 30% of MPs are women – 47th in the world, just behind Sudan<a href="#_edn43" name="_ednref43">[43]</a> – indicates a deep sickness in the culture of the place, and recent stories of heavily pregnant MPs being marched through the voting lobbies show that things need to change. To walk into the Houses of Parliament, I need to pass a statue honouring a man – Oliver Cromwell – whose troops murdered a fifth of the population of my home city, Dundee<a href="#_edn44" name="_ednref44">[44]</a>, and who is considered by many in Ireland to personify the slaughter of their ancestors by the British state. A simple solution would be to turn the whole palace into a museum and debunk to a city further north. Apart from anything else, Northern England’s rackety trains might finally get the upgrade they have long needed if more MPs were forced to travel on them every week. And if the two chambers were placed in different cities, the narcissism of the place might dissipate a little. At the same time, the various absurd traditions of Westminster should be replaced with clear, accountable democratic procedures, including two proportionally elected chambers with different systems, an element of sortition (which I’ll come to), and mechanisms to ensure women and minority groups are fairly represented. But ultimately, bringing power closer to people is vital if we are to build a democracy at a more human scale. For too long, local government has been stripped of power, to the point that Britain is now, by some measures, the most centralised developed country. It’s no surprise that people have paid less and less attention to disempowered local authorities with little capacity to shape their communities. But when people are given real decisions, they show up in their thousands. Across Europe, the average population of a local authority is 5,620.<a href="#_edn45" name="_ednref45">[45]</a> The smallest council area in England is West Summerset, with 34,000 people.<a href="#_edn46" name="_ednref46">[46]</a> The biggest is Birmingham – the largest ‘local’ government area in Europe – with 1.1 million people.<a href="#_edn47" name="_ednref47">[47]</a> Scotland and Wales aren’t much better, while local government in Northern Ireland has very few powers. In Germany, the average local councillor represents 600 people.<a href="#_edn48" name="_ednref48">[48]</a> In England, that figure is 7,000, with 3,500 in Wales and 4,270 in Scotland. In Norway, as Lesley Riddoch points out, one in every 81 people will stand for local election at some point, while the equivalent figure in Scotland is one in 2071.<a href="#_edn49" name="_ednref49">[49]</a> And that’s before we consider the numbers who stand for election to the broad array of other democratised institutions, like school boards. As Riddoch points out, “In Norway a small kommune of 3,000 people is still responsible for fire and police.” Moreover, she goes on to say, “Sweden has even more powerful local councils. Anyone earning less than £35k per annum pays all their income tax to the local council and none to central government; financed by higher rate earners and corporation tax.” For neoliberals, of course, none of this matters much. You’re unlikely to mind what sort of government is getting out of the way of the market, and the more ‘politics’ is confined within the walls of an obviously anachronistic Westminster, the more that the mantra “there is no alternative” wins. But once we accept that neoliberalism has failed and some sort of government intervention matters, if we believe that politics is about power everywhere, then the sort of government – and its ability to understand local differences – becomes enormously important. While there is often discussion among progressives about the Nordic social democratic model, there is little understanding in Anglo-American debate that the key to building the ‘social’ has been the ‘democracy’. Since the Beveridge Report, progressives in Britain have relied on a strategy of universalism to defend the social security system, on the grounds that public services just for the poor end up being poor public services. This, of course, remains true, and Blairism’s embrace of means-testing was a key precursor to Cameron’s cuts: see, for example, the broad resistance to fortnightly bin collection versus the ease with which housing benefit has been cut. It’s clear, though, that universalism isn’t sufficient. If future governments hope to protect parts of our lives from the brutality of the market for the long-term, that means building institutions and policies that people will be willing to organise to defend, over generations. And the best way to do that is to involve citizens directly in building and running those institutions. <strong>Beyond social democracy, to radical democracy</strong> In 1972, the Glaswegian trade unionist Jimmy Reid was elected rector of Glasgow university on the back of a work-in he led of Clydeside shipbuilders. The speech he gave accepting the post was so powerful it was re-printed in the New York Times. In it, Reid railed against both the market, and the centralisation in the local government reforms going through at the time. He opened with a stark claim: “Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problems in Britain today”.<a href="#_edn50" name="_ednref50">[50]</a> In the 46 years since he gave his speech, the extent of alienation has only got worse. The claim is even more true today than it was at the time. But three major things have changed. The first is that progressive governments at both local and national levels across the world have developed a range of techniques to support citizens to make large scale decisions through participatory and deliberative processes. Since 1989, the people of Porto Allegre in Brazil have come together every year to choose how to spend the city’s multi-million pound budget. And the scheme has been such a success – even the World Bank<a href="#_edn51" name="_ednref51">[51]</a> has accepted that it’s been more efficient in alleviating poverty than the conventional process of leaving budget decisions to political elites – that it’s been repeated in cities across Latin America, and even the world. In Edinburgh, where I live, the people of Leith have an annual process for divvying out community funds, inspired by lessons from Brazil. One of the most remarkable effects of such processes though is not just the way in which it changes how money is spent, but how it changes the people involved. As the World Bank report mentioned above says, “information disclosure through meetings involving public representatives has facilitated a learning process that leads to a more active citizenship. Citizens have become aware of new possibilities, and this has helped them to decide on civic matters influencing their everyday lives.” A study by the University of Columbia in 2005of the impact of participatory budgeting on the people of the Argentinian city of Rosario came to a similar conclusion. <a href="#_edn52" name="_ednref52">[52]</a> People they interviewed talked about how the process had helped bring together the community and give them a sense of ownership over it. The various experiments in radical democracy that have taken place around the world stretch beyond budgeting, and they don’t always involve mass assemblies: as mentioned above, Ireland’s recent constitutional referendums were the result of a citizens’ jury, and the participatory processes have been used to look at a whole range of questions. But what they have in common is that they allow space for people to have conversations about the future, outside the endlessly atomising force of the market. The second thing that has changed since Jimmy Reid railed against alienation is the arrival of the internet, and with it a series of tools to facilitate collective decision-making. While it’s important not to fall into the perils of tech-utopianism, the web can be a powerful tool for radical democracy. And the third change is the arrival of big data. Mostly, this important new tool has been used to sell us things and spy on us. But the depth of information humanity is now able to gather on how to understand major problems ranging from cancer rates to climate change is vast. In this context, the centralised British constitutional system – where 650 MPs plus 792 Lords make the vital decisions which affect all of us, is an absurd anachronism, designed more to protect a ruling elite than to unleash the collective wisdom of the country. As Peter McColl has argued, the mix of near-universal literacy, the power of pervasive and ubiquitous data to help us better understand the challenges we face, and success in trialling and developing the tools of radical democracy, means that now is the time for a participatory society.<a href="#_edn53" name="_ednref53">[53]</a> Such suggestions are often contentious among those who worry that decentralising the power of the state can be a divide-and-rule tactic which allows capture by big business. But in reality, the states which have managed to stop being entirely controlled by big business are the least centralised, because the best guardian against corporate capture is an empowered citizenry with hands-on control of public investment. In practice, what I’d propose is a mixed model of direct and representative democracy, with powerful local government facilitating participatory processes for decisions like budgeting and the production of urban plans, and national government using jury-style processes as a stage in the writing of major new laws, to oversee the work of public bodies such as government departments, police forces, regulators and the central bank, and in public inquiries as Dan Hind has proposed.<a href="#_edn54" name="_ednref54">[54]</a> <strong>Who’s sovereign?</strong> [caption id="attachment_3525" align="alignnone" width="1473"]<img class="size-full wp-image-3525" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/10/PA-2139273.jpg" alt="" width="1473" height="2277" /> The Queen's Speech. PA/ROTA PA ROTA/PA Archive/PA Images[/caption] Any basic politics course will teach you that such a society is anathema to the British constitution. In the UK, we’re told, the Crown in parliament is sovereign. In reality, however, this principle is already broken, as Anthony Barnett and I pointed out last year.<a href="#_edn55" name="_ednref55">[55]</a> First, there’s the question of Scotland. Here, there is a strong cultural belief that the people of Scotland are sovereign, sometimes claimed to date back to the declaration of Arbroath in 1320. In 1989, the majority of Scottish MPs (mostly Labour and Liberal Democrat) signed “the Claim of Right”, which declared “We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs”.<a href="#_edn56" name="_ednref56">[56]</a> A majority of MSPs currently sitting declared, as they were sworn in, that “the people of Scotland are sovereign” – a position taken by both the Scottish Government and the Church of Scotland<a href="#_edn57" name="_ednref57">[57]</a>, but in direct contradiction to the sovereignty claimed by Westminster. And when David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband signed “the Vow” ahead of Scotland’s independence referendum, they declared that the Scottish parliament is permanent: a promise restated in the 2016 Scotland Act<a href="#_edn58" name="_ednref58">[58]</a>, which bans future incarnations of Westminster from abolishing it without consent of the people of Scotland, meaning that there is a level of sovereignty greater than that of the Crown in Parliament. This principle went further in 2017. When the activist Gina Miller won her case at the supreme court determining that MPs had to vote on Brexit, two things happened. First, the three dissenting Supreme Court judges argued that they could not instruct Parliament to vote on the matter, because to do so would be to declare that the court had power over Westminster, and therefore that Parliament was not sovereign. They lost 8-3, but the very fact that three of the country’s most senior judges believe that this means that the Supreme Court – another product of Blair’s constitutional tinkering – can now overrule the Commons is vitally important. Secondly, MPs then voted, overwhelmingly, for something they believed was a bad idea, because, they said, the will of the people must be respected. They abdicated responsibility for deciding on the matter. In other words, the Brexit vote produced the best display that, in reality in modern Britain, we have no idea where sovereignty really lies. There are two reason for this collapse in the idea that the Queen-in-parliament is sovereign. First, the contemporary concept of parliamentary sovereignty dates from AV Dicey’s famous book, ‘Introduction to the study of law of the constitution’ from 1885. When he wrote that parliament is “an absolutely sovereign legislature” with “the right to make or unmake any laws”, London was the capital of the biggest empire in human history. It was a literal description of the power of a chamber which, ultimately, could enforce its will across the world. This, clearly, is no longer true, with power shifting both east and west, and capital becoming increasingly footloose. Secondly, Anglo-Britain (the Welsh, Irish and Scots have different stories), maintains a cognitive dissonance about the monarchy. On the one hand, they are at once the deities of reality TV Britain and icons of empire-kitsch sentimentality. They are the zenith of a nationalism so ubiquitous it goes unmentioned, which permeates the society of a past-it empire desperate to remain cool in the modern media market. On the other hand, the absurdity of the idea of the divine right of kings in a country where fewer than one in fifty actually attend a Church of England ceremony each week is overwhelming. We are left with a Schrodinger’s sovereignty, where the compromises of the seventeenth century are alive, until you look at them too closely. Looked at another way, at the core of the British constitution lies the creaking old class system. Only five British universities have produced a prime minister, and more than twice as many have gone to Eton as to non-fee paying schools. And at the centre of this system, reminding us all that it’s the natural order of things for posh white people to be in charge and that vast inequality is part of our national culture, is the monarchy. To clean up our current constitutional mess means therefore means resolving the question of who is sovereign. For any democrat, the answer to that question is “the people”. But that means a head-on confrontation with monarchism: whilst, of course, it would be possible (though undesirable) to maintain a Nordic style monarchy, with a role that is genuinely only ceremonial, even such a cautious move would almost certainly be treated by the tabloids as what it was: an all-out assault on British traditions, and so would likely provoke a confrontation with Anglo-British nationalism. To understand the scale of this challenge, you need to understand that the UK is currently spending around £170 billion renewing its nuclear submarines, with the support of both main Britain-wide parties, despite MPs knowing them to be technologically redundant, because it’s easier to do so than to explain to the voters of Anglo-Britain that the sop they got for losing the empire was designed in a world before maritime drones.<a href="#_edn59" name="_ednref59">[59]</a> <strong>A new economy is impossible without democracy</strong> There will be those who read what I have proposed above and feel that none of it is a priority. There are people starving on the streets of Britain, and we need to hurry on with sorting the housing crisis and income inequality. The planet is burning, and we must prioritise the transition to a low carbon economy. Others might argue that this is all a side-show: power in our system lies with big corporations, not governments. The system we should be focussing on is neoliberal capitalism, not archaic questions about constitutional sovereignty, and provoking a bare-knuckled fight with revanchist nationalism is a dangerous game. But a political system built to ensure elite rule will always mean that decisions are steered towards the interests of the elite. Powerful property owners still have huge sway. Shell and BP still have their teeth deep into the Foreign Office. And we will never succeed in taking power away from corporate elites if the only alternative is a laughably anachronistic system of quasi-democracy that is deeply in hoc to those elites anyway. Deep down, people understand this. When Scotland’s independence referendum campaign kicked off, it was the height of austerity, and the response from much of Scottish Labour was to treat it as a sideshow to ‘bread and butter’ issues. But the vote produced huge levels of political engagement, unseen in a generation, because people understood that without mending the system somehow, the bread and butter questions would never be answered. Similarly, the biggest turn out in England in recent years was the European referendum, when people voted for a campaign promising them the chance to “take back control”: the ultimate desire in the age of alienation. <strong>The future</strong> If a future UK – or its consciously uncoupled constituent countries – is to transform itself into a democracy, then it’s imperative that the rules of that state are written not by the politicians of any one party, but through a process which itself is seen as legitimate, democratic, and plural. The best evidence seems to be that mixed models work well: where a randomly selected and representative jury is interspersed with a small group of elected politicians from across the party spectrum (who are there mostly to advocate for the process in the old institutions), and given the power to determine its own direction and ask advice from the experts it chooses. Such a group, I would hope, would bring a string of proposals similar to those I’ve sketched out above, to the public, through carefully thought through referendum processes, which would lead us to democracy. Perhaps one such proposal would be a return to the EU. In the last five years, these islands have seen four iconic, culture-shifting referendums. Scotland’s independence vote shifted attitudes in the country, making them more progressive as thousands became enthused about politics once more. Ireland’s votes on abortion and equal marriage awoke a progressive spirit and helped the country cast off its conservative Catholic heritage. England’s Brexit vote (because that’s what it was) pulled in a different direction, unleashing a negative energy which often feels scary. This certainly reveals the risk of badly run democratic process in a noxious context. But the risk of progressives retreating to a belief in elite rule is much greater. National identity and national institutions help create each other. England, specifically, desperately needs to find a way to escape the prison of imperial longing, and emerge as a modern democracy. A vast national debate about how to really ‘take back control’ from those who have hoarded power for generations is long overdue. It’s time to complete the democratic revolution. <p class="p1"><em><strong><a href="http://bit.ly/2pjYvQw">Click here</a> to download a free electronic copy of 'New Thinking for the British Economy'. Hard copies of each chapter can also be purchased for £1 via Commonwealth Publishing and the Democracy Collaborative. If you would like to order physical copies, and inquire about organising author events, please <a href="mailto:dan.hind@commonwealth-publishing.com">contact Dan Hind</a> or visit the Commonwealth Publishing website – <a href="http://www.commonwealth-publishing.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">www.commonwealth-publishing.com</a></strong></em></p> <strong>Further reading</strong> Barnett, A. (2017). <em>The Lure of Greatness</em>. Unbound. Cave T, Rowell A. (2015). <em>A quiet word: lobbying, crony capitalism and broken politics in Britain</em>. Penguin. Hind, D. (2018). <em>The Constitutional Turn, Liberty and the Co-operative State. </em>Available at: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/dan-hind/constitutional-turn-liberty-and-co-operative-state">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/dan-hind/constitutional-turn-liberty-and-co-operative-state</a> Lucas, C. (2015). <em>Honourable Friends: Parliament and the Fight for Change.</em> Granta Publications McColl, P. (2018). <em>It’s time for a participatory society. </em>Available at:<em> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-mccoll/its-time-for-participatory-society">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-mccoll/its-time-for-participatory-society</a></em> openDemocracy. (n.d.). <em>Great Charter Convention</em>. Available at: <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention/constitutional-convention">https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention/constitutional-convention</a> Ramsay, A. (2018). <em>Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</em>. openDemocracy. Available at: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda</a> Reid, J. (1972). <em>Alienation</em>. Available at: <a href="https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_167194_en.pdf">https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_167194_en.pdf</a> Riddoch, L, 2017: <em>Local democracy needs a hand. </em>Available at: <a href="https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/lesley-riddoch-local-democracy-needs-a-hand-1-4415708">https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/lesley-riddoch-local-democracy-needs-a-hand-1-4415708</a> Sambrook C and others. (n.d.). <em>G4S, Securing whose world</em>. openDemocracy. Available at: <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/g4s-securing-whose-world">https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/g4s-securing-whose-world</a> Sambrook, C. and Omonira-Oyekanmi, R. (n.d.) <em>Shine a Light</em>. openDemocracy. Available at: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight</a> Shaxton, N. (2011). <em>Treasure Islands, tax havens and the men who stole the world</em>. Palgrave McMillan. &nbsp; <a href="#_ednref1" name="_edn1">[1]</a> Ascherson, N. (1985). <em>John MacIntosh Memorial Lecture</em>. Available at: https://opendemocracy.net/uk/neal-ascherson/ancient-britons-and-republican-dream <a href="#_ednref2" name="_edn2">[2]</a> Robertson, A. (2012). <em>Will private interests of peers swell the vote for England’s health bill? </em>Retrieved from: https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/andrew-robertson/will-private-interests-of-peers-swell-vote-for-englands-health-bill <a href="#_ednref3" name="_edn3">[3]</a> Rand, M and Briggs, J. (2016). <em>The United Kingdom’s Overseas Territories harbour an environment worth protecting. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2016/07/07/the-united-kingdoms-overseas-territories-harbour-an-environment-worth-protecting">http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2016/07/07/the-united-kingdoms-overseas-territories-harbour-an-environment-worth-protecting</a> <a href="#_ednref4" name="_edn4">[4]</a> Yeung, P. (2016, 29 May). <em>UK is most corrupt country in the world, says mafia expert Roberto Saviano</em>. Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/roberto-saviano-britain-corrupt-mafia-hay-festival-a7054851.html">https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/roberto-saviano-britain-corrupt-mafia-hay-festival-a7054851.html</a> <a href="#_ednref5" name="_edn5">[5]</a> Inequality Briefing. (2015). <em>Regional Inequality in the UK is worst in Western Europe. Retrieved from:</em> <a href="http://inequalitybriefing.org/brief/briefing-61-regional-inequality-in-the-uk-is-the-worst-in-western-europe">http://inequalitybriefing.org/brief/briefing-61-regional-inequality-in-the-uk-is-the-worst-in-western-europe</a> <a href="#_ednref6" name="_edn6">[6]</a> Northcote S, Trevelyan C. (1854). <em>The Northcote-Trevelyan report.</em> Retrieved from: <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1467-9299.1954.tb01719.x">https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1467-9299.1954.tb01719.x</a> <a href="#_ednref7" name="_edn7">[7]</a> Ackerman, S, Ball, J. (2014). <em>Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ</em>. Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/27/gchq-nsa-webcam-images-internet-yahoo">https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/27/gchq-nsa-webcam-images-internet-yahoo</a> <a href="#_ednref8" name="_edn8">[8]</a> Reporters Without borders. (2018). 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Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-belfast-agreement">https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-belfast-agreement</a> <a href="#_ednref36" name="_edn36">[36]</a> HM Government. (2014). <em>Cornwall granted national minority status</em>. Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cornish-granted-minority-status-within-the-uk">https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cornish-granted-minority-status-within-the-uk</a> <a href="#_ednref37" name="_edn37">[37]</a> Smallcombe, M. (2016). <em>Cornwall is the second-poorest region in northern Europe and a quarter of children live in poverty - so what are the problems and what can be done?</em> Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/cornwall-second-poorest-region-northern-617199">https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/cornwall-second-poorest-region-northern-617199#</a> <a href="#_ednref38" name="_edn38">[38]</a>Hirsch, A. (2008). <em>Pitcairn victims of child sex abuse win compensation</em>. Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/oct/10/law-foreignpolicy <a href="#_ednref39" name="_edn39">[39]</a> Doring, H, Manning, P, Jan 2017. <em>Is Proportional Representation More Favourable to the Left? Electoral Rules and Their Impact on Elections, Parliaments and the Formation of Cabinets</em><em>. </em>British Journal of Political Science, 47, 1 pp. 149-164. <a href="#_ednref40" name="_edn40">[40]</a> You can read about the different systems here (I prefer STV with large numbers of MPs (8-10) per constituency): <a href="https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/voting-systems/types-of-voting-system/single-transferable-vote/">https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/voting-systems/types-of-voting-system/single-transferable-vote/</a> <a href="#_ednref41" name="_edn41">[41]</a> Lucas, C. (2015)<em>. Honourable Friends: Parliament and the Fight for Change</em>. Granta Publications. <a href="#_ednref42" name="_edn42">[42]</a> Unknown author. (2018). <em>Westminster is a club masquerading as a parliament says Mhairi Black. </em>Scotsman<em>. </em>Retrieved from<em>: </em><a href="https://www.scotsman.com/news/westminister-is-a-club-masquerading-as-a-parliament-says-mhairi-black-1-4778873">https://www.scotsman.com/news/westminister-is-a-club-masquerading-as-a-parliament-says-mhairi-black-1-4778873</a> <a href="#_ednref43" name="_edn43">[43]</a> Interparliamentary Union. (2017). <em>Women in Politics</em>. Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.ipu.org/resources/publications/infographics/2017-03/women-in-politics-2017">https://www.ipu.org/resources/publications/infographics/2017-03/women-in-politics-2017</a> <a href="#_ednref44" name="_edn44">[44]</a> Dundee Evening Telegraph. (2013). <em>September 1, 1651 the day a fifth of Dundee’s population were massacred. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/2013/09/18/september-1-1651-the-day-a-fifth-of-dundees-population-were-massacred/">https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/2013/09/18/september-1-1651-the-day-a-fifth-of-dundees-population-were-massacred/</a> <a href="#_ednref45" name="_edn45">[45]</a> Common Weal. (n.d.). <em>We need real local democracy. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="http://www.allofusfirst.org/the-key-ideas/we-need-real-local-democracy/">http://www.allofusfirst.org/the-key-ideas/we-need-real-local-democracy/</a> <a href="#_ednref46" name="_edn46">[46]</a> LGIU. (n.d.). <em>Fun facts about local government</em>. Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.lgiu.org.uk/local-government-facts-and-figures/">https://www.lgiu.org.uk/local-government-facts-and-figures/</a> <a href="#_ednref47" name="_edn47">[47]</a> Ibid <a href="#_ednref48" name="_edn48">[48]</a> Riddoch, L. (2017). <em>Local democracy needs a hand. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/lesley-riddoch-local-democracy-needs-a-hand-1-4415708">https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/lesley-riddoch-local-democracy-needs-a-hand-1-4415708</a> <a href="#_ednref49" name="_edn49">[49]</a> Ibid <a href="#_ednref50" name="_edn50">[50]</a> Reid, J. (1972). <em>Alienation</em>. Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_167194_en.pdf">https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_167194_en.pdf</a> <a href="#_ednref51" name="_edn51">[51]</a> Bhatnagar, D, Rathore, A, Moreno Torres, M and Kanungo, P. (2001). <em>Participatory Budgeting in Brazil</em>. Indian Institute of Management and World Bank. Retrieved from: <a href="http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEMPOWERMENT">http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEMPOWERMENT</a> <a href="#_ednref52" name="_edn52">[52]</a> Lerner, J and Schugurensky, D. (2005). <em>Learning citizenship and democracy through participatory budgeting: The case of Rosario, Argentina. </em>Conference paper presented at Democratic Practices as Learning Opportunities, Columbia University, New York. Retrieved from: <a href="http://www.linesofflight.net/work/rosario_pb_columbia.pdf">www.linesofflight.net/work/rosario_pb_columbia.pdf</a> <a href="#_ednref53" name="_edn53">[53]</a> McColl, P. (2018). <em>It’s time for a participatory society. </em>Retrieved from<em>: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-mccoll/its-time-for-participatory-society">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-mccoll/its-time-for-participatory-society</a> </em> <a href="#_ednref54" name="_edn54">[54]</a> Hind, D. (2018). <em>The Constitutional Turn, Liberty and the Co-operative State. </em>openDemocracy. Retrieved from: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/dan-hind/constitutional-turn-liberty-and-co-operative-state">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/dan-hind/constitutional-turn-liberty-and-co-operative-state</a> <a href="#_ednref55" name="_edn55">[55]</a> Barnett, A, Ramsay, A. (2017). <em>The abdication of the Commons: how article 50 saw parliament vote against its sovereignty. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-anthony-barnett/abdication-of-commons-how-article-50-saw-parliament-vote-against-its-">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-anthony-barnett/abdication-of-commons-how-article-50-saw-parliament-vote-against-its-</a> <a href="#_ednref56" name="_edn56">[56]</a> See, for example, BBC. (1999). <em>Claim of Right passes to parliament. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1999/06/99/scottish_parliament_opening/380989.stm">http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1999/06/99/scottish_parliament_opening/380989.stm</a> <a href="#_ednref57" name="_edn57">[57]</a> Church of Scotland. (2017). <em>Church responds to second referendum request. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/news/2017/church_responds_to_second_referendum_request">http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/news/2017/church_responds_to_second_referendum_request</a> <a href="#_ednref58" name="_edn58">[58]</a> HM Government. (2016). <em>Scotland Act 2016</em>. Retrieved from: <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2016/11/part/1/crossheading/the-scottish-parliament-and-the-scottish-government/enacted">http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2016/11/part/1/crossheading/the-scottish-parliament-and-the-scottish-government/enacted</a> <a href="#_ednref59" name="_edn59">[59]</a> Ramsay, A. (2017). <em>Trident and the very British yearning for empire bling. openDemocracy. </em>Retrieved from<em>: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/trident-and-yearning-for-empire-bling">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/trident-and-yearning-for-empire-bling</a></em><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk WP imported wagtail Adam Ramsay Mon, 22 Oct 2018 12:46:28 +0000 Adam Ramsay 120227 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: Met Police ignored Brexit campaign evidence for months https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/revealed-met-police-ignored-brexit-campaign-evidence-for-month <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Scotland Yard claimed it didn’t receive key evidence about Leave campaigns until September. But the evidence was ready from May. They just didn’t bother to collect it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/30376111876_4e6b9bb21f_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/30376111876_4e6b9bb21f_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>London Mayor Sadiq Khan was told by the Met that it hadn't "recieved" the documents, when really the police just hadn't bothered to pick them up. Image, Lee, Flickr, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Metropolitan Police Service ignored potential criminal evidence gathered by the Electoral Commission on three key pro-Brexit campaign groups for four months, openDemocracy can reveal. </p><p dir="ltr">Responding to widespread public criticism after openDemocracy revealed that the Met has not even <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">begun an official investigation</a> into Vote Leave, Arron Banks’s Leave.EU and Darren Grimes’s BeLeave campaign, Scotland Yard this week told London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, that it had only recently “received” the Electoral Commission’s evidence and therefore has had only weeks to assess its importance. </p><p dir="ltr">However, we can reveal that the Met was informed by the Commission in both May and July that evidence was ready to be picked up. </p><p dir="ltr">Although the Brexit timetable was reaching critically important stages, Scotland Yard officers then took till late August before asking the Commission for its files, and took a further three weeks to pick them up. </p><p dir="ltr">In normal London traffic, the distance between Scotland Yard’s Embankment headquarters and the Commission’s office in Bunhill Row in the City is around 15 minutes. </p><p dir="ltr">Commenting on the Met’s failure to get round to collecting the evidence for months, and their attempts to blame the Electoral Commission, senior Labour MP Jon Trickett said that “if politicians and their campaigns break the law, they should be treated just the same as everyone else”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Cynical or incompetence?</h2><p dir="ltr">A Whitehall official with close ties to the Electoral Commission called the Met’s lack of urgency “either staggeringly cynical or organisationally incompetent. And because the law is the job they are trusted with, giving an official explanation that does not stand up to scrutiny, now leaves them [the MPS] with serious questions to answer.”</p><p dir="ltr">When questioned about the police’s inaction by Green Party co-leader Si<span class="st">â</span>n Berry in the London Assembly this week, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said his office had been told by Scotland Yard that a report <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">published by openDemocracy last week</a>, which cited “political sensitivities” as a factor in the stalled police investigations, &nbsp;was “inaccurate”. </p><p dir="ltr">However no one at the mayor’s office contacted openDemocracy for any comment, information or correspondence received from the Met. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Our reporting – which was later not challenged by the officer who initially spoke to openDemocracy – revealed that no investigations into three pro-Brexit groups (including the Vote Leave, the official campaign fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove) had been started by the Metropolitan Police. The officer said that “political sensitivities” had been considered, and in a subsequent email clarified the issue by stating that “political sensitivities” related to “any allegation or referral relating to an election.”</p><p dir="ltr">According to the Electoral Commission, investigations into the Leave.EU and Vote Leave campaigns were concluded in reports on May 11 and July 17 respectively. The commission said that in both cases “we immediately referred the responsible person for each organisation to the police. At the same time, we informed the police of the referrals and explained that the evidence was ready to pass to them.” </p><p dir="ltr">The spokesman went on to say “The police asked for our files in late August and collected them within three weeks.</p><p dir="ltr">“You may have further questions about the timetable for requesting the files. These would be a matter for the police to explain.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Evidence waiting</h2><p dir="ltr">Sadiq Khan told the Assembly that Scotland Yard was now considering 2000 pages of evidence, adding that officials from the Crown Prosecution Service were also involved in the exercise. He said that as the matter was “operational” he could not comment further. </p><p dir="ltr">The Commission’s two referrals to Scotland Yard centred on the two main Leave campaigns. The first report, delivered on May 11 focused on Leave.EU. The organisation was fined £70,000 for overspending by at least £77,380. Its campaign chief, Liz Bilney, was referred to the police. The group’s co-founder, Arron Banks, said the electoral watchdog had been engaged in a “ridiculous witch hunt.” He called the commission a “Blairite swamp creation packed full of remoaners.”</p><p dir="ltr">The second referral was on July 17 and centred on Vote Leave, the officially designated leave group fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. It was fined £61,000 after the commission found “significant evidence” of illegal unreported coordination between Vote Leave and BeLeave, a campaign run by fashion student, Darren Grimes. The commission identified an overspend of over £500,000 on the legal limit of £7 million, with significant funds channelled to BeLeave. </p><p dir="ltr">Among the evidence folio sent to the Met was information on the £675,000 spending by BeLeave with the digital company Aggregate IQ. The commission stated that this spending should have been declared by Vote Leave. </p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave was co-founded by Michael Gove’s former adviser, Dominic Cummings. Its campaign committee included the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson and the former Brexit minister and European Research Group co-leader, Steve Baker MP. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, shadow cabinet minister Jon Trickett said: “It’s important to acknowledge that the police have been stretched to breaking point by almost a decade of Conservative cuts. But faith in democracy is too fragile to leave serious questions unanswered for a prolonged period of time.</p><p dir="ltr">“Those involved in this investigation must do everything they can to reassure the public that if politicians and their campaigns break the law, they will be treated in just the same way as everyone else.”</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/14/met-police-damian-collins-no-investigation-leave-campaigners-data-misuse">the Observer last week</a>, the Conservative MP Damian Collins called for an investigation into the Leave campaigns akin to the investigation of the Trump campaign by US special counsel Robert Mueller.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this week, SNP chief whip, Pete Wishart, asked Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions about <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">openDemocracy’s article</a>, telling the Commons: “The Vote Leave campaign might just have cheated its way to victory”, yet “the police refuse to investigate, because of what they say are political sensitivities”. </p><p dir="ltr">Although the prime minister said the Electoral Commission’s reports would be reviewed by the government, she reminded the Commons of the result of the referendum, the turnout, and added “it is up this parliament, this government, to deliver on that mandate.” The question came after nearly 80 national politicians signed <a href="http://mollymep.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/NCA_Met_-VoteLeave-15.10.18.pdf">a letter to the Met</a> calling on them to investigate.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile the campaign group Unlock Democracy has launched a petition calling on the Met to launch a formal investigation into the campaigns. So far it had been <a href="https://secure.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/page/31910/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=blog">signed by nearly 9,000 people</a>. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">Police still not investigating Leave campaigns, citing ‘political sensitivities’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/brexit-is-showing-urban-middle-classes-real-britain">Brexit is showing the urban middle classes the real Britain</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Arron Banks Leave campaign police Brexit investigations DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay James Cusick Sat, 20 Oct 2018 14:08:49 +0000 James Cusick and Adam Ramsay 120188 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit is showing the urban middle classes the real Britain https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/brexit-is-showing-urban-middle-classes-real-britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>And they don’t like it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 14.02.51.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 14.02.51.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Five Met police officers restraining and pepper spraying a black man in London this month. Image, Twitter, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Back in July, I rang the Met. Britain’s elections watchdog had just <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/party-and-election-finance-to-keep/vote-leave-fined-and-referred-to-the-police-for-breaking-electoral-law">referred another major Leave campaign</a> to the cops, for suspected crimes committed during the knife-edge Brexit campaign. This was the second referral in three months (the first related to Arron Banks's controversial pro-Brexit outfit, Leave.EU). I assumed the Metropolitan Police had done nothing about either case. After all, if Britain’s police forces took the crimes of rich white people seriously, London wouldn’t be the <a href="https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/economics-and-finance/london-the-money-laundering-capital-of-the-world">world centre for money laundering</a>. But it’s always important to check your assumptions.</p><p dir="ltr">When the police finally got back to me, they confirmed my suspicions. They hadn’t opened an investigation into any of the cases referred to them by the Electoral Commission. I mentioned this in<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/laws-protecting-britains-democracy-from-big-money-are-broken"> a broader story</a> about regulators (noting “you can be fined more for touting football tickets than you can for subverting Britain's democratic process”). And then I popped a reminder in my diary for a fairly random date a few months thence, saying “check whether Met still haven’t opened investigation”.</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, we <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">published the result</a> of that diary entry. No, the Met still hadn’t opened an official investigation, citing “political sensitivities”. When I tweeted the piece, it was carried across the internet on a wave of<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/jan/17/fbpe-what-is-pro-eu-hashtag-spreading-across-social-media"> FBPE</a> fury. Some said they were angry, but not surprised. But the reaction from most seemed to be shock. Shock that politics might interfere with policing; astonishment that London’s police force might not be policing the laws of our democracy as vigorously as they do many other rules of our society.</p><p dir="ltr">And for me, that reaction is an example of something fascinating.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Welcome to reality</h2><p dir="ltr">If you speak to any black person in London, they will tell you their stories of living in a metropolis with an institutionally racist police force. If you look at money laundering in the UK – so common that the world’s leading mafia expert has called it “<a href="https://www.euronews.com/2017/04/03/the-uk-is-the-most-corrupt-country-in-the-world-anti-mafia-journalists-saviano">the most corrupt country on earth</a>” – or if you consider the failure to arrest any major player in the financial crisis of 2008, then it should be obvious how the British police internalise, reproduce and reinforce the larger power structures in the country.</p><p dir="ltr">Read, for example, the detailed coverage of the death of Rashan Charles as reported by my colleagues<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook-rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/rashan-charles-explainer"> Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi and Clare Sambrook</a>. It should come as no surprise that the institution at whose hands this young man died has been somewhat lax in investigating powerful, well-funded, predominantly white and right-wing groups led by people like Arron Banks. </p><p dir="ltr">Why would we imagine that a law enforcement system which is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/01/young-black-people-jailed-moj-report-david-lammy">nine times more likely</a> to jail young black men than young white men would want to pour resources into investigating the leaders of campaigns that smeared the internet with <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/martin-shaw/truly-project-hate-third-scandal-of-official-vote-leave-campaign-headed-by-">racist messages</a>?</p><p dir="ltr">But here’s the thing. Many people in the country haven’t had the misfortune of examining our national institutions up close in recent years. If you’re urban, white and doing all right, the Met aren’t hassling your son for being black and in possession of a pair of shoes. What’s more, you aren’t brutalised every week by the reality of universal credit. And – normally – neither you nor your near relatives spent your late teens in the deserts of Iraq realising you’d been sent off to kill and die for a lie.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Safeties off</h2><p dir="ltr">For much of this urban middle-class demographic, Brexit has revealed what many – including many who voted for it – already knew. The institutions of the British state are broken. As our investigations (along with those of many others) have shown, the Electoral Commission is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">practically powerless</a>, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">Charity Commission</a> is is hugely under-resourced, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/investigation-finally-launched-into-dark-arts-of-using-facebook-and-other-data-for-p">Information Commission</a> can’t keep up and our parliamentary watchdog is in need of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-demand-full-investigation-of-hard-brexit-backing-tory-party-within-par">serious veterinary attention</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">More and more, Remain voters are <a href="https://twitter.com/Andrew_Adonis/status/1036196466279309312">chastising the BBC</a>, until recently the sacred temple of the British bourgeoisie. More and more are starting to understand that the civil service has been hollowed out by years of outsourcing, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/milburn-nhs-and-britains-revolving-door">revolving doors</a> and austerity, and is struggling to deliver something <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/22/civil-service-unable-to-cope-with-brexit-bob-kerslake">as vast as Brexit</a>. Tens of thousands of people in Britain have thought about Northern Ireland for the first time since Good Friday 1998, and realised why it matters.</p><p dir="ltr">For many of my friends on the left, watching this process can be frustrating. Passionate Remainers describing the crimes of the Brexit campaign as “the biggest scandal in British history” should probably be taught about the Tasmanian genocide or the plunder of India or the castration and rape of the Mau Mau. Regular claims that Brexit is the biggest crisis we face should be met with calm explanations of the implications of climate science and soil erosion and the Yemen famine. But these people should also be treated gently.</p><p dir="ltr">Ever since Cromwell, the success of the British ruling class has been that it has managed to placate and buy off much of the bourgeoisie with the plunder of empire. With violence externally, they were able to produce calm internally. For the last few decades, they have swapped this loot for lending as they allowed middle class lifestyles to continue on credit. But in the decade after the financial crisis, this relationship has started to strain. And it increasingly looks like Brexit is encouraging large chunks of middle class Anglo-Britain to look once more at the whole arrangement and realise that their country isn’t as rosy as they thought.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rod-charles/death-rashan-charles-CCTV">What is the truth about the death of Rashan Charles?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/laws-protecting-britains-democracy-from-big-money-are-broken">The laws protecting Britain&#039;s democracy from big money are broken</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">Police still not investigating Leave campaigns, citing ‘political sensitivities’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK Democracy and government Equality police Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 16 Oct 2018 13:17:40 +0000 Adam Ramsay 120122 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Police still not investigating Leave campaigns, citing ‘political sensitivities’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Exclusive: Months after Scotland Yard received ‘substantial’ evidence of potential criminality by pro-Leave groups, nothing has happened. Is the police probe destined for the political long-grass?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-29522714.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-29522714.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Picture: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Metropolitan Police has stalled the launch of any criminal investigation into three pro-Brexit campaigns – citing “political sensitivities”, openDemocracy can reveal today. Despite being handed their first dossier of evidence of potential crimes committed by pro-Leave groups over five months ago, the police force has made no progress nor logged a formal case into the activities of either Vote Leave, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, or Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit campaign bankrolled by Arron Banks.</p><p dir="ltr">In May and July this year, the UK Electoral Commission reported that multiple breaches of electoral law, false declarations and covert campaign over-spending had taken place by pro-Leave groups during the 2016 EU referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Substantial fines were levied, and the <a href="http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/244900/Report-of-an-investigation-in-respect-of-Vote-Leave-Limited-Mr-Darren-Grimes-BeLeave-and-Veterans-for-Britain.pdf">Electoral Commission’s reports and all related evidence</a> were shared with Scotland Yard and the National Crime Agency. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) was then expected to investigate whether key individuals, including Leave.EU’s campaign chief, Liz Bilney; Vote Leave’s board official, David Halsall; and the founder of BeLeave, Darren Grimes, had committed related criminal offences.</p><p dir="ltr">Following inquiries by openDemocracy, the Met revealed it has yet to start any formal investigation, and has remained effectively stalled for months in “assessing evidence”. Pushed on why there has been no progress, or no formal case logged, a Scotland Yard spokesman admitted there were issues and “political sensitivities” that had to be taken into account. The Yard spokesman later added that the political issues related to “any allegation or referral relating to an election, and much else besides.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Scandal’ and ‘police state’</h2><p dir="ltr">The Met’s acknowledgement of “political sensitivities” as a factor in its investigation of a potential crime has raised concern in senior legal ranks.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">If the MPS are delaying an investigation into a likely crime because of political interference then ‘scandal’ does not begin to cover it</p><p dir="ltr">Jolyon Maugham QC, the barrister who leads the anti-Brexit Good Law Project, told openDemocracy that it was “profoundly troubling” that the Met was delaying or even not opening its investigation into the Electoral Commission’s evidence. </p><p dir="ltr">“If the MPS are delaying an investigation into a likely crime because of political interference then ‘scandal’ does not begin to cover it. Were that true, we would be living in a police state where criminality was overlooked – if that criminality was expedient to the government,” Maugham said.</p><p dir="ltr">Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said that breaking law during “one of the most critical moments in the UK’s history” made it of “urgent national interest that the police investigate what happened, how it happened and who was responsible.” </p><p dir="ltr">Watson added: “It is disappointing that no progress appears to have been made into these investigations months after they were supposed to start.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Vote Leave: ‘Serious breaches of the law'</h2><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission published its findings into the funding and spending of Vote Leave, the pro-Brexit group fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, in July. At the same time, the Metropolitan Police Service was sent a folio of evidence described as “<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/party-and-election-finance-to-keep/vote-leave-fined-and-referred-to-the-police-for-breaking-electoral-law">clear and substantial</a>” by Bob Posner, the commission’s legal counsel. He said the organisation had found “serious breaches of the laws put in place by parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums”. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The commission found “significant evidence” of illegally unreported co-ordination between Vote Leave and BeLeave, a campaign group run by fashion student Darren Grimes; it identified an overspend of almost £500,000 on the legal limit of £7 million; it claimed Vote Leave’s spending returns were inaccurate and totalled £236,000. Vote Leave was fined £61,000, Grimes £20,000, and Veterans for Britain, another pro-Brexit group, £250.</p><p dir="ltr">Key evidence sent to the Met included spending of £675,000 by BeLeave with the digital data company Aggregate IQ. The Electoral Commission found that this spending should have been declared by Vote Leave.</p><p dir="ltr">Posner said that Vote Leave had “resisted the Commission’s investigation from the start”, refused to co-operate, and refused requests for interviews. The Commission said it was satisfied that Vote Leave’s board official David Halsall “knew or ought reasonably to have known” that spending limits would be exceeded.</p><p dir="ltr">The Vote Leave campaign was co-founded by Michael Gove’s former adviser, Dominic Cummings. Its campaign committee included the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, the former Brexit minister and ERG strategist, Steve Baker, the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, the former International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, and the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave’s board, which is legally responsible for the campaign, included the leading Brexiteers Gisela Stuart, Lord Forsyth and Bernard Jenkin. Vote Leave rejected the findings of the Electoral Commission’s report</p><h2 dir="ltr">Arron Banks and Leave.EU: overspend ‘could have been much higher’</h2><p dir="ltr">In May, the Electoral Commission <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/243009/Report-on-Investigation-Leave.EU.pdf">fined Arron Banks’s Leave.EU</a> campaign group £70,000 and referred its campaign chief, Liz Bilney, to Scotland Yard. As with the Vote Leave report, the Commission said Leave.EU breached multiple areas of electoral law, over-spent the legal campaign limits and delivered incomplete and inaccurate accounts to the Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">The Commission said the group spent at least £77,380 more than it declared, and so more than 10% above its spending limit, but that the overspend could have been much higher. The regulator complained at the time that it is only allowed to issue a maximum fine of £20,000 per offence, saying that it "<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/party-and-election-finance-to-keep/vote-leave-fined-and-referred-to-the-police-for-breaking-electoral-law">considers this inadequate</a> for serious offences of electoral or referendum law".</p><p dir="ltr">The founder of Leave.EU, Arron Banks, rejected the report saying the Commission had engaged in a “politically motivated attack on Brexit.” Banks called the commission a “Blairite swamp creation packed full of remoaners.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Call for ‘urgent and thorough’ investigation</h2><p dir="ltr">In the wake of the Electoral Commission reports, in August a group of 70 cross-party MPs, peers and MEPs, wrote to Cressida Dick, the Met commissioner, and to the Director General of the National Crime Agency, Lynne Owens. The letter stated that the Electoral Commission had limited powers of investigation and sanctions, and had no powers to prosecute. It urged the Met and the NCA to “investigate these matters thoroughly and with urgency.”</p><p dir="ltr">Within two weeks the Met’s commander of Specialist Crime, Stuart Cundy, and the NCA’s Director of Intelligence, Steve Smart, had replied to the MPs. Cundy said that the commission’s evidence was “being assessed by the MPS in order to make an informed decision as to whether a criminal investigation is required.”</p><p dir="ltr">Smart told the MPs that the NCA was “working alongside the MPS” and was also in close contact with “other government bodies on these issues.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">“No one should be surprised”</h2><p dir="ltr">Two months on, the Met’s position on its investigations into the three Brexit organisations remains unchanged and appears to be going nowhere.</p><p dir="ltr">A senior Home Office source, close to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, told openDemocracy: “No one should really be surprised that the Met have said there are political issues involved here. Of course there are. The Electoral Commission has done a thorough job. Fines have been made for the mistakes made. But we move on. We will soon know the shape of Brexit and maybe there are other issues that deserve our national attention more.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/brexit-is-showing-urban-middle-classes-real-britain">Brexit is showing the urban middle classes the real Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">How the Electoral Commission turned blind eye to DUP&#039;s shady Brexit cash</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Arron Banks investigations Brexit police Law enforcement DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay James Cusick Thu, 11 Oct 2018 09:18:25 +0000 James Cusick and Adam Ramsay 120048 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The World Transformed represents radical new territory for British Labour https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/world-transformed-represents-radical-new-territory-for-british-labour <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Momentum’s fringe will be much more interesting than the official party conference</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/29276946573_36ecc3dc3f_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/29276946573_36ecc3dc3f_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The World Tranformed 2016. Image, Steve Easton, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">This will be the third year of The World Transformed, but, according to organiser Hope Worsdale, it’s the first time it’s had space to breathe. The first time that Momentum organised a fringe festival at the Labour conference, in 2016, Corbyn had just seen off the attempt by Owen Smith to unseat him as leader. The second was straight after the 2017 election. Both were celebrations. And parties don’t tend to provide much space for reflection.</p><p dir="ltr">This year is different. The event, over four days in Liverpool, will focus on four key themes: governing from the radical left, building power outside the party, a new socialist internationalism and political education.</p><p dir="ltr">In different ways, it seems to me, each of these strands represents an attempt to push the Labour party on from where it’s been for about the last hundred years.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Governing from the radical left </h2><p dir="ltr">The Marxist sociologist and father of two boys Ralph Miliband wrote about how the early Labour party was captured by the bling of the British state. The first Labour MPs were invited to country houses, toured round London clubs and smiled at by dukes. In contrast to the social violence many would have experienced from managers, they discovered that the British ruling class can be charming when it wants to be.</p><p dir="ltr">In 1931, after Labour party founder Ramsay MacDonald had led a national government which forced brutal austerity on the country in order to keep the pound on the gold standard, the Tories took a different approach. They simply took the country off the gold standard, and allowed the pound to devalue. Labour party stalwart Sidney Webb is said to have responded<a href="http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2013/08/09/labour-history-uncut-%E2%80%9Cthey-didn%E2%80%99t-tell-us-we-could-do-that%E2%80%9D/"> by saying</a> “nobody told us we could do that”.</p><p dir="ltr">In other words, for more than a century, Labour has made the mistake of thinking that being in government is a bit like playing a football match, where you accept the rules laid down by the referee, and do your best in that context.</p><p dir="ltr">But the British state was not established to equitably manage the affairs of our archipelago in the north Atlantic. Its structures were set up to run the biggest empire in human history in the interests of the British ruling class. Fast forward nearly a century and we have a civil service and deep state that have been infiltrated by the Big Four accountancy firms and our growing mercenary industry, Britain has become the world centre for money laundering, we have a ludicrously centralised state with none of the subtlety needed for successful market interventions and the House of Lords is dominated by cronies. Any radical government will need a drastically different state.</p><p dir="ltr">As we saw during Scotland’s independence referendum, much of Labour still labours under the delusion, taught to it in those gentleman’s clubs a century ago and their equivalents ever since, that the British state could in some way be a vehicle to deliver democratic socialism.</p><p dir="ltr">In this strand of The World Transformed, the left of the party will begin to grapple with this delusion (as Andrew Murray <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/09/deep-state-trying-undermine-corbyn">has today</a>). If Corbynism can develop a serious and sustained critique of the British state, it will be taking Labour into new and exciting territory – but it will also be taking it into a direct confrontation with Anglo-British nationalism. How this plays out will be fascinating.</p><p dir="ltr">All of this means that perhaps the most interesting session at the conference will be one in which the shadow chancellor John McDonnell himself discusses being “<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/in-and-against-the-state">In and Against the State</a>”. Also, I’ll be chatting about similar stuff with other folk at, “<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/the-british-ruling-class">What’s happened to the British ruling class</a>” (Tuesday, 19:30-21:15) and at an Unlock Democracy event around the corner, “<a href="https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/join-the-movement/events/unlock-democracy-radical-solutions-to-fix-broken-britain-labour-fringe/">Radical Solutions to fix Britain</a>” (Monday, 12:30-2pm).</p><h2 dir="ltr">Building power outside the party </h2><p dir="ltr">This all relates closely to the second theme of the conference, building power outside the party. There’s a famous quote from FDR, often cited by Obama “I agree with everything you say, now make me do it”. It’s an acknowledgement that any party in office, no matter what its intentions, will come under huge pressure from the vested interests of the rich and powerful not to deliver equalising policies, as Paul Mason <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/kind-capitalism-possible-left-build/">has described</a> on openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">Historically, Labour has often felt like it has a very different understanding of power. So often, whatever political question you ask, the answer you get from Labour activists and politicians is “we just need a Labour government”. The idea that a Corbyn or Corbynite government will only get anywhere if it is propelled forward by a powerful and organised social movement is vital to any future success, but a direct contrast to recent Labour governments which always treated social movements to a sneer of contempt.</p><p dir="ltr">More generally, when Corbyn was first elected,<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/forever-blowing-bubbles-why-corbyn-won-labour-and-how-he-can-change-britain"> I wrote about</a> how his success came on the back of a decade of radical left institution building: he couldn’t have won Labour without the anti-austerity movement and climate movement and the networks of skilled and connected activists they produced. To win an election, this movement will have to stand up to everything that the corporate media and City of London throw at them. And that means Corbynism will need to sit at the centre of a whole raft of institutions which generate their own common sense, their own culture, their own power. Those attending the conference can go to sessions including “<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/communities-against-climate-change">communities in the fight against climate change</a>” (Tuesday, 17:30-19:00), or “<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/a-movement-led-media">How do we build a movement led media</a>”, or “<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/occupy-fleet-street">Occupy Fleet Street – how to democratise the British media</a>” (Sunday, 11:00-12:30).</p><h2 dir="ltr">A new socialist internationalism</h2><p dir="ltr">At the core of this need to build new institutions is the messy relationship Corbyn has with the culture and institutions of Anglo-British nationalism. Traditionally, Labour has been almost as much a party of British nationalism as the Conservatives, but Corbyn has always been a bit more complex. On the one hand, it’s his failure to wrap himself in the union flag which has drawn most criticism over his three years at the top, from controversies around poppies to questions about bowing to the Queen to demands that he murder millions with nukes.</p><p dir="ltr">On the other hand, it’s on the totems of Britishness that he’s been quickest to triangulate – most notably, the party’s decision to back £200 billion expenditure on<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/trident-and-yearning-for-empire-bling"> technologically redundant</a> trident missiles, in order to make Anglo-Britain feel better about losing its empire. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Despite this triangulation, Corbyn is cutting new internationalist turf in a Labour party that’s always had an awkward relationship with empire. The left of Labour often talks about Clement Attlee in beatific terms. And he did, of course, do lots of wonderful things – his government founded the NHS and the modern welfare state. His global record, though, is a little more contentious, from the debate around his role in the<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/18/opinion/india-pakistan-partition-imperial-britain.html"> partition of India</a> to the fact that he brought nuclear weapons to Britain to the fact that that one of the ways his government funded the post-war reconstruction was by forcing famine-struck Malaysia to continue to export rubber and tin, triggering the “Malayan Emergency”, during which British forces put half a million people in<a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1561833/Malaya-Emergency-shows-the-way-to-fight.html"> concentration camps</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The early Labour party had arguments about its attitude to Empire, with George Bernard Shaw writing in defence of imperialism in “<a href="https://archive.org/stream/fabianismempirem00shawuoft/fabianismempirem00shawuoft_djvu.txt">Fabianism and the Empire</a>”, and Ramsay MacDonald leaving the Fabians over their refusal to condemn the Boer war. However, in practice, for most of its history, the Labour party’s role has been securing for the British working class a greater share of the proceeds of imperial plunder.</p><p dir="ltr">To this day, Britain’s biggest firms – HSBC, Shell and BP – are all companies that were built directly on the back of this plunder – respectively of China through the Opium Wars, Sumatra, and Iran. All still play highly controversial roles in global geopolitics, and sit at the heart of British capitalism.</p><p dir="ltr">Any truly progressive government therefore will have to grapple with the difficult question of how the people of these islands can thrive without using the two skills which made Britain rich in the first place: killing people of colour and stealing their stuff, and laundering the proceeds for other people who’ve done the same thing. Internationalism in Britain has historically been about shouting nice slogans of solidarity with those we approve of in the rest of the world, whilst doing little about an economic model built on exploiting them. The fact that the leading faction within Labour appears to be grappling seriously with some of these questions is very important, with sessions at the World Transformed encouraging members to “<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/internationalist-labour-party">come and discuss the history of Labour’s relationship to empire”</a> (Saturday 15:00-16:30); War on Want’s<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/decolonising-foreign-policy"> discussion of Empire 2.0</a> (Monday, 15:00 – 16:30) or, more positively; Global Justice Now’s discussion of<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/a-global-nhs"> A Global NHS</a> at 11:00 on Tuesday. </p><p dir="ltr">And any conversation about global justice in the modern era has to consider the question of climate breakdown and climate justice. Again, Labour has often been a long way behind where it needs to be on this, and to this day, still merrily calls for ever more oil to be extracted from the North Sea. In this context, it’s reassuring to see some discussion of this epoch defining question, such as “Sacrifice Zones – Colonialism, Neoliberalism and Climate Change” (<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/sacrifice-zones">Sunday, 13:00 – 14:30</a>).</p><h2 dir="ltr">Political education</h2><p dir="ltr">The final strand of the event will be political education, with organiser Hope Worsdale saying that, not only is it “one of the biggest arenas of political education in the UK”, but that this year, there will be some direct discussion of political education, including in the opening panel of the event “<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/why-political-education">Making the case for political education</a>”, the blurb of which asks “who’s educating who anyway?” – which feels like a tacit reference to the Brazilian socialist educator and theorist Paulo Freire, whose iconic book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” emphasizes the two-way relationship between “student teachers and teacher students”.</p><p dir="ltr">Other sessions include “<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/education-in-the-labour-party">Education Education Education (in the Labour party)</a>” (Saturday, 13:00-14:30), and “<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/popular-education-forum">Popular Education Forum, Let’s Build a Network</a>” (Sunday, 15:00-16:30), and this strand could perhaps be extended to a series of reading group sessions, hosted by regular openDemocracy contributor Jeremy Gilbert each morning.</p><p dir="ltr">It often seems to me that the simplest way to understand the various different strands of the left is to look at their pedagogy. The Socialist Workers are disciplined centralists, who like men standing on stages and giving lengthy lectures to an audience sat in neat rows, whose job is to listen and applaud raucously. They organize conferences with interminable speeches and panels with ten people on them, followed by a couple of rants from the floor. Anarchists, at the other end of the spectrum, organize book fairs, where people sit in circles and discuss their reading. Usually, these discussions are also dominated by some white men, too, unless they’re well facilitated. But they are, on the whole, much less awful.</p><p dir="ltr">In that context, we will be able to learn a lot about Corbynism not just from the content of the discussions at the World Transformed, but also from the style of the events: how much time will there be for discussion, audience participation and collective learning, and how much will people be asked to sit and listen? We’ll see.</p><p dir="ltr">Overall, the conference tells us a lot about the biggest faction in Britain’s opposition party. It’s reflecting on the mistakes of the Labour party in the past and it’s asking genuinely radical questions. It is, of course, not the Labour party, and it’s not clear how it will answer those questions. The event itself is, however, significant, and it’ll be exciting to see how it turns out.</p><p dir="ltr">One final plug: today, openDemocracy has launched “New Thinking for the British Economy”, which outlines an alternative to neoliberalism. Each of the chapters has been turned into a pamphlet, which will be for sale at The World Transformed on the Democracy Collaborative stall. Don’t miss out! (or you can download the ebook <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/laurie-macfarlane/new-thinking-for-british-economy">here</a>).</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/forever-blowing-bubbles-why-corbyn-won-labour-and-how-he-can-change-britain">Forever blowing bubbles: why Corbyn won Labour and how he can change Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/what-kind-of-capitalism-is-it-possible-for-left-to-build">What kind of capitalism is it possible for the left to build?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-gilbert/is-momentum-mob-no-this-is-what-democracy-looks-like">Is Momentum a mob? No – this is what democracy looks like</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/platform-parties-vs-plutocrat-pr-welcome-to-future-of-uk-politics">Platform parties vs plutocrat PR: welcome to the future of UK politics</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Adam Ramsay Wed, 19 Sep 2018 18:04:29 +0000 Adam Ramsay 119735 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The High Court case which could reveal the DUP's secret Brexit donors https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/high-court-case-which-could-reveal-dups-secret-brexit-donors <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Good Law Project is taking the Electoral Commission to court to find out who was behind a huge donation that paid for Leave campaigning.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/_90045432_metro_split_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/_90045432_metro_split_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The DUP Brexit advert in the Metro</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Someone gave the Democratic Union Party £435,000 before the Brexit referendum in 2016. But we don’t know who. Now a campaigning barrister is taking the Electoral Commission to court to force out the truth. </p><p dir="ltr">Last week in the High Court, senior barrister Jolyon Maugham won a case against the Electoral Commission and Vote Leave – one of the two official campaigns in the referendum. The court ruled that a donation from Vote Leave to Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes should have been counted as expenditure for Vote Leave and not Grimes’ independent campaign. This is because the money was paid directly to AggregateIQ, a political data marketing company that was supposed to be working for Grimes’ campaign. The extra expenditure means that Vote Leave broke the laws relating to how much the campaigns were allowed to spend.</p><p dir="ltr">Now Maugham’s non-profit organisation, the Good Law Project, is arguing that the same logic must also apply to the Constitutional Research Council, the body that gave the £435,000 donation to the Democratic Unionist Party, as revealed here <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">on openDemocracy</a>. More than half the money went on a DUP advert in the Metro newspaper, which ran in England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland – and earlier this year, an investigation by BBC Northern Ireland revealed that Richard Cook, the chairman of the CRC, had personally placed that advert. </p><p dir="ltr">Maugham will argue that because the CRC placed the advert directly themselves, the DUP ‘donation’ ought, in fact, to be counted as expenditure by the CRC, in the same way that Vote Leave's gift to Grimes has now been counted as expenditure. And while the DUP has been allowed to hide behind Northern Irish donor secrecy laws, Richard Cook lives in Glasgow. </p><p dir="ltr">If the Good Law Project wins its case, the CRC will be legally required to publish all donations it has received of £7,500 or above. The Good Law Project <a href="https://goodlawproject.org/expose-the-dup/">is crowdfunding to bring this case</a>, and has so far raised £17,000 out of the £30,000 needed.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Jolyon Maugham said:</p><p dir="ltr">“It seems pretty obvious to me that if you pass money to someone else and you dictate what they do with that money, you’re as good as incurring the expenditure yourself and that’s what the court has now held.</p><p dir="ltr">“There’s an awful lot of material that’s yet to emerge into the public domain but as I look at that material, it seems pretty obvious to me that both the CRC and the DUP have probably broken the law.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/high-court-found-that-vote-leave-broke-law-in-different-way">The High Court found that Vote Leave broke the law in a new way</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £425,000 DUP Brexit donation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Brexit investigations DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 18 Sep 2018 14:49:22 +0000 Adam Ramsay 119707 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Major Scottish Tory funders fined over illegal donation https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/major-scottish-tory-donors-fined-over-illegal-donation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">The Irvine Unionist Club donation funded 10% of Ruth Davidson’s campaign spending in 2016</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ruth_Davidson_parliamentary_oath_2016.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ruth_Davidson_parliamentary_oath_2016.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ruth Davidson. Image, Scottish Parliament</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A major donor to the Scottish Conservatives ahead of their 2016 Scottish Parliament election has been fined on the back of an openDemocracy investigation. </p><p dir="ltr">As part of our investigation into the dark money driving the Scottish Conservatives, we <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dark-money-driving-scottish-tory-surge">wrote last year</a>: “In April 2016, a group called the Irvine Unionist Club gave the North Ayrshire Conservative and Unionist Association £100,000. In order for a group like the Irvine Unionist Club – an Unincorporated Association – to give a donation of more than £25,000, it has to be legally registered<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/political-parties-campaigning-and-donations/donations-and-loans-to-other-individuals-and-organisations/registers-unincorporated-associations"> with the Electoral Commission</a>, and declare any donations to it of more than £7,500. The Irvine Unionist Club doesn’t seem to appear on the<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/excel_doc/0020/223643/Register-of-Unincorporated-Associations-Public-2017.xlsx"> list of registered donors</a>, and Googling it reveals almost nothing, meaning that we don’t know where their money came from.”</p><p dir="ltr">The treasurer of the North Ayrshire Conservatives, the former Scottish rugby international Bryan Gossman, told us that the cash had in actual fact been transferred to “the central party in Edinburgh”. However, the Scottish Conservative Party, led by Ruth Davidson (pictured), is not registered as an accounting unit with the Electoral Commission, meaning the donation was hidden in the local party's accounts. Ruth Davidson's party spent <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Spending?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=conservative&amp;sort=DateIncurred&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;open=filter&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;includeOutsideSection75=true&amp;evt=scottishparliament&amp;ev=2508&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=ExpenseCategoryName&amp;optCols=FullAddress&amp;optCols=AmountInEngland&amp;optCols=AmountInScotland&amp;optCols=AmountInWales&amp;optCols=AmountInNorthernIreland&amp;optCols=DateOfClaimForPayment&amp;optCols=DatePaid">£980,000</a> during the campaign, meaning the donation made up more than 10% of their funding. In the previous Scottish Parliament election, the party only spent £275,000 and, with the extra money in 2016 came their best ever election result.</p><p dir="ltr">We reported the Irvine Unionist Club to the Electoral Commission, and heard nothing for more than a year. However, the latest<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/monthly-update-concluded-investigations4"> monthly update from the Electoral Commission</a> says that they have fined the Irvine Unionist Club £400 for “Failure to provide notification of gifts to a political party exceeding £25,000, and notification of gifts received by due date”.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to <a href="https://theferret.scot/tories-dark-money-donor-fined-electoral-commission/">the Ferret</a>, the SNP MP Pete Wishart said:</p><p dir="ltr">"The dark money net is now closing in on the Tories as their dodgy and cavalier financial dealings become further exposed and punished. This is probably just the first of many examples where the Tories will be found short of what is permissible by the Electoral Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">"Last week I wrote to the Electoral Commission for an update on my complaint about the transfer of property to the Scottish Unionist Association Trust in flagrance of the Commission’s rules on exempt trusts under section 162 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. I hope that the Electoral Commission now make speedy progress with this investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">"Some £318,000 of unaccountable money has been swirling about in Conservative coffers supporting a number of candidates and MPs. The Conservatives need to start to come clean on where this money comes from and how it was acquired."</p><p dir="ltr">Also speaking to the Ferret, the Scottish Conservatives said that trustees had accepted the fine, and stressed that the party was not under investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">"The Electoral Commission has investigated the donation, and has concluded that the Trust was not exempt in terms of the 2000 Political Parties Act’s reporting requirements.”</p><p dir="ltr">“The Trustees have accepted that they were at fault in failing to register the donation, and have paid the £400 fine. The Conservative Party was not investigated nor subject to any fine."</p><p dir="ltr">Commenting to the Ferret on the fines, an Electoral Commission spokesperson said: "Unincorporated associations, such as the Irvine Unionist Club, must register with the Electoral Commission when they make political contributions of more than £25,000 in a calendar year and must report any relevant gifts that they have received.</p><p dir="ltr">"This ensures there is transparency about funding of political campaigning. Irvine Unionist Club failed to comply with these rules and the Electoral Commission has fined them £400."</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dark-money-driving-scottish-tory-surge">The dark money driving the Scottish Tory surge</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Scotland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Scotland UK Democracy and government investigations Conservative Party DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 18 Sep 2018 14:06:12 +0000 Adam Ramsay 119704 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Making hope possible in Wales: interview with Plaid Cymru leadership candidates https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-leanne-wood-adam-price-rhun-ap-iorwerth/making-hope-possible-in-wales-interview-with- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy interviews the three candidates for leader of Plaid Cymru about the future of Wales and the UK.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><em>Editor’s note: Plaid Cymru currently has a leadership election, in which the Assembly Members Adam Price and Rhun Ap Iorwerth are standing against the incumbent Leanne Wood. openDemocracy asked them all the same five questions, here’s how they responded. - Adam<br /></em></p><h2 dir="ltr">Leanne Wood</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Leanne Wood_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Leanne Wood_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The British State is in crisis. Scottish independence and Irish unity seem possible within a decade. How can Plaid grow the movement for Welsh independence? </strong></p><p dir="ltr">It's ironic, isn't it, that the flag-waving Little Englander mentality that powered the Brexit vote could see the British state dismantled. Polls show that Irish unity and Scottish independence are likely to become realities and that is also a game changer for Wales. Being part of a Greater England or striking out as an independent nation is the stark choice now for Wales. The growing national pride we are seeing in Wales can be seen with the rise of Yes Cymru and diverse groups such as Welsh Football Fans for Independence. That's in part because we're seeing the naked contempt with which the Tory government in London treats Wales – whether it's cancelling high-speed rail, scrapping Swansea Tidal Lagoon or re-naming the Severn Bridge. The Labour Government in Wales is failing to stand up for Wales and our interests, which is why it's so important that independence is seen as a viable alternative to the status quo. </p><p dir="ltr">That why I've called for a Welsh Independence Convention, on the lines of that developed in Scotland in the run-up to the referendum there. This would bring together all aspects of Welsh society and a breadth of organisations united behind one goal – to win independence for Wales by building up a mass movement. No single party can win independence in isolation – we need civic society to back the project. Plaid Cymru is the cutting edge of that movement in the political sphere. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How can Plaid win young voters in the age of Corbyn?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Young voters have grown up with our diluted devolution settlement. It's the norm for them. They see Scotland and N Ireland – and even Manchester – gaining more powers than us in Wales and we're seeing a growing number joining through our youth movement Plaid Ifanc because they're dissatisfied with the status quo. The current troubles of the Labour party centrally coupled with the lacklustre, lazy performance of its Welsh branch in government for the past two decades means that the gloss has come off the Corbyn bandwagon.</p><p dir="ltr">Furthermore, our position on Brexit is much more in tune with the views of young people. We have campaigned to remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union and I have pushed for a People’s Vote on the final terms of our post-Brexit deal. Within that there should be a route back into the European Union if enough people want it in the face of a bad deal for the UK. By way of contrast, the Labour party under Corbyn has allowed the Tories to get away with floundering, fighting with each other and posturing during European negotiations without actually achieving anything. With less than 200 days until we depart the European Union, Corbyn should have the Tory government on the ropes but he has failed on this.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What would be your priority as first minister of Wales?</strong> </p><p dir="ltr">I want decisions that affect Wales being made here in Wales. That means getting control over the criminal justice system, which is devolved to Scotland and N Ireland, it means having full control over our economy, which is failing because we're a forgotten back water of the British state. It is a basic principle of Plaid Cymru – and indeed democracy – that the best decisions are made when they are made closer to the people they affect. One of the fundamental reasons why parts of Wales is among the poorest parts of western Europe, why we haven’t yet got a single mile of electrified railway track and why our country is poorly connected is because of decisions taken by the British state. &nbsp;Rarely, if ever, are these decisions made in Wales’ best interests. A Plaid Cymru government would set about reversing this trend so that we can empower our country, our communities and everyone that lives here.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How will you grow Plaid Cymru's membership?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We will grow our membership in the same way that we win power in 2021 and gain independence. It's going to be a slog and I've never shied away from that personally or telling our members that. It's dishonest to pretend there's a magic formula or that passion or rhetoric alone can do it. We need do-ers alongside our dreamers to achieve what we're aiming for and I'm someone who can visualise freedom as well as pound the streets every week to achieve it. I've done it in the Rhondda – a seat that I was told time and time again was unwinnable – and I'll do it throughout Wales in 2021.</p><p dir="ltr">I'm not content to be one of those who can interpret the failings in society, I want to transform our country from being one of the poorest parts of Europe to being a world leader. I'll lead by example and employ grassroots organisers to build the party locally. People generally know that Labour is failing Wales in government – they need to know in their droves that there is a positive alternative from Plaid Cymru and that is where the hard, but achievable, work lies.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Raymond Williams said that it’s the job of the radical to make hope seem possible, not despair convincing. How will you do this?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The politics of fear and hatred have gripped many Western democracies of late – it's a development that we must resist. The antidote to hate is hope, to shine a light on the darkness that can threaten to engulf humanity at times. We are a Welsh internationalist party, proud of our heritage, culture and history but also determined to be a modern nation that plays its part in the world. That can't happen in this over-centralised British State.</p><p dir="ltr">Raymond Williams also told us that we need to unite with others and build coalitions of people within our communities in favour of positive changes, rather than just join with others on the basis of negatives – being “against” something. Plaid Cymru members right throughout the country are working on projects which unite communities in favour of overturning decisions made as a result of austerity and bringing back some service or facility that has been lost.</p><p dir="ltr">We are uniting communities on the basis of something positive and this is something we can grow. As Wales is a community of communities – if we get this basic community building block right, we can make the whole of the country work better for everyone. We have a lot we can learn from Raymond Williams which is why so many of his ideas can be found in my recent publication – <a href="http://leanne2021.cymru/en/the-change-we-need/">The Change We Need. </a></p><h2 dir="ltr">Adam Price</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Price.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Price.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Adam Price. Image, BBC, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The British State is in crisis. Scottish independence and Irish unity seem possible within a decade. How can Plaid grow the movement for Welsh independence?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I have little doubt that Brexit will end the British State. I launched my campaign to lead Plaid Cymru by publishing a <a href="https://www.adamprice.wales/saith_cam_seven_steps">Seven Steps to Independence</a> plan. It is a clear and credible pathway to political freedom. My plan includes detailed economic analysis, the passing of a Referendum Act, and proposals for a National Independence Commission to empower citizens to write the constitution of our free country. We can take Wales on the path to independence by 2030.</p><p dir="ltr">Wales faces a choice of two futures: either we get subsumed into England or we chart our own course as an independent nation. The leadership election is a chance for party members to decide if they're content with the status quo or wish to set sail on the course to independence with me as their leader.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How can Plaid win young voters in the age of Corbyn?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Traditionally Plaid Cymru receives good support amongst young people. The reality is that changing the colour of the government at Westminster doesn't make a difference to Welsh communities.</p><p dir="ltr">Corbyn is an old-style 'command and control' Westminster politician who understands little and cares even less about Wales.</p><p dir="ltr">The real radical project in Welsh politics is independence. I believe putting this at the heart of our work and a future Plaid Cymru government will see more and more young people getting on board.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What would be your priority as first minister of Wales?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The Economy. I have published a <a href="https://www.adamprice.wales/cynllun_economaidd_economic_plan">National Economic Plan</a> which consists of no fewer than 50 policy ideas with the aim of putting Wales on a sound economic footing, investing in communities and the skills of our people, and creating the conditions for Wales to achieve independence, realising our full potential as a people and as a nation. These exciting and creative ideas have been described by the Western Mail as "impressive" and "setting the bar for leadership candidates in all parties." I believe we can excite the people of Wales by realising these economic ideas in government.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How will you grow Plaid Cymru's membership?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Less than 5 per cent of those who vote for Plaid Cymru at Westminster elections are members of the party. I have set out my proposals to turn our party into an election-winning machine by investing in both our party machinery and our membership.</p><p dir="ltr">The work starts with inspiring people and demonstrating that Plaid Cymru has a vision. &nbsp;Once we present a positive policy platform with which voters consider credible, I believe we can substantially grow the party's membership. They key then, however, is ensuring we invest properly in our personal relationships, provide more opportunities for members to influence our work and ensure they are at the heart of our party.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Raymond Williams said that it's the job of the radical to make hope seem possible, not despair convincing. How will you do this?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">A Plaid Cymru government can show the people of Wales that there is nothing inevitable about our circumstances. We will govern well and demonstrate that a different, more confident and more prosperous future is possible.</p><p dir="ltr">The Welsh economy and Welsh independence have been the two key themes of this leadership election. I am pleased to have run a positive campaign based on ideas and hope for creating a New Wales. I'm asking Plaid Cymru members for the opportunity to do that and lead our party into government. </p><h3 dir="ltr">Rhun Ap Iorwerth</h3><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Rhun.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Rhun.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="236" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rhun Ap Iorwerth. Image, rhunapiorwerth.cymru, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The British State is in crisis. Scottish independence and Irish unity seem possible within a decade. How can Plaid grow the movement for Welsh independence?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The current British State is coming to an end. This is not unusual. Significant change in the relationship between the nations of these islands has happened at regular intervals throughout history. Now is the time for another of those historical pivot-points, and Wales must ensure it’s part of that change. I have a clear vision of how I’d like that change to look. I firmly believe that we would ALL benefit in these islands from redesigning the relationship between us – independent countries working together. That Wales – in stark contrast to bridge-burning, wall-building hard Brexit Britain – would be an open one, rejecting isolation, and always striving to work in partnership with others.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How can Plaid win young voters in the age of Corbyn?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We win the support of young people by painting a picture of a future that excites them. Every new generation needs inspiration, and they are not wed to the past. That vision has to be communicated in a way young people can trust and identify with – consistent, honest, and ambitious. Young people have to feel that future isn’t something that happens to them – they have to be a part of the vision, so this has to be a 2-way conversation. The peer-to-peer element is key, which is why an active and inspired Plaid Ifanc is so important.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What would be your priority as first minister of Wales?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I could run through some policy areas – the need for a clearly focussed new economic plan for Wales being a central part of it – but the first change that comes from my election as first minister is a change in attitude that will underpin all we do as a government. The change is from “how can our limited ambitions be accommodated within a wider UK framework” (“let’s not push things too far, folks – the preservation of the union is far more important than aspiration for Wales”), to “let’s be uncompromising in pursuing what’s right for the people and communities of Wales”.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How will you grow Plaid Cymru's membership?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I want Plaid Cymru to be a natural home for all those who want to join in the venture of building this nation – all those who share the ambition of making this country a better, a more equal, a more prosperous, healthier more confident and a happier place to live. We have to be the go-to for those who agree with us on pursuing this ambition, regardless of background, where they live, which language they speak, and whether they were born and bred here, or moved here yesterday – if people choose to make Wales their home, I want them to go a step further and make it their nation. We grow membership by making this explicit in all we do, and creating a new pride in being part of an inclusive national movement.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Raymond Williams said that it’s the job of the radical to make hope seem possible, not despair convincing. How will you do this?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I want to change the ‘story’ of Plaid Cymru, and to do so in order to change the story of Wales. All too often we’ve been a party on the defensive, rather lacking in confidence. Let’s move hope on to the front foot, and with a new positive attitude, present to all Welsh citizens a confident vision of what Wales could be.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay-leanne-wood/interview-leanne-wood-wales-and-spreading-of-scottish-rebellion">Interview: Leanne Wood - Wales and the spreading of the Scottish rebellion</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Wales Adam Price Adam Ramsay Leanne Wood Rhun Ap Iorwerth Mon, 17 Sep 2018 11:58:20 +0000 Adam Ramsay, Leanne Wood, Adam Price and Rhun Ap Iorwerth 119688 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The High Court found that Vote Leave broke the law in a new way https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/high-court-found-that-vote-leave-broke-law-in-different-way <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>England &amp; Wales's High Court has ruled that Vote Leave broke campaign spending limits in addition to the way that the Electoral Commission previously said they did.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Royal_Court2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Royal_Court2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>By sjiong - https://www.flickr.com/photos/sjiong/109817932/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6380215</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The High Court has ruled today that Vote Leave did break their spending limit and so the law when they gave £625,000 to the young Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes ahead of the European Referendum. However, people have got confused about how this relates to the Electoral Commission’s decision to fine both Vote Leave and Grimes back in July. So I've read the whole ruling to work out what's going on.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s important to understand that there are three separate but related issues in play here.</p><p dir="ltr">The first is the fact, in itself, that Vote Leave paid £625,000 to Darren Grimes for his BeLeave campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">The second is the fact that Vote Leave didn’t actually pay this money to Grimes himself. Rather, all but £1,000 of it was paid on his behalf to AggregateIQ, the online comms firm which ran much of the Brexit campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">The third is the question of whether or not the money was paid to Grimes as part of a ‘joint plan’ with Vote Leave.</p><p dir="ltr">The short explanation is that the court ruled today on the first two questions. The Electoral Commission ruled back in July on the third.</p><p dir="ltr">The case itself followed the publication by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">openDemocracy</a> and the Ferret of a cache of internal Electoral Commission emails (after Carole Cadwalladr, Buzzfeed and Private Eye had written about the affair). This correspondence – obtained under Freedom of Information legislation by my colleague Jenna Corderoy – showed that the regulator was concerned about Vote Leave’s donations to Grimes but had decided not to launch an investigation. This prompted Jolyon Maugham QC of the Good Law Project to launch a crowdfunder to support a legal challenge to the Electoral Commission in the High Court to review the decision not to probe the Grimes case further.</p><p dir="ltr">Once the case was launched, two things happened.</p><p dir="ltr">First, the Electoral Commission decided to reopen the issue, and to look, specifically, at my third question above: whether Leave and Grimes had a joint plan. The regulator maintained that the donation from Vote Leave to Grimes shouldn’t be counted as Vote Leave expenditure, unless Grimes and Vote Leave spent the money as part of a ‘joint plan’. If they did, then under election law, that the money should count towards Vote Leave’s expenditure. And that would mean it broke its £7 million spending limit. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />In July this year, the Electoral Commission <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/vote-leave-fined-and-referred-to-the-police-for-breaking-electoral-law">ruled on this matter</a>, concluding that there was “significant evidence of joint working” between the lead campaigner, Vote Leave, and BeLeave. The Commission also found that Grimes had broken a related rule (he’d registered his campaign as himself, rather than under the name “BeLeave”, while the donation went to “BeLeave”). They fined both Vote Leave and Darren Grimes, and referred both to the Met Police.</p><p dir="ltr">Second, before that ruling from the Commission, judges heard the first round of the Good Law Project’s argument. They resolved that they wouldn’t look at the question of whether there had been a ‘joint plan’ – which the Electoral Commission was already investigating. This, they said, was a matter of fact, while it was their job as the High Court to rule when there are disagreements about the law. They would, however, rule on whether the donation itself should have been counted as expenditure by Vote Leave, irrespective of whether there was a ‘joint plan’ between Grimes and Vote Leave. </p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave has worked hard to conflate these two seperate question in the last few hours. But ultimately, the court ruling today is a separate matter from the fine and police referral in July.</p><p dir="ltr">The ruling today consists of 25 pages of legalistic pondering on what it means for an expense to be incurred, by whom it is conferred, and similar questions. And ultimately, it concludes that the donation should have been counted as expenditure by Vote Leave, because it was a donation for a particular thing, rather than simply a donation for Grimes to use however he pleased. Key to this ruling was the fact that the money was paid by Vote Leave to AggregateIQ, rather than simply paid to the BeLeave account with no strings attached: a fact first revealed <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">here on openDemocracy</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Both the Leave and the Remain campaigns have some legitimate grievance here. If Leave was, as it claims, told by the Electoral Commission that their donation to Grimes was allowed, then they have now been told by the High Court that it was not. However, the breach of the rules for which they were fined earlier this year was a slightly different question: it is absolutely clear in the published <a href="http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/194621/Working-together-for-EU-referendum-campaigners.pdf">Electoral Commission guidelines</a> that spending on “joint campaigns” will all be counted against the lead campaign’s expenditure. </p><p dir="ltr">Likewise, if the Commission’s incorrect interpretation of the law effectively allowed the official Leave Campaign to spend more than the official Remain campaign, then Remainers have significant grounds for grievance.</p><p dir="ltr">At the centre of all of this sit the Electoral Commission, who do seem to have blundered. There have been some loud calls for a serious shake up there from both sides of this quarrel today, and I have some sympathy for that. I was on a ferry to Belfast when they rang me back last year, and explained to me why they had decided that the donation to Grimes was fine. I spent the rest of the journey baffled: it seemed to me then, and has done ever since, that this had to either be bad law, or a bad interpretation of it. </p><p dir="ltr">However, I think it’s important to think a little harder about what’s going on here. As I <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/platform-parties-vs-plutocrat-pr-welcome-to-future-of-uk-politics">wrote last week</a>, the Conservatives, with collapsing membership, are relying ever-more on a small pool of large donors, many of whom have offshore connections which merit investigation. Likewise, without party activists, they are likely to rely ever-more on companies like AggregateIQ to get their messages to voters. The Commission is seriously underfunded and struggles to keep on top of the huge workload (this was all unfolding at the same time as the Channel 4 revelations about Conservative election spending in 2015). The oligarchs who wish to control our politics would love nothing more than a de-fanged and degraded Electoral Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">The response to this error shouldn’t be to denigrate a regulator our democracy relies upon. Instead, this should be a prompt to give the Commission the cash and power it needs to properly police our politics.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-evidence-that-leave-groups-co-ordinated-to-get-round-re">&#039;Crimes&#039; committed by Brexit campaigners? One extraordinary coincidence offers a new clue</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/peter-geoghegan/vote-leave-trying-to-bury-bad-news">Vote Leave is using media to bury bad news</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Brexit investigations DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Fri, 14 Sep 2018 16:20:22 +0000 Adam Ramsay 119664 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Platform parties vs plutocrat PR: welcome to the future of UK politics https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/platform-parties-vs-plutocrat-pr-welcome-to-future-of-uk-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Deserted by members, right-wing parties serve the rich, while people have flocked to centre and left alternatives, only to be smeared as "dogs" and "Trots".</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 16.02.45.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 16.02.45.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="234" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"SNP Live", 2016. Image, YouTube, Fair Use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The SNP has more members than the Conservatives. Labour is the biggest it’s been <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/party-memberships-in-uk-some-context-tory-termination">since the Sixties</a>. The Lib Dems recruited nearly 20,000 people over 2017 and are the biggest they’ve been in 20 years, and the Greens have around twice as many members as UKIP.</p><p dir="ltr">These figures, published by the House of Commons library <a href="https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN05125">last week</a>, tell an important story about the future of our politics.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Zombie members and PR nationalism </h2><p dir="ltr">Conservative party membership peaked at<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/olympic-britain/parliament-and-elections/partied-out/"> 2.8 million in the 1950s</a> and has declined rapidly ever since. By 2003 it had fallen to 273,000. It then halved under David Cameron and is now 124,000. UKIP’s membership has fallen since the Brexit referendum, from 34,293 in December 2016 to 23,280 now. And while the Tories look ripe for infiltration, the attempt by former UKIP funder Arron Banks to lead the charge seems to be failing, with, according to the Daily Express, only around 100 people joining the so-called ‘<a href="https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1012198/Brexit-news-Tory-Party-ukip-theresa-May-Arron-Banks">blue wave’</a>. It seems the Brexit movement has moved on.</p><p dir="ltr">The long-term collapse in Conservative membership correlates with a drastic fall in the size of three other traditional institutions of conservatism: the Church of England, the armed forces and farming.</p><p dir="ltr">It seems that neoliberalism has done two things to the ruling class. First, it has taught people that they can attain more power through the market than through politics: better to be a banker than an MP. Second, it’s replaced Conservative values of loyalty, discipline and hierarchy with market ‘choice’ and individualism – not notions that drive you to join a political party.</p><p dir="ltr">What this means in practice is that both of Britain’s major right-wing parties will rely more than ever on a small group of the hyper-rich to fund them, and so will increasingly represent the interests of the hyper-rich. How, for example, can a party close the loopholes that allow massive tax evasion if most of its money comes from those who squeeze through them? In the 2010 general election, the Tories got<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/feb/08/tory-funds-half-city-banks-financial-sector"> half their funding from the City</a> – effectively a bribe not to regulate the big banks after the financial crisis (they didn’t). In the next election, even more of their income can be expected to come from the plutocrats (and they already get more cash in legacies from dead members than those who are alive).</p><p dir="ltr">Similarly, the loss of Tory members indicates a lost activist base, removing both a direct line into the shifting priorities of their core voters, and vital leafletters and canvassers.</p><p dir="ltr">Historically the right would make up for that through the media, with a largely oligarch-owned press keen to push voters towards more pro-rich parties. But, just like other conservative institutions, the traditional newspapers are in freefall, as advertising revenue disappears to Google and Facebook.</p><p dir="ltr">Instead it seems likely that the Conservatives (and UKIP) will rely ever more on the growing data-driven securitised public-relations industry to reach voters through social media. Just like rich donors, this sector will expect rewards in return for loyal service. Already we’re seeing lucrative government contracts shuffle in their direction – through, for example, the privatisation of military propaganda, as we’ve seen<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda"> with Cambridge Analytica</a> and Bell Pottinger, and more generally through tacit state support for digital platform monopolies like Facebook.</p><p dir="ltr">As we’ve seen with Trump and Brexit, the strategy adopted by this nexus of offshore money and mercenary propaganda firms is to copy the divide-and-rule tactics learned in centuries of imperialism. Many of the institutions that helped construct traditional Anglo-Britishness – Protestantism, the print media, the army and the Conservative and Unionist Party – are disappearing, and so the Tories are having to switch from subtler appeals to nationalism to more explicit flag-waving. The only majority the Conservative party has won in 25 years was on the back of a campaign of Scot-bashing English nationalism, and we can expect much more of that.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Mass memberships and platform parties</h2><p dir="ltr">On the left and centre, though, something very different is happening. In the nineties and noughties, the common refrain was that young people joined single-issue campaigns and social movements, but not political parties; those with moral concerns around the world were encouraged by much of the media to channel them through consumerism, rather than politics. Worried about global poverty? Buy Fairtrade! Worried about climate change? Use low-energy light bulbs!</p><p dir="ltr">From around 2009, things started to change. Obama had been elected in the United States, meaning that for the first time since Kennedy the coolest person on earth was a politician, and banks had collapsed, meaning my generation knew we would graduate into a recession. I wrote in the spring of that year about how recent student elections <a href="https://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-herald/20090407/282011848290374">had seen turnout records smashed</a> as the cohort who had been teenagers during the Iraq war came of age. Towards the end of that year, the Copenhagen climate talks fell apart, after which the climate movement dissipated, with many of its best activists resolving to change tactics.</p><p dir="ltr">Much of the energy of students and recent graduates was swept into Cleggmania in the 2010 election, and then onto the streets as the Lib Dems sold out those voters only months later. As the students of 2010/11 occupied lecture theatres and Topshops, they developed a politics of their own, fit for the age of austerity. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In September 2014 the great party turn began as these social movements flooded into political parties. First, in Scotland, tens of thousands of people joined the SNP, Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialist Party in the wake of the independence referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">In January the following year, the Green Party of England and Wales followed suit, with the ‘Green surge’. When Caroline Lucas was elected an MP in 2010, there were just over 10,000 signed-up Green members across the UK. In mid-September 2014, there were still fewer than 20,000. By March 2015, the number was<a href="https://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2015/04/15/membership-of-the-green-party-of-england-and-wales-passes-60,000/"> nearly 70,000</a> (now it’s 47,000). These members came, largely, from those who had been active in – or at least politicised by – the social movements of the previous decade, who had developed a large political conversation outside the traditional media and parties.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Prominent political commentators mock Corbyn or SNP supporters as a cult, before prostrating themselves on the holy turf of Westminster</p><p dir="ltr">Then came the Corbyn surge, as huge numbers rushed into Labour, smelling the first chance to secure real change through one of the main parties of the British state for the first time in decades. Many came from the same world as the people who had joined the Greens, and some were literally the same people. Others were trade unionists who had lost automatic votes in Labour leadership elections in an attempt to cut them off from the party, but who shocked the Westminster consensus by signing up to have their say in vast numbers.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile Brexit happened. With the idea that joining a political party was once more ‘a thing I can do about this’ in the air, the Lib Dems found themselves able to attract (or re-attract) thousands of members after the damage of the coalition years; in Scotland, the SNP has seen another growth in membership as Europhiles leapt onto the independence life-raft.</p><h2 dir="ltr">What are members for?</h2><p class="mag-quote-right">the traditional media doesn’t like mass parties because editors enjoy being the gate-keepers of political debate</p><p dir="ltr">When these members are discussed, it’s usually in terms of the cash they bring the parties – Labour got £14.4 million from its members in 2016, compared with Tory membership subs of £1.5 million. During elections, they are recognised as potential campaigners. But generally, much of the old press treats party members with the scorn that you’d expect from journalists who are remnants of a wilting industry most of which has been wrong about every major event of the past decade. Prominent political commentators mock Corbyn or SNP supporters as a cult, before prostrating themselves on the holy turf of Westminster, muttering an incantation to one of its small gods (the mythic David Miliband or the ghost of Nigel Farage, dependent on denomination) and declaring that, while their previously predicted date for Corbynism’s demise may have been wrong, its end is, indeed, still nigh.</p><p dir="ltr">In part, the traditional media doesn’t like mass parties because editors enjoy being the gate-keepers of political debate. More people pay membership fees to the Labour party than buy a copy of The Times every day – or of any paper but The Sun or The Daily Mail. The SNP now has 3% of Scottish voters on its membership database, meaning its internal newsletter has six times the circulation of The Scotsman. Journalists are used to shaping the language and boundaries of political discourse, and the re-emergence of other forums for national debate is a real threat to that power. </p><p dir="ltr">Talk to vocal online supporters of the SNP or Corbyn, and you usually discover that their tone is a product of this hostility. While they are often intelligent and independently minded, they tend to see their role on social media as providing solidarity and support to their side. Whatever specific differences they may have with their leaderships, they understand that the choice is between having journalists and opponents portray them as a cult or being dismissed as split. In that context, people tend to choose discipline over discussion, ‘cult’ over conversation.</p><p dir="ltr">This is, however, a problem. Because if progressive politics is now expressed through parties, then parties must be spaces in which people can debate and discuss, where the most interesting conversation is taking place. They must create space for people to grow. They should tap into the collective genius of their members. They should be how we re-learn the art of democratic discourse in the digital age and where we develop our understanding of the world. They should be the democratic platforms through which we organise to take back control of our politics.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet the Labour NEC election and the Green leadership election – both of which declared last week – produced little discussion about what members are for, and were instead dominated by debates about antisemitism and trans rights, respectively. Labour's democracy review seems so far to have included very few ideas about how to actually empower ordinary members and, worse, many Labour MPs treat their new party colleagues as a threat. A<span class="st">ny suggestion that some of the new talent which has joined the party since 2015 might be allowed to replace some of the mediocre white men that make up most of the Labour back benches is treated as </span><span class="st">sacrilege. Online abuse is, of course, unacceptable. But the way in which so many people who have only just started to find their political voice are lumped in with abusers is also deeply worrying.</span><span class="st"></span></p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, the SNP recently outsourced its economic strategy to a panel headed by a corporate lobbyist and the Lib Dems seem to have run out of ideas, and so are attempting to launch their own cargo-cult <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/emilyashton/the-lib-dems-are-setting-up-a-momentum-for-moderates">version of Momentum</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The parties of the left and centre have an extraordinary opportunity to reshape politics for a generation if they can work out how to empower their mass memberships in the internet age. But if they fail, they will be crushed by the hedge-fund-funded, security-digital complex of future conservatism. &nbsp; </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/quick-note-on-party-memberships-in-uk">A quick note on party memberships in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/neal-lawson/labours-democracy-review-should-be-about-more-than-selection-procedures">Labour&#039;s democracy review should be about more than selection procedures</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Adam Ramsay Mon, 10 Sep 2018 15:00:39 +0000 Adam Ramsay 119610 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: how the UK’s powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MPs work together https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/revealed-how-uk-s-powerful-right-wing-think-tanks-and-conse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Institute of Economic Affairs, accused of offering US donors access to government ministers, is among right-wing think tanks meeting monthly. Conservative MPs have attended, too.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_3385.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_3385.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>55 Tufton Street, where many of the meetings take place. Image, Adam Ramsay, CC2.0.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The UK’s leading right-wing think tanks discuss strategy and tactics at regular monthly meetings that have been attended by Conservative MPs, openDemocracy has learned. Among those in attendance are the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), which has been accused of offering donors access to government ministers and civil servants.</p><p dir="ltr">Politicians and campaigners say the meetings raise concerns about transparency in British politics. Separately, openDemocracy can reveal today that the IEA also receives regular funding from British American Tobacco. The IEA does <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-charity-watchdog-probes-pro-brexit-anti-nhs-think-tank">not declare its funders</a>,</p><p dir="ltr">The regular think tank meetings are chaired jointly by staff from the pro-Brexit website Brexit Central and low-tax campaigners the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA). Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, chair of the Tories’ policy commission, recently tweeted his thanks to both Brexit Central editor Jonathan Isaby and TPA campaign manager James Price “for their invitation to speak at Tuesday meeting of think tanks”. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 18.05.02.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 18.05.02.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="120" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The think tank meetings have taken place at 55 Tufton Street, home to numerous think tanks and lobbying outfits. Among them are the TPA, until 2015 the pro-Brexit group Business for Britain, and the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which denies the overwhelming scientific consensus around humans causing climate change. </p><p dir="ltr">Monthly meetings are regularly attended by at least 30 people including representatives from free-market think tanks the Adam Smith Institute and the Centre for Policy Studies, and news site Brexit Central, as well as the IEA and the TPA. A source familiar with the meetings said that it was an opportunity “for everyone to convene together and align their messaging towards the same goal” on everything from Brexit to Labour party policy announcements.</p><p dir="ltr">Meetings are said to include a number of guest speakers and updates from each think tank, as well as planning of future activities. “You would divvy things up, sometimes might say, ‘The IEA would do that,’ or, ‘The TPA should so this,’” the source added. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Ministerial access</h2><p dir="ltr">The TPA, Brexit Central and the IEA have all confirmed to openDemocracy that they participate in the monthly meeting. Some of these groups had <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/18/vote-leave-whistleblower-sues-taxpayers-alliance-for-unfair-dismissal">previously dismissed</a> reports that they attended fortnightly meetings involving various right-wing think tanks. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA’s access to government ministers and senior officials have been in the spotlight this week after an investigation by Greenpeace and The Guardian secretly filmed the think tank’s director Mark Littlewood telling <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/brexit-influencing-game-iea-us-rancher-tucker-link">undercover reporters</a> that his organisation was “in the Brexit-influencing game” and that US donors could get to know ministers on “first name terms”. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA is a registered charity. The Charity Commission is currently investigating the think tank over <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/labour-calls-for-inquiry-into-iea-thinktank-over-cash-for-access-claims">concerns about its political independence</a>. Separately, questions have been raised over whether the IEA should be registered as a lobbyist. The IEA said that the Guardian story was “incorrect”, adding, “We have put in a complaint calling for a retraction.”</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the think tank hired Shanker Singham, whose work on trade for another think tank, Legatum, proved controversial. The Charity Commission later <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">concluded a report he had co-written</a> on the benefits of Brexit had “failed to met the required standards of balance and neutrality”.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham has been said to enjoy “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/mapped-shanker-singhams-unparalleled-access-to-government-ministers-a">unparalleled access</a>” to the Brexit process, including regular meetings with a host of ministers. Singham’s contact with Steve Baker, a former minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, came under particular scrutiny after <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.tskv2xp0V#.pc1bznqBj">BuzzFeed reported</a> that Baker had failed to declare frequent meetings with the adviser. Baker told BuzzFeed that they had not discussed government business and so there was no requirement to register the meetings. </p><p dir="ltr">Dominic Raab, the new Brexit secretary, is also one of the IEA’s most vocal supporters, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">crediting its founders</a> with inspiring deregulations, union reforms and business tax cuts that “saved Britain”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Revolving door’</h2><p dir="ltr">Commenting on openDemocracy’s revelations about the regular think tank meetings, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “This raises further concerns about the role and influence of the IEA and other shady, non-transparent lobby groups.</p><p dir="ltr">“It seems as if there is a revolving door between right-wing lobbyists, undisclosed donors and senior hard Brexiters expressing undue and unaccountable influence on this extremely important area of public policy.”</p><p dir="ltr">Till Bruckner, advocacy manager for transparency advocates Transparify, said: “Politically influential nonprofits that take money from hidden hands behind closed doors raise red flags because it is completely unclear who funds their operations, and for what purposes. Democracy is undermined when political agendas and discourse are influenced by dark money groups. For this reason, elected representatives and the media should steer clear of them."</p><p dir="ltr">After responding to openDemocracy’s queries earlier today, James Price of the TPA published some of his responses on the campaign group’s <a href="https://www.taxpayersalliance.com/tpa_confirms_that_people_can_meet_in_room_and_disagree_in_good_faith">blog</a> confirming that the meetings take place. </p><p dir="ltr">“The meeting is an opportunity for people to let others know what research they are working on; what public events they are holding—which is useful information to avoid diary clashes, as I’m sure you can understand; and to hear from interesting speakers from the worlds of politics and the media (shocker, given that we work in the worlds of politics and the media),” Price told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">IEA communications officer Nerissa Chesterfield said that the regular meetings “involve like-minded groups, the purpose of which is to update each other on the reports and research they have published or are currently working on. Yes, the IEA is among the regular attendees and we attend to outline and explain our latest research.”</p><p dir="ltr">Brexit Central editor Jonathan Isaby said: “In a personal capacity I chair a monthly meeting of individuals on the broad centre-right with an interest in public policy.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">Tobacco cash and ‘astroturfing’</h2><p dir="ltr">The Greenpeace/Guardian investigation revealed for the first time that the IEA has long received funding from the oil company BP. openDemocracy can reveal today that the group also receives regular funding from British American Tobacco. In a letter to the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health, which holds shares in the company, BAT confirmed that it contributed “circa £40,000” to the think tank in each of 2015, 2016 and 2017, and expected to do so again in 2018. </p><p dir="ltr">The website <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs#2016_.22Broadly_Similar_to_2015.22_and_.22Likely_be_the_Same_in_2017.22">Tobacco Tactics </a>has previously revealed donations from British American Tobacco up to 2016, and that the think tank has worked with Phillip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International within the last five years. The current status of these relationships is unknown.</p><p dir="ltr">Asked about these donations, Chesterfield commented: “We respect the privacy of our donors and don’t place a list of them in the public domain; a cornerstone of a free society is being able to associate freely and we want to uphold that. However, our donors are free to make their donations known if they wish to.”</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">previously revealed</a> that in 2014, the IEA received a grant of $155,000 from the US-based Templeton Foundation to “<a href="https://templeton.org/grant/encouraging-independence-and-enterprise-for-a-healthy-old-age">seek alternatives</a>” to “public, pay-as-you-go financed systems of pensions, disability insurance, healthcare and long-term care”, and to promote privatisation of each of these areas. </p><p dir="ltr">Chesterfield rejected allegations that funders influenced IEA publications. “We make independent editorial decisions and then seek funding. The work we undertake is work we will do regardless of whether it raises donations,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">The extent to which the TPA, the IEA and others appear in the media has also attracted attention. A <a href="https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/The_DirectorGeneral_of_the_BBC_Tony_Hall_BBC_Stop_giving_airtime_to_organisations_whose_funding_is_not_transparent/?aglhIab">campaign has been launched</a> by South West England Green MEP Molly Scott Cato calling on the BBC not to invite guests who do not divulge their organisation’s funders. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Scottish National Party MP Martin Doherty-Hughes said: “The more we understand about the activities of these groups, the more it becomes apparent that we’re dealing with ‘astroturfing’ on an industrial basis, with big-money donors hiding behind a veneer of legitimacy to push their own narrow agenda. We need a clear and unambiguous picture of who is behind this model, and a ban on them appearing in the media until we have this transparency.”</p><p dir="ltr">Many of the groups involved in the monthly think tank meetings had strong links with the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum. Former Vote Leave boss Matthew Elliott founded the TPA and is ‘editor at large’ at Brexit Central.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave's treasurer <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-jon-moynihan-obe-to-its-board-of-trustees/">Jon Moynihan</a> was appointed to the IEA’s board earlier this year. The think tank also hired <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-new-digital-manger-darren-grimes/">Darren Grimes</a> as its digital manager. Grimes, whose BeLeave campaign received more than £600,000 from Vote Leave in the final weeks of the referendum, had previously worked for Brexit Central. Grimes was recently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/17/darren-grimes-the-student-pro-brexit-activist-fined-22k-vote-leave">fined £20,000</a> by the Electoral Commission for breaking electoral law over donations to BeLeave, the campaign that he headed.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>On August 1 this piece was amended to reflect that Business for Britain is no longer based at 55 Tufton Street and that James Price corresponded with openDemocracy as well as publishing portions of this correspondence on the TPA website.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab: is he the IEA’s man in government?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal">Liam Fox caught in fresh “lobbyists as advisers” scandal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK investigations Conservative Party Institute of Economic Affairs DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 31 Jul 2018 17:26:36 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 119082 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The DUP’s Facebook ads for Brexit targeted voters outside Northern Ireland https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dup-s-facebook-ads-for-brexit-targeted-voters-outside-north <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Information released by Facebook shows the DUP said Brexit would be “better for our borders”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.56.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.56.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A DUP Facebook advert, as released by Facebook.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">New Facebook data released by the parliamentary inquiry into Fake News shows that online adverts from the Democratic Unionist Party during the Brexit referendum campaign were targeted overwhelmingly at England, Scotland and Wales, rather than at the DUP’s home territory of Northern Ireland, openDemocracy can reveal.</p><p dir="ltr">The Facebook data also shows that the DUP adverts included an image saying a Leave vote would be “better for our borders”— a claim that has proven controversial in Northern Ireland, where many voters have expressed concern about what Brexit will mean for the borders with Ireland and with the rest of the UK. The other adverts said “better for jobs”, “better for family budgets” and “better for security”.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP adverts were arranged by the firm AggregateIQ and funded with a £435,000 donation from an unknown source. They were seen by up to 4.7 million times in England, Scotland and Wales, but only up to 860,000 times in Northern Ireland itself, according to openDemocracy’s calculations.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.31.57.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.31.57.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span> openDemocracy first started investigating the DUP’s Brexit campaign after coming across pro-Brexit posters in Scotland funded by the party, and a wrap-around advert in Metro newspaper, which appeared across England, Scotland and Wales. Metro isn’t distributed in Northern Ireland. </p><p dir="ltr">The £435,000 donation to the DUP came to the party via a group called the Constitutional Research Council, which is chaired by Richard Cook, former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservatives party. Speaking about Cook at Prime Minister’s Questions, Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons, described Cook <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-07-04/debates/4FEC9C7F-CFE0-4CC0-8B98-58927A0A54E2/PrimeMinister">as having</a> “a trail of involvement in illegal activities and foreign money”.</p><p dir="ltr">The new information from Facebook, released by the Fake News Inquiry, also included adverts from Vote Leave and from the BeLeave campaign. The two groups were recently fined by the Electoral Commission who found that BeLeave’s campaign was co-ordinated with Vote Leave, and therefore that its expenditure on these advertisements should have been counted as Vote Leave expenditure, which took Vote Leave over its £7m spending limit by more than £500,000.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Naomi Long, leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party, raised concerns about the revelation. She said:</p><p dir="ltr">“These figures raise further questions as to whether there was any co-ordination of campaigns throughout the EU referendum in order to get around legal spending limits.</p><p dir="ltr">‘With the DUP’s messaging in this social media campaign, particularly around "securing borders" and their targeting strategy geared more towards a GB rather than NI audience, questions must be asked as to why precisely these were chosen and whether the large campaign donation which they received from the shadowy Constitutional Research Council came with any direction as to how the money should be spent and where. </p><p dir="ltr">‘This is just one of many concerns which have been aired around the DUP’s alleged conduct during the referendum, as well as the wider campaign. The Electoral Commission should be looking closely at these figures and following up to ensure full transparency.’</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP did not respond to our request for a comment.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.32.15.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.32.15.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.44.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.44.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP Donaldson can’t remember why his Brexit campaign spent more than £32,000 on controversial data analytics company linked to Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">Meet the Soopa Doopa branding agency that delivered Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Northern Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Northern Ireland UK Facebook Brexit Democratic Unionist Party investigations DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Sat, 28 Jul 2018 11:29:46 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 119050 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The laws protecting Britain's democracy from big money are broken https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/laws-protecting-britains-democracy-from-big-money-are-broken <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>You can be fined more for touting football tickets than you can for subverting Britain's democratic process.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Dr Evil_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Dr Evil_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="336" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p dir="ltr">In Mike Myers’ 90s classic ‘Austin Powers’, Dr Evil, the baddie transported from the 1960s, threatens to blow up the world unless he’s paid a ransom. Confused by inflation, however, he only demands “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKKHSAE1gIs">one million dollars</a>”, much to everyone’s mirth.</p><p dir="ltr">In related news, the Electoral Commission has fined Vote Leave, Darren Grimes and Veterans for Britain for breaching a string of laws during the European referendum. The amounts they will have to stump up, respectively, are £61,000, £20,000, and £250.</p><p dir="ltr">We’ll come back to Grimes, let’s focus on the big player. Vote Leave had a spending limit of £7 million during the final ten weeks of the referendum. The organisation is being fined for breaching that limit by nearly half a million pounds – it spent, according to the Electoral Commission, £7,449,079. This means that the fine is only 0.8% of their expenditure during the final sprint of the referendum. It’s the sort of amount that a future campaign could write off at the outset as ‘the cost of doing business’. It’s not even a very big cost of doing business: it’s less than they spent on one batch of materials on the <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Api/Spending/Invoices/18316">13th of June 2016</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">And the £61,000 fine is not, in fact, just for one breach of the rules, but for four separate breaches. For three of these, Vote Leave incurred the maximum fine of £20,000, while the fourth – not filing all the correct invoices – is only seen as worthy of a £1,000 fine.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s right. The maximum fine for breaking the laws of our democracy is £20,000. Partly, of course, this is an anachronism. £20,000 was written into election law in the year 2000. If it had kept up with inflation, it would be around £32,000 today. Partly, it’s about politicians looking out for their own: the maximum fine for a ticket tout at a football match <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/unlimited-fines-for-serious-offences">is unlimited</a>. The maximum fine for anyone caught making a false statement while trying to navigate the labyrinthine benefits system <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/unlimited-fines-for-serious-offences">is unlimited</a>. Politicians trust our judicial system to impose a fair penalty on other people. But when it comes to the kinds of crime that they might commit themselves, there are careful safeguards to stop things getting out of hand.</p><p dir="ltr">As the Electoral Commision pointed out to me today, their maximum fine isn’t even equivalent to other similar regulators. A spokesperson said: “Our powers to fine should be commensurate with those of comparable regulators. The Information Commissioner’s Office is a relevant example. They have been able to fine up to £500,000 for breaches of data protection rules, and shortly that level is to significantly further increase. For serious breaches of Parliament’s rules on the funding of and spending that influencing elections and referendums, the Commission should be enabled to impose a significant level of fine.”</p><p>Then there’s the question of who is held to account by our laws. Vote Leave was run by one of Britain’s best known political operators, Matthew Elliott. It was fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. Yet the two people left holding the baby are, as openDemocracy has previously revealed, a former pram-maker called Alan Halsell and Darren Grimes, who was a 21 year old fashion student at the time.</p><p dir="ltr">Grimes appears at every moment to have done roughly what he was told by his older colleagues - apart, perhaps, from messing up some forms. And yet he’s being fined, personally, £20,000 (unless those older colleagues have the good grace to help him out). Halsell is a businessman, lawyer and former chairman of Silver Cross, the company that makes those posh prams. He was the ‘responsible person’ for Vote Leave, and, as the Commission report outlines, knew or should have known what was going on, and knew or should have known better. But it’s hard not to feel like he’s being left holding the baby. It’s hard not to feel that the people who really ran the campaign are getting away with it.</p><p dir="ltr">The reason that Grimes and Halsall are in the firing line is that the Commission is only allowed to pursue those listed as the ‘responsible person’. Any attempt to investigate any of the other characters who may or may not have been involved would be the responsibility of the police.</p><p dir="ltr">And so what will the police do? We don’t yet know how the Met will respond to the information they have been given today about Vote Leave. However, they have had more than two months now to respond to a similar case: on 11 May, the Electoral Commission found that Leave.EU <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/243009/Report-on-Investigation-Leave.EU.pdf">breached election law</a>, and referred their responsible person, Liz Bilney, to the Metropolitan police. We haven’t heard anything since. So I rang the Met press office to ask what has happened since. The press officer went away to check their system. He said nothing came up, and he’s passed me to the special investigations team, who got back this evening with one line: “still under referral so no update”.</p><p>Perhaps most confusingly for many people, it’s easy to feel like all of this will amount to nothing. If an MP is believed to have broken election laws to win their seat, then an election court will sit. If they are found guilty, there will be a rerun - remember <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2010/dec/03/woolas-analysis-election-court-judgment">Phil Woolas</a>, whose election as an MP was declared void after an election court ruled that he <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2010/dec/03/woolas-analysis-election-court-judgment">had lied about his opponent</a> in his leaflets. This law also applies if a local authority runs a referendum, as lawyer <a href="https://twitter.com/AdamWagner1/status/1019114112276750336">Adam Wagner</a> points out. However, because the European referendum was non-binding, and the result didn’t produce a legal outcome (we are leaving the EU not because Britain voted Leave, but because MPs voted to trigger article 50), the result of the referendum cannot be challenged in court.</p><p dir="ltr">This is post-modern Britain at its best. Vote Leave broke the law, but its victory in the referendum can’t be challenged in an election court because the vote wasn’t legally binding. There is a regulator, but it can only issue piddling fines to fringe figures. The police seem to have little interest in policing the powerful, and the rules, ultimately, are for losers.</p><p dir="ltr">If one thing has become clear from spending a year investigating the money behind the Brexit campaign, it's this: the rules of British democracy are utterly broken. And until we mend them, the rich and powerful will run amok.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-evidence-that-leave-groups-co-ordinated-to-get-round-re">&#039;Crimes&#039; committed by Brexit campaigners? One extraordinary coincidence offers a new clue</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 17 Jul 2018 20:42:42 +0000 Adam Ramsay 118909 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trump's visit marks the start of shock doctrine Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/trumps-visit-marks-start-of-shock-doctrine-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The radical right want a no-deal Brexit so they can force Britain into a disaster capitalist trade deal with the USA.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Trump baby.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Trump baby.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Trump Baby, Twitter, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Trump landed with a negotiating position. If Theresa May’s Brexit plan goes ahead, it would probably “kill the deal”, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44815558">he told</a> The Sun, referring to the trade agreement he’s here to discuss.</p><p dir="ltr">To understand what’s really going on here, we need to rewind by a week, to a tweet from the man who funded Brexit, Arron Banks: “In Bermuda with @Nigel_Farage, saying he will come back as UKIP leader if Brexit not back on track, Tories in marginally seats watch out! Lightening storm hit studio shortly afterwards - omens…”</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">In Bermuda with <a href="https://twitter.com/Nigel_Farage?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Nigel_Farage</a> saying he will come back as UKIP leader if Brexit not back on track , Tories in marginally seats watch out! Lightening storm hit studio shortly afterwards - omens... <a href="https://t.co/h3EZwGT8nO">https://t.co/h3EZwGT8nO</a></p>— Arron Banks (@Arron_banks) <a href="https://twitter.com/Arron_banks/status/1016396021172236291?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote> <p> Perhaps the most apt of omens we could ask for, the prospect of two of the men who delivered Brexit returning from a tax haven to take their country back. Because whatever “Leave” meant to the millions who voted for it, it has always been about something else for the elite who pushed it – and for Donald Trump more than any of them.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The term “Shock Doctrine” was first used by Naomi Klein in her 2007 book of the same name. With the subheader “The rise of disaster capitalism”, she outlined her thesis: while advocates of neoliberal capitalism said it would dance hand in hand with democracy as these ideologies encircled the world, in fact neoliberalism marches in step with violence and disaster.</p><p dir="ltr">In Chile, the dictator Augusto Pinochet delivered the radical right plans concocted by economist Milton Friedman on the back of his 1973 military coup and aided by the torture and murder of thousands, often using electronic batons to literally shock people into acquiescence. Throughout the late 20th century, the International Monetary Fund came into former colonies when they faced crises and used the leverage of much-needed loans to force mass privatisations, tax cuts for the rich and public spending cuts for the rest.</p><p dir="ltr">After the tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean in 2004, beaches were privatised by hotels. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Klein has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/06/naomi-klein-how-power-profits-from-disaster">since written</a>, “I watched hordes of private military contractors descend on the flooded city to find ways to profit from the disaster, even as thousands of the city’s residents, abandoned by their government, were treated like dangerous criminals just for trying to survive.”</p><p dir="ltr">From the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/06/naomi-klein-how-power-profits-from-disaster">privatisation of war</a> in Iraq and Afghanistan to the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/nov/13/exxon-mobil-kurdistan-exploration">divvying up</a> of oil contracts afterwards, the rich and powerful and their pet governments have become expert in using crises to ensure that they continue to profit as ordinary people lose everything.</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps the most important example of disaster capitalism is what happened as the former<a href="http://shockdoctrinesummary.blogspot.com/2009/04/1990s-russia.html"> Soviet Union fell apart</a> in the 1990s. While President Boris Yeltsin bumbled on the international stage, Russia was plundered. Powerful men took control of key economic assets, moving billions of dollars offshore and turning themselves into oligarchs overnight.</p><p dir="ltr">In the midst of all of this, Britain has played an important role. The vestigial empire – &nbsp;Overseas Territories like Bermuda, Gibraltar, and the Cayman and Virgin Islands; and Crown Protectorates the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey – transformed themselves, along with London, into the planet’s most important network of tax havens and secrecy areas. When the world’s oligarchs asset strip countries in crisis and move the plunder offshore, they are usually placing it under the protection of Her Majesty’s Navy.</p><p dir="ltr">As Peter Geoghegan and I have followed the dark money that funded the Brexit campaign, there is one consistent factor: almost all of it has been funnelled through these quirks in the British constitution. Whether it’s Northern Ireland with its secrecy laws or Arron Banks’ use of Gibraltar and Mann as shelters for his cash, the people who funded the drive to pull Britain out of the EU certainly know how to navigate the dark corners of the country's constitutional cave network.</p><p dir="ltr">This, surely, is the easiest way to understand the various connections between Brexit and Russia. The Kremlin is no longer the heart of the Soviet Union. It’s at the centre of a network of billionaire power built by Russia’s disaster capitalist-in-chief: Vladimir Putin, <a href="http://time.com/money/4641093/vladimir-putin-net-worth/">sometimes said to be</a> the richest man in the world. It’s no surprise that this vortex of neoliberal plunder would want to use crisis to influence the management of their preferred money laundry.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s not just Russians. Britain’s role for many of the world’s richest lies in our skill in cleaning up their questionable money. But the EU is endlessly threatening to regulate, to force more transparency, to make it harder to stash their cash in the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/series/global-laundromat">world’s laundromat</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">And it’s not just about tax havens and their users: look at the fortunes made on the money markets as the price of the pound <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-06-25/brexit-big-short-how-pollsters-helped-hedge-funds-beat-the-crash">crashed around</a> on referendum night, or the high-risk corners of the City of London which seemed much more likely to support Brexit than their more conventional banking neighbours. Or look at the mercenaries.</p><p dir="ltr">Over the past fifteen years, a key part of disaster capitalism has been the increasing privatisation of the military. “Security firms” have emerged, and taken on work once done by armies and police forces. And again, Britain is at the centre of this: as the NGO War on Want <a href="https://waronwant.org/Mercenaries-Unleashed">has documented</a>, since the invasion of Iraq, Britain has become the world leader in this mercenary industry. Once again, the links between the Brexit elite and the world of privatised security are everywhere we turn in our investigations: Cambridge Analytica is the wing of privatised <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">defence contractor SCL</a>. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Veterans for Britain</a> – one of the campaign groups investigated by the Electoral Commission – has a string of connections to the private security industry.</p><p dir="ltr">With every industry comes a lobby, and both the money-laundering lobby and the mercenary lobby have a strong interest in the UK slipping outside the common rules and regulations of the EU. It’s no surprise that they came in behind Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">This week has been bookended by two key moments for these groups. On Monday, Dominic Raab was appointed as Brexit secretary. Perhaps most famous for saying British workers are too lazy, Raab has been nurtured by the Institute for Economic Affairs, the UK’s original radical right think tank, which refuses to say how it’s funded, but which has published more than one ‘<a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/clamping-down-on-offshore-financial-centres-would-not-raise-tax-revenue/">report</a>’ on the <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/tax-havens-are-a-force-for-good/">advantages of tax havens</a> since the Brexit vote. It seems likely he’ll end up essentially as the IEA's man in government.</p><p dir="ltr">The week ends with the arrival of Trump in the country. Protests will largely focus on his racism and misogyny, but it’s important that we also remember the reason that the government tells us he’s here: for talks on a trade deal.</p><p dir="ltr">Here we will finally get to the main point of Brexit, for those who led the charge. Last autumn, the IEA published two sides of A4 – tweeted again this week – arguing ‘<a href="https://iea.org.uk/publications/lets-get-ready-for-no-deal/">let’s get ready for no deal Brexit</a>’. “A ‘no deal’ scenario in which the UK simply leaves the Single Market and Customs Union in 2019, does not have to be the ‘catastrophe’ that many fear.” they say in their summary “...the UK would be able to crack on with its own trade deals with the rest of the world”.</p><p dir="ltr">Read between the lines, and I’d argue they are saying what Klein would predict: in the crisis of a cliff-edge Brexit, people will be forced to accept the kind of trade deal that groups like the IEA dream about.</p><p dir="ltr">Its brief note focuses largely on the most obvious question of any trade deal: tariffs. It will come as a surprise to no one to hear that a free-market think tank is against them. What it doesn’t talk about is what will likely be most of the content of any major trade deal with the US: what’s normally known as ‘non-tariff barriers’. These can include regulations which protect our food, our hedgerows, our hedgehogs, our education system, our air and our water from whatever scheme businesses might concoct to profit from them. They can include many of our basic rights as workers, students, consumers and citizens. The ownership of British healthcare – as my colleague Caroline Molloy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/nhs-theresa-mays-dowry-gift-to-donald-trump">has explained</a> – will be up for grabs, as will any other corner of life currently protected from the profiteering of big business.</p><p dir="ltr">During the vast fight over <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ttip">the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership</a>, we saw how far the Obama administration tried to force the EU to kneel before American capital. We saw how they wanted any disputes to be arbitrated in corporate courts. Many of the worst of those proposals were stopped by the strength of the left across Europe uniting to resist them.</p><p dir="ltr">A cliff-edge Brexit would leave the British left standing alone against our own, bespoke, Trumpian redraft of TTIP. We won’t have Belgian parliaments to hold up the process, or German NGOs to interpret the text, or the combined trade power of Europe to stand up to the White House.</p><p dir="ltr">Watch their speeches and read their reports, and it’s increasingly clear that this is what Britain’s hard Brexit elite want. The crisis of a no-deal Brexit is the disaster they seek to force through a US trade deal which will turn Britain into a deregulated offshore haven for the rich, and a service economy workhouse for the rest, just as they’ve long proposed.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/brexit-negotiations-why-is-liberal-media-accepting-first-lie-of-nationalism">Brexit is the home-coming for the shock doctrine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Who are Veterans for Britain?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Fri, 13 Jul 2018 12:57:04 +0000 Adam Ramsay 118854 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Dominic Raab: is he the IEA’s man in government? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The controversial right-wing think tank has long nurtured the new Secretary for Brexit and his “war of ideas”. What will this mean now?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Raab.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Raab.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dominic Raab, addressing the Institute for Economic Affairs' birthday party. Image, Youtube, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">As Dominic Raab steps into government, he brings with him a whole intellectual infrastructure. Where David Davis was essentially a lone wolf, and Boris Johnson looked like a blundering opportunist, the new Brexit secretary has always hunted with a pack: specifically, with a controversial right-wing think tank called the Institute of Economic Affairs, and what is effectively its parliamentary wing, the Free Enterprise Group.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA is one of the UK’s most influential think tanks. Its representatives regularly appear on the media, advocating everything from <a href="https://iea.org.uk/motion-this-house-would-abolish-the-nhs/">privatising healthcare</a> to <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/minimum-price-on-alcohol-will-hit-those-on-low-incomes-hardest/">opposing minimum pricing</a> on alcohol. </p><p dir="ltr">The free-market think tank’s influence runs through a significant portion of the Conservative party, too. In 2016, new health minister Matt Hancock was heavily criticised after accepting a <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/matthew-hancock-tory-mp-accepted-4000-donation-from-think-tank-before-announcing-charity-lobbying-a6880071.html">£4,000 donation</a> from the IEA’s chairman just weeks after announcing a clampdown on charities lobbying advocated by the think tank. The policy was later dropped. </p><p dir="ltr">Dominic Raab seems particularly enamoured by the IEA. Speaking at the think tank’s 60th birthday celebrations in 2015 (see video below), Raab outlined how crucial the IEA had been to his thinking, and to giving him and his ideas a platform. </p><p><iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/OMNgUrVOWeY" height="259" width="460"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">In 2009, before the Brexit minister was an MP, Raab <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Assault-Liberty-Dominic-Raab/dp/0007293399#reader_0007293399">wrote a book</a>,&nbsp;<i>The Assault on Liberty: What went wrong with rights</i>. The book was <a href="https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2009/01/dominic-raab-is.html">launched at the offices</a> of the Institute for Economic Affairs.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2012, as an MP, he and his colleagues wanted “to take on this ludicrous, debilitating, anti-austerity, anti-capitalist narrative put out there by the egalitarian left in this country”. They penned a book together, <i>Britannia Unchained</i>, in which Raab’s line that British workers are “<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19300051">among the worst idlers</a>” grabbed headlines across the press, but which was more worrying because of its proposals – a string of radical-right ideas, like <a href="https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2012/09/coffee-house-interview-chris-skidmore-on-britannia-unchained-lazy-brits-and-how-the-government-should-be-unpopular/">for-profit schools</a>, and abolishing a whole collection of <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/new-brexit-secretary-dominic-raab-12883639">basic workers’ rights</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Talking about the book later, Raab said, “it was the IEA which supported us in waging the war of ideas and launching that book.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Dark-money funded think tank</h2><p dir="ltr">The IEA refuses to reveal its sources of funding, regularly receiving the <a href="http://whofundsyou.org/">lowest rating</a> for transparency from campaign group Who Funds You? But we do know where some of its money comes from. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA was long financed by tobacco firms as the industry <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs">sought to avoid regulation</a>. The group also <a href="https://iea.org.uk/donate-from-usa/">accepts funding from the USA</a> through the American Friends of the IEA, which was set up to allow US-based corporations and individuals to donate to the IEA. The American Friends of the IEA has donated more than $500,000 since 2010 according to <a href="http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/541/541899539/541899539_201512_990.pdf">documents filed</a> in the US. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA has also received more than half a million dollars from the US-based <a href="https://templeton.org/grant/encouraging-independence-and-enterprise-for-a-healthy-old-age">Templeton Foundation</a> to conduct research in recent years. In 2014, the group received a grant of $155,000 to “<a href="https://templeton.org/grant/encouraging-independence-and-enterprise-for-a-healthy-old-age">seek alternatives</a>” to “public, pay-as-you-go financed systems of pensions, disability insurance, healthcare and long-term care”, and promote privatisation of each of these areas, according to the Templeton Foundation's website.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA was founded in 1955 as the UK’s original neoliberal think tank, and has been described in Andrew Marr’s <i>History of Modern Britain</i> as "undoubtedly the most influential think tank in modern British history".</p><p dir="ltr">The MPs who wrote <i>Britania Unchained</i> were all members of the “Free Enterprise Group”, a faction of Conservatives most of whom were first elected in 2010. In many ways, the Free Enterprise Group operated as the IEA’s parliamentary wing, with the two groups <a href="https://iea.org.uk/events/free-enterprise-group-and-iea-pre-autumn-statement-media-briefing-0">organising</a> <a href="https://iea.org.uk/in-the-media/press-release/free-enterprise-group-institute-of-economic-affairs-growth-forum-proposal">events</a> and <a href="https://iea.org.uk/events/free-enterprise-group-and-iea-pre-autumn-statement-media-briefing">media briefings</a> together, calling on the government, for example, to make it easier for bosses to sack workers and “<a href="https://iea.org.uk/in-the-media/press-release/free-enterprise-group-institute-of-economic-affairs-growth-forum-proposal">reducing regulation and red tape</a>” – which is usually code for abolishing basic rights at work, as well as protections for the environment and consumers.</p><p dir="ltr">Raab’s views have been widely circulated since his appointment as new Brexit secretary yesterday. Feminists, he says, are “now among the <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/8279200/Dominic-Raab-men-should-burn-their-briefs-in-protest-at-obnoxious-feminist-bigots.html">most obnoxious bigots</a>”. “The typical user of a food bank,” <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/29/tory-mp-dominic-raab-jeered-over-food-bank-comments">he thinks</a>, “is not someone who’s languishing in poverty, it’s someone who has a cashflow problem episodically.”</p><p dir="ltr">It’s important to see that these aren’t simply gaffes from some home-counties Tory out of touch with the modern world. They are the views of a politician who has been nurtured and promoted by a radical think tank, which refuses to reveal where it gets its money from.</p><p dir="ltr">In his speech at the IEA’s birthday, Raab talked about swimming on a beach in Brazil and emerging from the water only to discover that the current had quietly moved him hundreds of metres along the shore. The IEA operates similarly, he said, quietly moving British politics to the right, without anyone noticing. </p><p dir="ltr">But as a politician they have nurtured over a decade takes on the reins of Brexit, will voters start to pay more attention to the private interests secretly funding this ubiquitous think tank, seeking to quietly steer political debate in our country? Let’s hope so.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/we-cant-ignore-patels-background-in-britains-lobbying-industry">We can&#039;t ignore Priti Patel&#039;s background in lobbying</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK investigations Brexit Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 10 Jul 2018 15:06:10 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 118779 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Who actually are Vote Leave? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/who-actually-are-vote-leave-brexit-boris-johnson-michael-gove <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Electoral Commission is expected to find that the largest pro-Brexit campaign group broke the law during the EU referendum. Who are the people involved?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/gove johnson taxi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/gove johnson taxi.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Boris Johnson and Michael Gove on the Vote Leave bus. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave is back in the spotlight. The UK Electoral Commission is widely expected to find that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/04/vote-leave-breached-electoral-rules-watchdog-will-find-reports">the biggest pro-Brexit campaign group broke the law during the EU referendum</a>, including through the “co-ordination” of a controversial £625,000 donation to a young fashion student, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Darren Grimes</a>. Fines for Vote Leave are likely, criminal charges could follow.</p><p dir="ltr">But who are the key people behind Vote Leave? Here’s a comprehensive guide to all the main characters involved.</p><h2>UK foreign secretary, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson</h2><p dir="ltr"><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/UMyHNIlgIIYYZTNaw4bFbCRCJ829mfmQGGKAGZn1KHD79N94dkRmQocrDq1AoWdUTgUP-0LbMT6tIVzK3l5txzXp4zfDPUifrLEbK95vZ1_zXvU9mhBWBmvgxdXKRIimiuCwoICO" alt="Boris Johnson with Leo Johnson. Image, Financial Times, CC2.0, some rights reserved." width="602" height="401" />&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Boris Johnson is a former Times journalist who was sacked for making up a quote from his godfather and lying to his editor <a href="https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/times-boris-johnson-flat-lied/">about it</a>. Despite this, he was given a job at the Telegraph by a connection from his time at Oxford University, Max Hastings, as the paper’s Brussels correspondent, a position he used to write a string of stories mocking and attacking the EU. “That many of Johnson’s stories bore scant relation to the truth did not matter,” <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/07/boris-johnson-peddled-absurd-eu-myths-and-our-disgraceful-press-followed-his">according to Martin Fletcher</a>, “They were colourful and fun”.</p><p dir="ltr">Johnson, also a former London mayor, was a member of the “core group” of Vote Leave’s campaigns committee which, according to the group’s website, met “on a daily basis”.</p><h2><span>UK Environment secretary, Michael Gove</span></h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 10.40.56.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 10.40.56.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="393" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Michael Gove (front) with Darren Grimes (back). Image, Twitter, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A one-time Tory leadership candidate – after ‘<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3667482/Game-Michael-Gove-stand-Tory-leader-setting-stage-bitter-battle-Brexit-ally-Boris-Johnson-Theresa-May.html">stabbing Johnson in the back</a>’ at the 11th hour – Gove was co-convenor of the Vote Leave campaign committee and another member of Vote Leave’s core group. Gove has <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/michael-gove-denies-knowing-about-ps625000-vote-leave-donation-to-beleave_uk_5abb5932e4b06409775b58d0">previously denied</a> knowledge of Vote Leave’s controversial £625,000 donation to fashion student Grimes and his micro-campaign BeLeave, which the Electoral Commission is expected to find constituted ‘working together’, in contravention of electoral law. Now Gove says his role in Vote Leave has been overstated. “I wasn’t involved in the day to day running of the campaign, I was out there making the case for leaving the EU rather than managing the hidden wiring of the campaign,” he told Sky News recently.</p><h2>Vote Leave chief executive, Matthew Elliott </h2><p><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/eGxI-Jh7gp2ZE0fncfZQsRe9mvroLtocczVXKaq0YAAX6UZVcCOzr-drwM2gZ6ERMJm9NVc7p-Xj9VGjczyYSQFlnkQ7JDvk-AFquQcLK9ysnbWtDCBjQTMsTpe7jvekFdFk8Hrj" alt="Matthew Elliot. Image, Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Images" width="602" height="401" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">One of the few figures who still has a legal role in Vote Leave, acting as its company secretary, Elliott – who says that the Electoral Commission investigation is “<a href="https://news.sky.com/story/vote-leave-broke-campaign-spending-rules-says-electoral-commission-11425636">a huge breach of natural justice</a>” – has long been a key figure in the background of Conservative politics. He was chief executive of No2AV during the 2011 AV referendum, and founded the Taxpayers Alliance and <a href="https://brexitcentral.com/matthew-elliott-business-britain-helped-change-course-history-three-short-years/">Business for Britain</a>. These days, Elliott works as editor-at-large at the website Brexit Central. He is a former fellow at the controversial Legatum Institute, which has hit headlines for its <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Brexit lobbying</a> and been rapped over the knuckles by the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">charity regulator</a>. Elliott also works for City firm Shore Capital, owned by Tory donor Howard Shore and Brexit backer, and has <a href="https://medium.com/@wsiegelman/matthew-elliott-ceo-of-pro-brexit-vote-leave-was-a-partner-at-awareness-analytics-partners-a2p-52451c7e8a3f">business links </a>to the billionaire US political funders the Koch brothers. Elliott is one of only four people to remain listed as a director of Vote Leave Ltd.</p><h2>Vote Leave campaign director, Dominic Cummings</h2><p><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/cZAejK_T6UN1dmO5ZLKEgOzcPQgax-e0eG7r6iob__DYiRKyDEnGt14b6eNifBE5r6EvxXDxKcGA8TDAxxSmpDYh0yD9ua60-tRf_ej8f3ADiXpUjKx4wvx8gR59qaO315Y-PuEn" alt="Dominic Cummings. Image, Youtube, fair use" width="602" height="377" />&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/Whm0hNv9ZApLHET_c9aQzo4S48dVEiIXLaBFK_GQzZ9oaCxivJm0lyh1N04cvz-IQLmU4SjizA6b5-sczKsW_sdc1k7bFRZN-nwZIKl4EPa0GtsqgCRuThDMeiQMrdtfZ80lhOZN" alt="" width="602" height="171" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Former Special Adviser to Michael Gove, Cummings previously worked for the Conservative Party and ran the ‘No’ campaign in the referendum on devolution in the North East of England in 2004. Cummings was campaign director of Vote Leave, and was a member of the ‘core group’ which oversaw the campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">A former Vote Leave staffer said that Cummings had a first rate political brain but less developed interpersonal skills. “Some people found him really odd,” the source said. Steve Baker Brexit minister and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">eminence grise </a>of the ERG, a hard Brexit lobby group, has said of Cummings: “[He] is like political special forces. If you don’t care about what collateral damage you sustain, he’s your weapon of choice.” Cummings and Elliott frequently clashed during the referendum. More recently, Cummings has <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44158826">refused requests</a> to appear before the high-profile UK parliamentary inquiry into ‘fake news’.</p><h2>Former Labour MP, Gisela Stuart</h2><p><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/blLvnGxG3HoQahlEV4xky6cI1v6UZGebgeSGpesW8kTLXpdQ7BDnCQXiqpssrwqf7EbELehQunRv5PU9GvsF_aO0r4KpNPoJYEDUyQIZ-6mSeGT5rojRmgLaFxqxnjyj0pNzPk84" alt="Gisela Stuart. Image, Foreign and Commonwealth Office" width="602" height="401" />&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston until last year, Stuart was chair of Vote Leave. She was also co-convenor of the Vote Leave campaign committee and a key presence on the core group, regularly speaking on behalf of the campaign at events across the country. In June 2016, Stuart was accused of having a conflict of interest relating to her involvement in a firm which, according to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/13/labour-mp-gisela-stuart-inquiry-alleged-failure-declare-interests-vestra-wealth">the Guardian</a>, “advises individuals about their tax affairs and offers ‘offshore and international planning for non-domiciled and non-resident clients’.” The parliamentary standards commissioners found that Stuart <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/pcfs/not-upheld/gisela-stuart.pdf">had not breached any rules</a>.</p><h2>Liam Fox, Iain Duncan Smith, Frank Field, Priti Patel, Steve Baker, Nigel Dodds and many more</h2><p><br /><span><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/4jWwwQKGEb2Az2WN1bdcpzZ4ZmMeMeGedCSzx7VnSwEJr1kXs_LVb-Tc_P78m0Y9mJO_VHrZ5VYIFHkAzp4WB8a0o-KCaRM4XkB66FX68EHozt3dB_9TVlzru0Fhs4V-mjsRbKAU" alt="Liam Fox. Image, Tech. Sgt. Michele A. Desrochers, public domain" width="602" height="400" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Numerous prominent politicians, mainly Conservative and Democratic Unionist (DUP), sat on the Vote Leave campaign committee, which met weekly. A number – such as Liam Fox and Steve Baker – now hold cabinet positions in charge of delivering Brexit. How many of them knew about the controversial and sudden donation to Darren Grimes’s ‘BeLeave’ campaign is not clear.</p><h2>Vote Leave ‘responsible person’, Alan Halsell</h2><p dir="ltr"><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/RtonO0suy8T4KUMlryAbgzZt7oGZY0DBF6UERr-PGzaH2kRBMEg8PNafGUuWsH5PzrVKrtnl3K8GSM0DiXQqRob52GzwPNTw1TaVppU3R-G_VPPtr2FdZiGGxkSJ-NvNOiJ97tWi" alt="A Silver Cross pram. Image, Silver Cross, Wikimedia, Creative Commons 3.0." width="558" height="534" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The person legally responsible for Vote Leave is businessman and solicitor Alan Halsell. In a document submitted to the Electoral Commission, Vote Leave said “at the centre of the Vote Leave governance system is the Responsible Person. On 22 March, the Board decided that this role should henceforth be discharged by a non-executive officer, in order to maintain distance and independent oversight of the activities of the employed staff. The Board, therefore, decided to reassign the post to Alan Halsall, who is a solicitor, a member of Board of Directors, a member of the Finance Committee, a member of the Compliance Committee, as well as being a respected entrepreneur and business leader.”</p><p dir="ltr">Halsell rose to prominence as chairman (until 2015) of the pram manufacturers Silver Cross, famous as producers of iconic British prams used by the British royal family and China’s elite.</p><p dir="ltr">He also has a background in toy manufacturing, and is a former director of the British Toy and Hobby association.</p><p dir="ltr">As well as being the person legally responsible for Vote Leave, Halsell is listed on Companies House as one of three ‘people with significant control’ of Vote Leave Ltd and one of four remaining directors of Vote Leave Ltd. He’s also the former co-chair of the pro-Brexit group Business for Britain. </p><h2>Vote Leave finance, Jon Moynihan</h2><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/6P5BSi8y39sPPgEXjXr8orsGIN3Pz8ozWcfmLQKB1fGOwRItprdXIN88cc3ROq-FlMC2ZqQ9AEczzABMDbC7E4p7kS7bRRecDeWDfp8wm6B9tjERRLWHj3yJ_3uREPzNIX6gr2tu" alt="Jon Moynihan being interviewed by the Today Programme. Image, YouTube, fair use." width="602" height="341" /></p><p dir="ltr">Moynihan was chairman of Vote Leave’s finance committee. Like Halsell, he is one of four remaining directors of Vote Leave Ltd and one of three people listed as owning the company. Moynihan is a <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=jon%20moynihan&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;isIrishSourceYes=true&amp;isIrishSourceNo=true&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">significant donor</a> to the Conservative Party, and was recently <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-jon-moynihan-obe-to-its-board-of-trustees/">appointed to the board</a> of the controversial ‘think tank’ the Institute for Economic Affairs. He is also president of the <a href="https://www.royalalberthall.com/about-the-hall/the-charity/about-the-charity/victorian-governance-system/">Royal Albert Hall</a>. During the referendum, Moynihan encouraged listeners to the BBC’s Today Programme to vote leave because the EU <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCxBViKkSSc">spends money on</a> “bridges to nowhere up in the far reaches of Scotland”.</p><h2>Vote Leave compliance, Daniel Hodson </h2><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/l1M0Ru_Pbfs7mMK9KluW2EWKLu8W2ddiAuRd27EzK1ESQ3bX9vhIxmgm8ZjLm7gsLCioEardRRzkoiM3N3SOMDtPfxWKEzaseEthaHUabRam8nnCckYv0-49AXPXzTmJ7yvIFV3J" alt="Image, Twitter, fair use" width="602" height="444" /></p><p dir="ltr">Hodson was chairman of Vote Leave’s Compliance Committee and remains a director of Vote Leave Ltd and one of its three owners. He’s <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/view-from-the-top-daniel-hodson-chairman-the-city-for-britain-brexit-leave-remain-a7720216.html">a former chief executive</a> of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_International_Financial_Futures_and_Options_Exchange">London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange</a> (LIFFE), and was director of “the City for Britain” pro-Brexit group. As well as being involved in Vote Leave, he was a key member of Business for Britain.</p><p dir="ltr">Business for Britain is registered at 55 Tufton Street, the same address as a number of prominent think tanks and campaign groups that refuse to disclose their donors, including the Taxpayers’ Alliance.</p><h2>Former Labour MP, Ian Davidson</h2><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<img src="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/jo9dFf8pgwRlCFRccJXZ20kcXk47Ww74sXp9vUE3-pAN6yo8c6jWUWqgTzPfMDFmlTqvTjyare9SdCu0pvBal6_4e4AkrNSsJsWQQ-xPVJ1P9aydT7-SZR95wzmYIzXMOf424wDG" alt="Ian Davidson (left). Image, Danny Lawson/PA Archive/PA Images" width="602" height="344" /></p><p dir="ltr">Davidson, a Scottish Labour MPs who lost his seat to the SNP in 2015, was a member of the Leave Campaign’s ‘core group’. Asked by openDemocracy about news that the Electoral Commission is expected to find that Vote Leave broke the law during the referendum, and about the donation spent on Darren Grimes’s behalf, Davidson said: “I know absolutely nothing about this. I was not involved in any way…. I don’t know the group, I don’t know the individual to whom it is alleged the money has been given and I don’t know anything about the decision making process that led to him being given money if indeed he was.”</p><p>We haven’t seen the Electoral Commission report yet, and so there is no allegation that any of these people broke election laws.</p><p><em>This piece was edited on July 7 to reflect that Matthew Elliott is no longer involved with the Legatum Institute.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Who are Veterans for Britain?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/peter-geoghegan/vote-leave-trying-to-bury-bad-news">Vote Leave is using media to bury bad news</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government investigations Brexit Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Thu, 05 Jul 2018 16:03:10 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 118729 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Liam Fox caught in fresh “lobbyists as advisers” scandal https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Former Legatum trade chief Shanker Singham takes role with commercial lobbying firm – while also advising key Brexit minister Liam Fox.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Liam_Fox_with_Air_Marshal_Stuart_Peach.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Liam_Fox_with_Air_Marshal_Stuart_Peach.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Liam Fox. Image, Tech. Sgt. Michele A. Desrochers, public domain</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Transparency campaigners have accused international trade minister Liam Fox of “having trouble again seeing the line between adviser and privately-backed lobbyist” after openDemocracy learned that one of Fox’s “committee of experts” has become an advisor to one of the UK’s biggest corporate lobbying firms.</p><p>Former <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum</a> trade chief Shanker Singham, described by a former Labour minister as a ‘hard Brexit Svengali’, <a href="http://publicaffairsnews.com/articles/news/grayling-signs-%E2%80%98hard-brexit-svengali%E2%80%99-serve-senior-adviser">is now advising</a> PR and lobbying agency Grayling on Brexit and trade. Singham, who has been said to enjoy “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">unparalleled access</a>” to government ministers, has told openDemocracy that there is “no conflict” between his role as an adviser to trade minister Fox and his new position.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham is a member of trade minister Liam Fox’s ‘committee of experts’, a five-person group advising him on trade deals. Singham, a one-time Washington lobbyist, is also a director of the International Trade and Competition Unit at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), a position he took after he left the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">controversial think tank Legatum</a> earlier this year.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham told openDemocracy that he would be remaining on the Brexit minister’s advisory committee and at the IEA.</p><p dir="ltr">Grayling is one of the UK’s leading PR and lobbying firms. The client it lists most regularly in its entry in the official register of lobbyists is the <a href="https://registerofconsultantlobbyists.force.com/CLR_Public_Profile?id=00124000006byHIAAY">National Casino Forum</a>, and the company also represents a number of major <a href="https://www.appc.org.uk/register/profile/?company=Grayling">sugar manufacturers</a>, and has previously worked for the arms companies <a href="https://www.prweek.com/article/1163654/grayling-appoints-former-uk-ceo-loretta-ahmed-middle-east-head">BAE Systems</a> and <a href="https://www.prweek.com/article/1299327/lockheed-martin-looks-man-bites-dog-integrated-uk-brief">Lockheed Martin</a>. Speaking to openDemocracy, Singham said that he was advising Grayling itself, rather than any of its clients.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33122986_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33122986_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shanker Singham, Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Singham will also assist Grayling’s stablemates Citigate Dewe Rogerson and Quiller, <a href="https://www.publicaffairsnews.com/articles/news/grayling-signs-%E2%80%98hard-brexit-svengali%E2%80%99-serve-senior-adviser">reports said</a>. Quiller’s past clients include the <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uae-paid-pr-firm-millions-brief-uk-journalists-qatar-muslim-brotherhood-attacks-1058875159">United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, openDemocracy revealed the extent of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Singham’s access</a> to government ministers since the Brexit vote, showing that he has held dozens of meetings with figures including foreign secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit minister David Davis, as well as Liam Fox. Singham also had<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.eiRa1QN87#.caVnKQ72X"> undeclared meetings with another Brexit minister</a>, Steve Baker.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="650" width="100%" src="https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1qxJiprTABHrdoQOcIBtXWqFM0o3eXl3L2Ow9iXPcupA&amp;font=Default&amp;lang=en&amp;initial_zoom=2&amp;height=650"></iframe></p><h2>“Glaring conflict of interest”, say campaigners</h2><p dir="ltr">Singham told openDemocracy that he saw no reason that his access to government officials would diminish now that he’s paid by a corporate lobbying firm and that he sees “no conflict” between his various roles. But transparency campaigners warned of “a glaring conflict of interest”.</p><p>Tamasin Cave from Spinwatch, which monitors the lobbying industry, compared Singham’s role to the scandal that led to Liam Fox being forced to resign as Defence Secretary in 2011, when it transpired that one of Fox’s closest advisers – Adam Werritty – was being <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15302045">paid by private businesses</a> for his time advising Fox.</p><p>Cave said: “Singham is simultaneously advising Liam Fox, and has unrivalled access to many other ministers, while at the same time working for a firm that is paid to influence the decisions of ministers. That’s a glaring conflict of interest.</p><p dir="ltr">“Grayling is employing Singham for his insider knowledge and the fact that he has a seat at the table steering the direction of Brexit. Of course their corporate clients are going to benefit from this hire. That's how the commercial lobbying business operates.</p><p dir="ltr">“That this doesn’t strike the Department of International Trade as a clear conflict of interest is worrying. It is reminiscent of another adviser to Liam Fox that was also funded by an opaque web of private money. The resulting scandal surrounding the then defence secretary's adviser, Adam Werritty, led to Fox’s resignation (in 2011). Is Fox having trouble again seeing the line between adviser and privately-backed lobbyist?”</p><p dir="ltr">Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK said: “Whilst this does not appear to break any formal rules, there are ethical considerations a UK government adviser should take into account on how the privileged information and access they enjoy in a public role may unfairly benefit themselves and potential clients in their private role.”</p><p dir="ltr">Scottish National Party MP Neil Gray said that the revelation reflects flaws with the Brexit process more generally: “There has been an effective sub-contracting of the hard thinking normally undertaken by government to a series of 'thinktanks' who refuse to reveal where their funding comes from and whose proposals seem coincidentally to reflect the narrow interests of a small group of private companies. Singham’s appointment is simply the most obvious example of this government’s fox-in-the-henhouse approach.”</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"There has been an effective sub-contracting of the hard thinking normally undertaken by government to a series of 'thinktanks' who refuse to reveal where their funding comes from and whose proposals seem coincidentally to reflect the narrow interests of a small group of private companies"</p><p dir="ltr">In a statement on the Singham signing last week, <a href="https://www.publicaffairsnews.com/articles/news/grayling-signs-%E2%80%98hard-brexit-svengali%E2%80%99-serve-senior-adviser">Grayling chairman</a> Richard Jukes said: “Brexit and trade are knotty areas, and there is no one better placed than Shanker to help our clients cut through the noise and articulate a considered position that stands up to scrutiny. He is an outstanding addition to Grayling’s award-winning Brexit and trade offer that extends from London to Brussels and across Europe.”</p><p dir="ltr">Singham also leads the trade team at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA). Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: "The Institute for Economic Affairs has long acted as a paid lobbying agency for the tobacco industry. It's very worrying to see one of their staff playing such a key role in shaping Britain's trade deals as we leave the EU."</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA didn’t respond to a request for comment, and didn’t answer our question about who pays for Singham’s work on trade.</p><p>A spokesperson for the Department of International Trade said:</p><p dir="ltr">“It is only correct that the department engages a variety of stakeholders from across the UK, to discuss opportunities arising from Britain’s departure from the European Union. The department regularly engages think tanks and campaign bodies on all sides of the political spectrum as well as leading thinkers, businesses and civil society groups."</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;“The committee was set up to provide expert advice and challenge to department officials and is not led by ministers. Members are invited to only express their views as individuals and not on behalf of their affiliated organisations.”</p><p dir="ltr">Other than Singham, the trade ministry’s committee of experts comprises prominent Brexit supporting economist Ruth Lea, who is an adviser to the Institute for Economic Affairs; Sunday Telegraph columnist and Brexit supporter Liam Halligan, Xavier Rolet, former CEO of the London Stock Exchange, and the former Tory MP and Brexit supporter Peter Lilley. </p><p>In January, the <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/andrew-lansley-peter-lilley-and-andrew-mitchell-ride-brexit-gravy-train-mgh6c2z28">Sunday Times </a>reported that Lilley was “willing to approach key ministers” on behalf of a fake Chinese company offering him cash in exchange for access to government and information about Brexit. The paper reported that Lilley described how he attended two advisory groups with influence over the Brexit ministers” – one of which was the Department for International Trade advisory committee of experts.</p><p dir="ltr">Lilley said he had not been asked and nor did he agree to have private conversations with any ministers on behalf of the Chinese company. He said any suggestion that a private company would get access to privileged information was “wholly misplaced”, and he remains a member of the committee, according to a department spokesperson.</p><p dir="ltr">When the Sunday Times also reported that “sources within Whitehall and the Conservative Party... told this newspaper that Brexit had triggered a lobbying frenzy as businesses attempted to acquire intelligence about the negotiations.”</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month the Charity Commission ruled that Legatum, Singham’s previous employer, had “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">crossed the line</a>” and failed to meet its charitable objectives in its pro-Brexit coverage.</p><p><em>Additional reporting by Jenna Corderoy.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">Legatum breached charity regulations with Brexit work, Charity Commission finds</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK investigations Brexit Institute of Economic Affairs DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Thu, 21 Jun 2018 09:16:50 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 118529 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What we learned about Arron Banks at the fake news inquiry https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/what-we-learned-about-arron-banks-at-fake-news-inquiry <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>And what we didn’t</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 13.54.14.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 13.54.14.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks at the Fake News Inquiry. Image, Parliament.tv, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In many ways, Arron Banks’s appearance today to answer MPs’ questions was in keeping with character. By turns the biggest donor in British political history was garrulous, boastful and contemptuous. And, after three hours – when he and his wingman Andy Wigmore walked out, ostensibly to keep “a luncheon appointment” with <a href="https://twitter.com/andywigmore/status/1006541298281611264">two DUP MPs</a> – Banks had generated far more heat than light.</p><h2>What we found out </h2><p dir="ltr">The Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s questions covered everything from Leave.EU’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica to Banks’s own dealings with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/10/arron-banks-mps-call-for-police-investigate-russia-links">Russia</a>. But there was one area that Banks seemed particularly keen not to talk about.</p><p dir="ltr">Just before he spent more than £8m on Brexit, his Southern Rock insurance firm was in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">financial trouble</a>, and got a £77m <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373714177/Southern-Rock-Insurance-Company-Ltd-2015-accounts">bail-out</a> from the Isle of Man-based <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373714177/Southern-Rock-Insurance-Company-Ltd-2015-accounts">ICS Risk Solutions</a>. When MP Rebecca Pow asked about this cash injection, Banks implied that this was simply him shuffling money between two companies he owns, and accused them of trying “to create some shadiness around my businesses".</p><p dir="ltr">However, our friends at <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">SourceMaterial</a> have pointed out that Banks doesn’t actually own all of ICS Risk Solutions, but only somewhere between 50% &amp; 75%, according to filings of <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/06334001/persons-with-significant-control">one of its subsidiaries</a> at Companies House. Who owns the rest of the company? We don’t know. </p><p dir="ltr">But around the time ICS was bailing out Southern Rock, the wife of one of Banks’s associates <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717866/ICS-directors-2015">joined the ICS board</a>. This associate has been accused of breaching money laundering rules in Jersey, Malta and Gibraltar. The following year, the day after the Brexit vote, he joined the ICS board <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717784/ICS-directors-2016">himself</a>, along with two of his close business partners. </p><p dir="ltr">However this associate was involved, Banks wasn’t just shuffling around his own money. ICS has at least one unknown owner, who helped prop-up Banks’s ailing insurance empire just as he was pouring cash into Brexit.</p><h2>‘Insurance Millionaire?’ What we missed</h2><p dir="ltr">The key question hanging over the Commons committee today but never directly asked: what is Arron Banks actually worth? &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Figuring out the value of Banks’s wealth is tricky. In media reports the Leave.EU backer is frequently referred to as a <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6500163/arron-banks-net-worth-russia-links-brexit-ukip-nigel-farage/">‘millionaire businessman’</a>. Published estimates of his worth vary from <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8cddfeea-5c02-11e7-b553-e2df1b0c3220">£100m</a> to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/19/mp-calls-for-inquiry-into-arron-banks-and-dark-money-in-eu-referendum">£250m</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">But a major openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">investigation</a> last year raised serious questions about the true extent of Banks’s wealth, particularly in the insurance businesses that are frequently held up as the main source of his fortune.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks became a major political donor overnight, in November 2014. Previously he had been a virtual unknown – a one-time estate agent who had moved into insurance, and had failed to be selected as a Conservative local election candidate. Then he promised £1m to Ukip apparently after <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/01/tory-donor-arron-banks-increases-ukip-donation-william-hague">William Hague</a> described him as ‘a Mr Nobody’. </p><p dir="ltr">The million pounds to Ukip never fully materialised – Banks drip fed the party around £400,000 in cash installments over six months, mostly in the name of his companies – but the self-styled ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’ was in the game. Then he plunged an eye-watering £8m into campaigning to leave the European Union.</p><p dir="ltr">But at the very moment Banks was pouring millions into Brexit, his insurance companies were in fact in real <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">financial difficulty</a>. Authorities in London and Gibraltar found that Banks’s insurance underwriter, Gibraltar-based Southern Rock, had been trading without sufficient reserves.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has maintained that his insurance business is in rude health. Last October <a href="https://www.insuranceage.co.uk/insurer/3156951/eldon-insurance-set-for-ps250m-float-reports-say">he boasted</a> that he was in line to make millions of pounds from floating Eldon Insurance - which uses the brand Go Skippy – on the London Stock Exchange in early 2018. So far this has not happened.</p><h2>Gold digger</h2><p dir="ltr">Insurance isn’t Banks’s only business interest. In his book, <a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/arron-banks-brexit-diaries">The Bad Boys of Brexit</a> – ghost written by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott – Banks says that in 2015 he decided to spend millions of pounds on influencing British politics because “my businesses in this country and overseas, where I own a number of diamond mines, were doing really well.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Reports over the weekend suggested that Banks had conversations with Russian officials about potential investments in gold mines. (The ‘Bad Boys of Brexit’ is peppered with references from Banks to wanting to invest in gold.) So maybe all the money came from minerals?</p><p dir="ltr">We know that by February 2015, Banks was the owner of four diamond mines in South Africa. But there is little sign that any of these holdings are lucrative. There has been no report of major finds in Banks’s South African mines.</p><p dir="ltr">Not so for Banks’s Lesotho holdings. In September 2017, the Ukip backer announced a “<a href="https://www.economicvoice.com/brexit-businessman-arron-banks-in-major-lesotho-diamond-find/">significant find</a>” in this mountainous Southern African kingdom. Newspaper reports at the time suggested that he was poised to use the windfall to <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nigel-farage-poised-to-form-ukip-splinter-party-v5dvxq7sr">bankroll a new political party</a> for his friend Nigel Farage.</p><p dir="ltr">But another recent openDemocracy investigation <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">cast major doubt on these claims</a>. We found that the area of the “significant find” in Lesotho had produced only a few hundred pounds’ worth of diamonds in the two decades before Banks bought it. A leading expert on Lesotho diamonds told us that it was “geologically impossible” to find commercial quantities of diamonds in the mine.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s not all. When we looked into Banks’s business dealings in Lesotho we found even more surprising things. We found that a political consultancy owned by Banks – Chartwell – had been advising a local political party called the Basotho National Party (BNP) that Banks had business links to.</p><p dir="ltr">Rather than the Lesotho party paying Chartwell for its advice, we discovered that Banks was actually transferring money to the BNP: at least £65,000, a significant sum in one of the poorest and smallest countries in Southern Africa. Chartwell has never recorded a profit. </p><h2>Russia connections</h2><p dir="ltr">Much has been made of Banks’s links to Russia. His wife is Russian. On social media, he often speaks positively of Vladimir Putin and his post-Brexit news site Westmonster often carries coverage that chimes with dominant Russian worldviews.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has <a href="https://www.neweurope.eu/article/leave-campaign-donor-aaron-banks-denies-new-allegations-russian-collusion/">denied</a> receiving any funding from Russia, accusing the Remain campaign of trying to discredit everyone involved in Brexit. He previously claimed that he’d just had one lunch with the Russian ambassador, but reports this weekend showed that he had at least “two boozy lunches” and another cup of tea.</p><p dir="ltr">But we have found some other links between Banks and Russia. Just two months after the referendum, another Banks associate <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">James Pryor</a>— a Brexit ‘bad boy’ and former campaign manager to Ukip — was in Moscow, a Red Square selfie from his Facebook feed shows. During the hearing, Wigmore said that it was Pryor, “the happy hippy” who had introduced him to Banks. </p><p dir="ltr">Yesterday, Pryor told openDemocracy that his trip wasn’t connected to Banks’ activities: “I have other clients”, he said, and denied any wrongdoing.</p><p dir="ltr">For almost a year, openDemocracy has been looking into where Arron Banks – the biggest political donor in British history – got his money from. This morning, we pointed out that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit">£11m of donations</a> to the two main Brexit campaigns he’s associated with are unaccounted for: we don’t know how it was spent.</p><p dir="ltr">After nearly three hours of watching Banks and Wigmore in front of a parliamentary committee today, we still have more questions than answers about the ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit">Arron Banks and the missing £11m for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">Arron Banks and Brexit’s offshore secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">Not everyone agrees with Arron Banks about the value of his diamond mines</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Civil society Democracy and government investigations Brexit Arron Banks DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 12 Jun 2018 18:17:09 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 118365 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arron Banks and the missing £11m for Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>His pro-Leave lobby groups raised nearly £12m – but claim they spent less than £1m during the ‘official’ Brexit campaign. So where did the rest go? Andy Wigmore says he has "no idea"</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33531217_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33531217_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Nearly £11 million of donations to major Brexit campaign groups funded by Arron Banks has not been accounted for publicly, according to new analysis from openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">British election laws are supposed to provide transparency on how campaign groups spend their money during elections and referendums. However, Grassroots Out and Leave.EU – the two main groups funded primarily by the self-styled ‘bad boy’ of Brexit Arron Banks – have not disclosed what happened to £10.8 million of the money they received.</p><p dir="ltr">In total, the two groups declared that they were given £11.7 million in the first half of 2016 – with Mr Banks the main donor to both, including making loans worth £6m to Leave.EU. Yet referendum rules only required them to disclose how they spent money during the ten weeks between 15th April 2016 until the day of the vote on 23rd June. In that ‘controlled’ period, strict spending limits apply: each group was only legally allowed to spend up to £700,000.</p><p dir="ltr">From 9th March until polling day, Leave.EU received <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=leave.eu&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;isIrishSourceYes=true&amp;isIrishSourceNo=true&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">donations</a> and <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Loans?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=leave.eu&amp;sort=StartDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;isIrishSourceYes=true&amp;isIrishSourceNo=true&amp;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;loanStatus=outstanding&amp;loanStatus=ended&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=RateOfInterestDescription&amp;optCols=AmountRepaid&amp;optCols=AmountConverted&amp;optCols=AmountOutstanding&amp;optCols=EndDate&amp;optCols=DateRepaid&amp;optCols=DateEcLastNotified&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">loans</a> worth £9.2 million. The group claims that it only <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Spending?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=leave.eu&amp;sort=DateIncurred&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;includeOutsideSection75=true&amp;evt=ukparliament&amp;evt=nationalassemblyforwales&amp;evt=scottishparliament&amp;evt=northernirelandassembly&amp;evt=europeanparliament&amp;evt=referendum&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=ExpenseCategoryName&amp;optCols=FullAddress&amp;optCols=AmountInEngland&amp;optCols=AmountInScotland&amp;optCols=AmountInWales&amp;optCols=AmountInNorthernIreland&amp;optCols=DateOfClaimForPayment&amp;optCols=DatePaid">spent</a> £693,000 of this during the ‘controlled’ campaigning period – although it has since been <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/leave.eu-fined-for-multiple-breaches-of-electoral-law-following-investigation">fined for multiple breaches of the law by the Electoral Commission</a>, which found that Leave.EU “failed to include at least £77,380 in its spending return, thereby exceeding the spending limit”. The Commission also stated that the “unlawful overspend may have been considerably higher”, and that “it has reasonable grounds to suspect that the responsible person for Leave.EU committed criminal offences". The Commission said it was referring <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-uk-watchdog-fines-leave-eu-for-breaking-spending-rules/">Leave.EU CEO</a> Elizabeth Bilney to the Metropolitan Police.</p><p dir="ltr">A second campaign group funded by Banks, Grassroots Out, received donations worth<a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Grassroots%20Out&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;isIrishSourceYes=true&amp;isIrishSourceNo=true&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation"> £2.5 million</a> in the early months of 2016 – most of which was a single ‘in kind’ donation of £1.9 million from an Arron Banks-owned company on 31 March. However, the group claims to have only <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Spending?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Grassroots%20Out&amp;sort=DateIncurred&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;includeOutsideSection75=true&amp;evt=ukparliament&amp;evt=nationalassemblyforwales&amp;evt=scottishparliament&amp;evt=northernirelandassembly&amp;evt=europeanparliament&amp;evt=referendum&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=ExpenseCategoryName&amp;optCols=FullAddress&amp;optCols=AmountInEngland&amp;optCols=AmountInScotland&amp;optCols=AmountInWales&amp;optCols=AmountInNorthernIreland&amp;optCols=DateOfClaimForPayment&amp;optCols=DatePaid">spent £232,000</a> (which would include using any of &nbsp;the ‘in kind’ donation) between 15 April and the referendum on June 23.</p><p dir="ltr">The gap between the amounts the groups raised and the amount of spending they declared amounts to £10.8 million – more than the Labour Party spent on its 2010 election campaign.</p><p>openDemocracy asked Andy Wigmore, communications director of Leave.EU, how the rest of the £10.8 million was spent and also why a loan of £1m was made by Arron Banks on 21st April even though the spending limits were £700,000. He claimed to have “no idea”. Banks has previously described the Electoral Commission fine and possible criminal <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-leave-eu-fine-electoral-commission-arron-banks-response-second-referendum-vote-a8346776.html">charges as a</a> “politically motivated attack on Brexit and the 17.4 million people who defied the establishment to vote for an independent Britain”.</p><p>Speaking to openDemocracy, the Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: "The idea that you can spend £10 million on swaying a democratic process, but not have to declare what you did with any of it, is deeply worrying. The Electoral Commission should open a new inquiry into whether Leave.EU and Grassroots Out broke any rules, and if not, what new rules are needed to close this loophole in the future".</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/following-banks-money-who-provided-payment-in-paraphernalia">Following Arron Banks&#039; money: who delivered the payment in paraphernalia?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government investigations Brexit Arron Banks DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 12 Jun 2018 07:58:34 +0000 Adam Ramsay 118357 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The final chapter for North Sea oil https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/final-chapter-for-north-sea-oil <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Scotland’s oil should be left under the seabed</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Tyra_East.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Tyra_East.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>By tom jervis - Flickr: Tyra East, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26788333</span></span></span><br /><br />When I run into my old schoolmates from Kilry these days, the most common career path for those who haven’t stayed on their family farms is a job in the oil industry. The economy of Kilry, a sheep, cattle and tatty farming community at the foot of the Angus Glens, is tied almost as much to the fate of the fossil fuels under the North Sea as to the fertility of the soil underfoot. <br /><br />But in 2018 that’s not a good place to be. Falling prices have meant the collapse of employment in the oil industry and consequent chronic economic problems for the region.<br /><br />Seen from the perspective of those hit by the crash, this is a catastrophe. <br /><br />But from the wider point of view of the survival of the planet, any sign that the era of fossil fuel is approaching its end has to be good news. If, as I believe, leaving remaining North Sea oil under the seabed is the best option for everyone, the key question then becomes how to exit from local economic dependence on North Sea oil while ensuring replacement jobs for the local economy and a just transition. <br /><br />There are some precedents for choosing to leave fossil fuels in the ground. In 2007, the Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa volunteered not to allow the extraction of oil from the Yasuni National Park if the international community were willing to pay his government half of the estimated value of the oil in the field – $3.6 billion. In other words, his small and impoverished country was offering to take on the loss of the other $3.6 billion in order to make their contribution to preventing dangerous climate breakdown. Unable to raise the money, however, he abandoned the scheme in 2013. Despite this, Yasuni is a powerful story for the environmental movement, because it highlights a different way of looking at tackling carbon emissions. Rather than framing pollution through the neoliberal language of supply and demand, it returns it to the essentially material question of geology and atmospheric physics.<br /><br />The basic mathematics of climate change put forward by Bill McKibben in 2012 was that, in order to remain within the maximum ‘safe’ level of warming – 2 degrees Celsius – the maximum amount of carbon dioxide that the world could afford to pour into the atmosphere was 565 gigatons, while the total amount of carbon in the known reserves of oil companies and oil-producing states was 2,795 gigatons. This meant that, to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown we had to decide which deposits to leave in the ground.<br /><br />It is clear that this kind of decision has to be made democratically: it cannot be left to the market, not least because the oil majors would go bankrupt if they had to take their fossil fuel reserves off their balance sheets. In the case of North Sea oil, therefore, it is the Scottish government that needs to take the lead on this issue.<br /><br />The UK Treasury has been heavily subsidised by North Sea oil since just before the beginning of the Thatcher era – a source of wealth that successive Westminster governments been largely squandered. The Treasury’s main response to the recent decline in oil revenues now that the bonanza is over has been to give tax cuts to oil companies. In his penultimate budget George Osborne cut the Petroleum Revenue Tax levied on oil and gas companies from 50 per cent to 35 per cent, and in his final budget he abolished the tax altogether. Yet the only objection from either Labour or the SNP to this free gift seemed to be on the grounds that the government hadn’t handed the companies enough. Kezia Dugdale, then leader of Scottish Labour, argued that what was needed was support to ‘make sure that essential infrastructure such as platforms and pipelines are not decommissioned early’; and SNP depute leader Stewart Hosie, though he complained about ‘the lack of strategic direction’, broadly welcomed the scheme. The aim of both parties continues to be for maximum extraction, with little attention given to alternatives, or to how manage the situation when the oil runs out.<br /><br />Perhaps they believed that the oil giants would use Osborne’s tax breaks to keep on their employees, or maintain their wages. But, unsurprisingly, and as the unions pointed out in 2016, oil companies did not pass on that relief to their workers, whose jobs were being slashed (though Shell’s chief executive did take the opportunity to increase his salary from €5.1 million to €8.3 million). Instead, the oil majors will use most of this windfall to finance looking for profit elsewhere – seeking new oil opportunities that the atmosphere cannot afford. <br /><br />The main debate today in Scotland is therefore between those who support government intervention to deliver a just transition away from the oil to other good jobs while leaving much of it in the ground, and those who call for the extraction of every last drop, and refuse to plan for what the workers might do next.<br /><br />As coal mining communities have discovered to their cost, the kind of long-term planning that is required to secure a just transition is anathema to neoliberalism. The free-market approach is to suck as much wealth as possible from the North East of Scotland, and then to walk away, leaving the community to do the costly work of figuring out what should happen next. <br /><br />In contrast to all this, the Scottish Greens have proposed large-scale government intervention to create the jobs needed to secure the mass switch to a low-carbon economy. Specifically, they suggest taking a 30-60 per cent stake in the smaller companies that are now buying up the rights to remaining North Sea oil reserves as the super-majors move on. This makes sense given that the state is already subsidising the industry; but, more importantly, it means that oilfield revenue can at first be used to finance the creation of alternatives, before being rapidly wound down. Scotland, after all, has more renewable energy capacity per person than most countries. <br /><br />The democratic processes required for such a switch will be difficult to deliver. Firstly there is the question of local organising: whereas coal miners inhabited geographical communities of solidarity, North Sea oil workers live – when they are onshore – all across the UK. However their unions have been successful in organising them, and must be given a key role in shaping the transition. Secondly, delivering such a strategy in Scotland always comes back to the same old question of whether Holyrood has the powers – without independence – to do what’s needed. Does a just transition depend on intervention from an uninterested UK government?<br /><br />The honest answer is that an increasingly powerful Scottish parliament could be doing more of this work than it currently does. And, with a minority SNP government often relying on the Greens for power once more, and looking over their left shoulder to an increasingly confident Labour Party, perhaps Sturgeon will decide that the fate of her party is tied to those of North Sea oil workers: it is possible that, if the SNP cannot deliver a rapid transition to the economy of the future, they will find themselves crashing to obscurity, much faster than they ever expected. <br /><br />But perhaps change is coming whatever the Scottish government decides to do. When I go back home these days, many of the old agricultural families – people whose ancestors have mostly likely been planting crops and herding livestock since the Neolithic revolution – are beginning to find that they can make more money from farming wind than sheep.</p><p><em>The full version of this article appeared in the latest issue of <a href="https://www.lwbooks.co.uk/soundings/68">Soundings: Grit, Oil and Grime.</a></em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Adam Ramsay Tue, 15 May 2018 12:58:52 +0000 Adam Ramsay 117895 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Are fences our future? The Ulsterification of England... and what we can do https://www.opendemocracy.net/adam-ramsay/are-fences-our-future-ulsterification-of-england-and-what-we-can-do <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The last time I was on Cluan Place, everyone I spoke to wanted the same two things. It was 2015, not long after Belfast’s flag protests. Young Loyalists would throw rocks at Catholic kids, flee d... </div> </div> </div> <span>The last time I was on Cluan Place, everyone I spoke to wanted the same two things.</span> <span>It was 2015, not long after Belfast’s flag protests. Young Loyalists would throw rocks at Catholic kids, flee down the nearest alleyway on their home turf, hop over a garden wall, and hide from the police. The people I was talking with – whose houses backed onto this alleyway – would open their curtains and find a riotous teenager in their backyard. The first thing they wanted was a gate, guarding the close behind their homes. I’ll come to the second later.</span> <span>I returned to Cluan Place last week. The back alleyway is now blocked by a ten foot steel gate. “It’s great,” said a woman steering a pushchair down the cul-de-sac “so long as people remember to shut it”.</span> <span>In a sense, it is a good thing. A community wanted something, and they got it. That’s how democracy is meant to work. But in another sense, it’s deeply worrying: twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement, people are still relying on defensive architecture to protect them from sectarian violence.</span> <span>And this corner of East Belfast is not unusual. For all of the progress since the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland is still a country decorated by flags divided by fences. For all of the talk that these so-called “peace walls” will come down, there are as many miles of metal and barbed wire dividing Catholic and Protestant communities from each other as there were when Tony Blair declared in 1997 that he could feel the hand of history on his shoulder.</span> <span>But this article isn’t about Northern Ireland. Because, the main thing which struck me when I revisited Belfast last week was not how different it was, but how familiar it has become. </span> <span>Since I had last been in Belfast, I’ve been trying to get my head around another one of the nations of the UK: with Civil Society Futures, the inquiry into how English civil society can flourish in a fast changing world, my colleagues and I have been visiting and talking to people </span><a href="https://civilsocietyfutures.org/where"><span>in towns and cities across England.</span></a><span> And one worrying trend consistently strikes me.</span> <span>Walk around urban areas from the Newcastle to Surrey and you find new blocks of flats huddled behind high walls and locked gates and decorated with snarling CCTV gargoyles. Whether they’re whole gated communities, or individual homes which people have chosen to fortify with astounding arrays of defensive architecture, people seem to be more and more comfortable with locking themselves away from the world.</span> <span>And – as with Northern Ireland – not all of the divides have fences down them. Often, you have to talk to people to know where their boundaries are. In Penzance, we were told about children who live on council estates in the town but have never visited the beach: they don’t see it as ‘theirs’ to go to. Seaside Cornwall is pockmarked with ghettos for white, middle-class second-homers, and its working-class residents are being forced out.</span> <span>At the same time, another strand of what you might call the Ulsterification of England has unfolded. Wandering around the housing estates of central Oldham, there were more flags – George Crosses, Union Flags and even a Royal Standard flying high over someone’s front garden – than I saw on the famous streets of West Belfast last week. Across much of England, it’s become normal to fly the national standard in a way it never used to be.</span> <span>In some ways, of course, there is no comparison between the two countries. The people either side of England’s gates didn’t live through a generation of civil war. Most have never heard gunfire or bomb blasts. Unlike Belfast or Derry, you don’t often meet drinkers in pubs in central Sunderland with bullet-dented skulls or tales of being tortured by the British army. In fact, quite the reverse.</span> <span>Between 1995 and 2016, the number of recorded incidents of violent crime fell in England and Wales fell from </span><a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/compendium/focusonviolentcrimeandsexualoffences/yearendingmarch2016/overviewofviolentcrimeandsexualoffences"><span>3.8 million to 1.3 million</span></a><span>. The number of burglaries has collapsed through the floor – from 2,445,000 in 1993 to </span><a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/overviewofburglaryandotherhouseholdtheft/englandandwales"><span>650,000 in 2017</span></a><span>. The total number of reported crimes fell from 19 million in 1994 to </span><a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/crimeinenglandandwales/yearendingseptember2017"><span>6.7 million in 2014</span></a><span>. As with most of the Western world, England has become notably safer over the last twenty years, with potential reasons ranging from the </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/07/violent-crime-lead-poisoning-british-export"><span>banning of leaded petrol</span></a><span> to the </span><a href="https://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/04/19/as-video-game-sales-climb-year-over-year-violent-crime-continues-to-fall/&amp;refURL=https://www.google.com/&amp;referrer=https://www.google.com/"><span>rise of computer games</span></a><span> and of the increased </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/23/alcohol-prices-violence-study-binge-drinking"><span>cost of alcohol</span></a><span>. </span> <span>And yet, as the country has become safer, we’ve become more and more inclined to cut ourselves off from each other, much more fearful of our neighbours. (And it seems unlikely that the rise of defensive architecture has caused the fall in violent crime or burglaries – </span><a href="https://extra.shu.ac.uk/ppp-online/gated-communities-revisited-defended-homes-nested-in-security-enclaves/"><span>academic research</span></a><span> has “consistently failed to show that defended enclaves are less vulnerable to crime than ungated neighbourhoods” according to Sheffield University’s Sarah Blandy).</span> <span>Of course, some of this is because perceptions and reality often differ. In 2016, </span><a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/publicperceptionsofcrimeinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2016"><span>60% of adults</span></a><span> believed that crime rates had gone up in recent years. But it seems to me that there is another answer for this division.</span> <span>Measured by income, the UK is currently the sixth most unequal country in the OECD rich countries club. Look across the other countries at the top of the table, and most – Israel, the USA, South Africa, Turkey – are also living through democratic crises – and most are also known for their gated enclaves where the white and powerful prune their hedges without having to look at the world outside.</span> <span>Measure inequality by asset wealth, and things are even worse. Because the UK and its Overseas Territories and Crown Protectorates is by far the most important network of tax havens and secrecy areas on Earth – and the money laundering capital of the world – it’s very hard to get accurate figures for the wealth of our richest residents. But even using official information on the assets that people do actually declare, the richest 10% </span><a href="http://www.dannydorling.org/wp-content/files/dannydorling_publication_id4594.pdf"><span>now own 1,154 times</span></a><span> what the poorest 10% own. And that’s before we consider the difference between the richest 0.1% and the rest of us.</span> <span>But we don’t just divide ourselves by wealth. It’s not an original observation to say that, while migrant communities have got better at mixing with each other in recent years, middle class white people of English origin continue to huddle together in suburban ghettos. Research from Demos in 2015 </span><a href="https://www.demos.co.uk/press-release/61-of-ethnic-minority-kids-in-england-and-90-in-london-begin-year-1-in-schools-where-ethnic-minorities-are-the-majority-of-the-student-body/"><span>showed that</span></a><span> “ethnic minority children, who now represent 26 per cent of all school students in England, are substantially more likely than White British children to attend schools in which ethnic minorities are in the majority.”</span> <span>But what has perhaps surprised us more is how much we divide ourselves by generation: ever more students live in city-centre accommodation blocks with security guards and swipe-access key-cards. Ever more pensioners are locked away in old folks’ homes in coastal towns which increasingly become retirement villages. In much of the country, the young people we spoke to wanted more than anything else to leave: it’s normal for Northern Ireland to talk about its brain drain, but the youth is being sucked out of huge swathes of England, too. For people in a huge number of places, success in life is seen to mean leaving your community. As one person in Penzance told us “I have got a 20 year old now, he is in uni up in Bristol and where he goes from there, he doesn’t know. It’s probably, it’s like everyone else. He isn’t likely to take a step back and coming back to his community.”</span> <span>And then we’re cut into smaller units too. Communities have dissolved as homes have become commodities. “Flexible” working and freelance culture have broken down work-place solidarity and trade union membership has collapsed. As public assets have been sold off, ever more decisions are made through the market – one pound one vote. And so we built an online architecture through which we can meet each other – but only those we wish to be ‘friends’ with, or to shout abuse at. It’s no wonder that we struggle with democratic processes. It wasn’t Brexit that divided us, it’s just the lens through which we saw how divided we had already become.</span> <span>Looked at this way, the fences and defensive architecture of modern England are just one visible rip in a society being torn apart. Differences in wealth make it harder and harder for us to talk to each other, and to build genuine communities across ever-greater difference. Atomised and often lonely individuals hide behind ever higher walls, shouting at each other online.</span> <span>But we’ve found something else too, something much more hopeful. Because the second thing that everyone I spoke to on Belfast’s Cluan Place wanted was an end to the division. And travelling around England, that’s what we found too. People don’t like living behind fences. They don’t like being divided by walls.</span> <span>In Mansfield, we met the ‘welcome committee’, who help people settle into the area whether they’ve moved there from Sunderland or Somalia. At </span><a href="https://hackoldham.com/"><span>Hack Oldham</span></a><span> – a new space on a resurrected high street – a young self-identifying geek taught an octogenarian how to use the community laser-cutter to make the dolls houses that her increasingly shaky hands had prevented her from continuing to build. </span><a href="https://www.colabexeter.org.uk/"><span>CoLab in Exeter</span></a><span> connects people who would otherwise be isolated. </span> <span>Talk to protest groups across the country and they tell you that – whether they’re campaigning for or against a new housing development, opposing cuts or fighting off fracking – that organising against power has helped them build lifelong connections with those around them.</span> <span>Everywhere we’ve been, people have talked about a desire to break down the barriers they see springing up between them and their neighbours. But often, they tell us, they don’t know how. For English civil society to flourish in our fast changing world, we must begin to answer that question.</span><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk WP imported wagtail Adam Ramsay Thu, 10 May 2018 10:28:55 +0000 Adam Ramsay 117789 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Anger and hope in Penzance https://www.opendemocracy.net/adam-ramsay/anger-and-hope-in-penzance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> “There’s a huge amount of active, pissed off, determined people who are trying to deliver all sorts of change within Cornwall. So I think that’s where the hope is” As one of very few sources ... </div> </div> </div> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">“There’s a huge amount of active, pissed off, determined people who are trying to deliver all sorts of change within Cornwall. So I think that’s where the hope is”</span></blockquote> <span style="font-weight: 400">As one of very few sources of tin in the ancient world, Cornwall was the furnace of bronze age Europe. And for centuries, its mines - along with its geography - gave the peninsula both wealth and a degree of independence from the rest of these islands, with its own language, culture, and even, until 1753, its own “stannery” courts and parliament, based around the mines. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400">In 1497, the people of Cornwall rose up in a rebellion against paying taxes to fund England’s war against Scotland, with their troops getting as far as London. In 1535, the Italian historian Polydore Vergil described Britain as consisting of four countries: “</span><span style="font-weight: 400">whereof the one is inhabited of Englishmen, the other of Scottes, the third of Wallshemen, [and] the fowerthe of Cornishe people”. But in 1998, Cornwall’s last tin mine shut, and the century-long collapse in UK fish stocks has gutted the Duchy’s other iconic industry.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Fourteen percent of people described their national identity as “Cornish” in the last census, meaning that including it in our inquiry into civil society in England is a controversial move: for some, Cornwall is no more English than Scotland. But West Cornwall is, along with West Wales and the Valleys, the most impoverished corner of Northern Europe. And so it’s a vital voice to hear, whichever country we think it is.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Perhaps the first thing to say about our <a href="https://civilsocietyfutures.org">Civil Society Futures</a> workshop there is that for those who came, Penzance is largely experienced as a good place to live. It’s got a vibrant cultural scene with community arts projects and live music, surrounded by the sort of natural environment you never tire of. There’s a strong sense of local identity and people have organised effectively to challenge threats, whether to their health services, or to the local environment.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">However, many felt that the growing number of second homes was thinning out this vibrant local culture: whether for protests or parties, it’s hard to mobilise a neighbourhood when so many people are only there part-time. And this isn’t the only challenge that the Penzance faces as a result of the shift it’s made from mining and fishing community to seaside town.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">The suicide rate among over 75s is </span><a href="https://pearl.plymouth.ac.uk/handle/10026.1/1552"><span style="font-weight: 400">significantly higher</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400"> than the UK average. As one person explained, “people move down here thinking it’s a beautiful place to live and don’t think about the fact that their family lives 300 miles away and they have no support. So loneliness and isolation is a massive one”. As a result, a huge amount of community energy goes into looking after elderly people: “‘So we have volunteer drivers, for example, who take people to their renal and oncology </span><span style="font-weight: 400">appointments, heart operations in London. We do all of that and we have befrienders, advocates who go out to people’s homes,” the same person said.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Similarly, growing up in Penzance can be tough. As one conversation went:</span> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">Sally: "So for example, in terms of tourism, huge tourism in Cornwall... but there are some extraordinary figures where you’ve got over 40% of kids under 10, in some of the housing estates not far from here, have never been to the beach, because they don’t see the beach as theirs to go to."</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Ann: "Yeah, I can’t get my head round that. What on earth went wrong with people?"</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Sandra: "It’s actually a social infrastructure which has gone. An entire social infrastructure has been dismantled since then."</span></blockquote> <span style="font-weight: 400">If young people do want to go onto university, their options in Cornwall are very limited and most leave. As Michael says:</span> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">"I have got a 20 year old now, he is in uni up in Bristol and where he goes from there, he doesn’t know. It’s probably, it’s like everyone else. He isn’t likely to take a step back and coming back to his community. He has lived here since he was born."</span></blockquote> <hr id="film" /> [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kbI4OgNgY8] <small>Watch: young people in Penzance talk about their fears and frustrations, by local filmmaker Callum Mitchell</small> <hr /> <span style="font-weight: 400">The sense of distance from decision makers also permeates much of what people had to say: the train journey to London is as long from Penzance as it is from Dundee (and it’s quicker to get from Newcastle to London than it is from Penzance to Bristol). Similarly, town councils have been worn away, and their powers transferred to the Cornwall and Isle of Scilly County Council whose concrete headquarters in Truro are an hour and a half round trip on the train away for those in central Penzance, and much more if you live in one of the surrounding villages. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400">This distance doesn’t help decision makers deal with subtle differences of place. As one participant put it:</span> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">“The institutions as a whole are locked into this concrete mudge of just ticking a box, with the imagination of a lamppost and the social skills of a traffic bollard.”</span></blockquote> <span style="font-weight: 400">For many, this sense that decisions are made far away combines potently with the impact of austerity on the local community to produce in many a deep-seated rage. As one participant said: </span> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">“I have a fear of civic breakdown - people are so angry and people get so angry about politics, they make irrational decisions, that to them are completely rational”.</span></blockquote> <span style="font-weight: 400">But, while people had plenty of ire for government - whether ‘local’, national or European, they didn’t hold back when it came to civil society either.</span> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">“For large organisations… It’s like we all know, we all know common sense, we all know what we can do to improve things and then they send in consultants for hundreds of thousands of pounds to tell us the bleeding obvious. It’s like, thanks, but just give us the money and we would have done that 10 years ago.”</span></blockquote> <span style="font-weight: 400">Another pointed out that, so often, it’s distant funders who set the agenda for what gets done, rather than the people who know the area best: “Who are the architects of the process?”, she asked.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Similarly, there was frustration that a lot of the EU’s structural funds came through the university of Exeter (which is over the Tamar in Devon), but at least some participants felt that, in reality, getting people from the university to come out to West Cornwall was “like getting blood from a stone”.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">In the midst of all of this anger, though, there is a wealth of mutual aid. As one person said:</span> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">“There’s huge numbers of community activists on the ground in Cornwall, that are dealing with street homelessness, street food project(s). Environmental programmes are looking at different economic models, they’ve done that in Penzance... </span> <span style="font-weight: 400">That’s a huge amount of active, pissed off, determined people who are trying to deliver all sorts of change within Cornwall. So I think that’s where the hope is, that the people are hopefully getting ticked off enough that they’re actually starting to do something about it… There’s a whole slew of brilliant examples, if we care to look for them.”</span></blockquote> <i><span style="font-weight: 400">Names and genders have been changed to maintain people's anonymity</span></i><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Penzance </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Penzance UK Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality WP imported wagtail Adam Ramsay Wed, 02 May 2018 10:07:01 +0000 Adam Ramsay 117633 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Was a Tory PR firm behind a smear campaign against Grenfell’s MP? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/was-tory-pr-firm-behind-smear-campaign-against-grenfell-s-mp <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A PR firm run by a former Downing Street staffer claimed to be behind a series of media attacks on Labour MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad, openDemocracy can reveal.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Grenfell_Tower_fire_(wider_view).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Grenfell_Tower_fire_(wider_view).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><i>Image: Grenfell Tower. <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grenfell_Tower_fire_(wider_view).jpg">Natalie Oxford/WikiCommons</a>, Creative Commons 4.0 license.</i></p><p>Kingsgate Political Communications Limited is run by Christopher Brannigan, a former advisor to Theresa May who quit after the Tories’ disastrous general election last summer. Shortly after that vote&nbsp;– and after the Grenfell Tower fire a few days later <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-2-inferno">shocked the world</a>&nbsp;– a series of negative media stories appeared about newly elected Kensington Labour MP Emma Dent Coad. Unaware he was speaking to openDemocracy at a fundraiser, Brannigan bragged that his PR firm “did the Emma Dent Coad stuff”.</p> <p>Media commentators have raised concerns about the role public relations firms play in shaping news coverage in Britain.</p> <p>Dent Coad stunned commentators by taking Conservative-held Kensington by just 20 votes. A few days after the election the Grenfell tower fire killed 71 people in her Kensington constituency. Brannigan told our undercover reporter at a political fundraiser that the Grenfell fire was more damaging to Theresa May than the general election result.</p> <p>The Labour MP has been a very vocal critic of the local Conservative council, and argued that the Grenfell tragedy was a direct consequence of their failures. She also compiled a damning report about economic inequality in the constituency, highlighting that male life expectancy in the poorest area of Kensington is 22 years shorter than the richest area, and has fallen by six years since the Tories came to power in 2010.</p> <p>Since the Grenfell fire, Dent Coad has faced a barrage of criticism in the tabloid media. Right-wing attack blog Guido Fawkes published<a href="https://order-order.com/2017/07/17/new-labour-mp-keeps-comparing-kate-to-kardashians/"> 15 separate stories</a> about her, under the headline ‘Guido investigation’, and the Mail and <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4548726/labour-mp-calls-to-apologise-prince-harry-helicopter-cant-fly-afghan/">the Sun</a> both ran outraged front pages about her various comments based on information from more than half-a-decade of tweets, blog posts, speeches, and a letter to the Guardian.</p> <p>Many of the pieces were based on jokes she made about the royal family before she was an MP. But some of the criticism was more serious. Seven years ago Dent Coad quoted the term “token ghetto boy” to describe a black Tory member of the London Assembly. She subsequently <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-41980425">apologised</a> for her racist language.</p> <p>Last week Brannigan told openDemocracy that he has "never carried out research on opposition politicians".</p> <p>Speaking to openDemocracy about the revelations, Emma Dent Coad said: “There are hundreds of people who have been waiting ten months to be rehoused. The idea that people close to the Prime Minister have been spending this time smearing me is nothing short of a disgrace.”</p> <p>Steven Barnett, professor of communications at Westminster University said:</p> <p>"Britain's right-wing tabloids in particular have a long history - supported more recently by political blogs like Guido Fawkes - of manipulating news in pursuit of political ends. We need more transparency throughout our news media - not just from Facebook and Twitter - so that voters can make genuinely informed choices about who and what to believe."</p> <h2><b>A growing industry</b></h2> <p>openDemocracy’s revelations shine a spotlight on a growing world of opposition research around the Conservative party in the UK.</p> <p>Christopher Brannigan is on the advisory board of the UK Policy Group, a Tory-linked consultancy that bills specialists providing "research dossiers" on "opponents" with information on their "targets’ record, background and views". Brannigan is also the sole director of ‘Kingsgate Political Communications’, a company registered at a residential address in Winchester according to filings at Companies House. The company was set up in July 2017, just weeks after Brannigan left Downing Street and around the <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/romney-linked-lobbying-firm-london-branch-brexit-andrew-goodfellow-definers-public-affairs-matt-rhoades/">same time</a> that the UK Policy Group was launched.</p> <p>Before talking about “the Emma Dent Coad stuff”, Brannigan talked about the key role that the Grenfell fire and the public reaction to it had played in undermining the prime minister’s confidence in the wake of the disastrous election.</p> <p>There are strong links between the right-wing press and these Conservative circles. The Sun’s Westminster correspondent Harry Cole, who used to work for the Guido Fawkes blog, had previously run glowing pieces about Brannigan in the Sun, reporting <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1729149/iraq-war-hero-who-played-major-role-in-liberation-of-basra-now-has-job-with-theresa-may-in-downing-street/">his appointment</a> as government relations director at Number 10 Downing Street, and, later, to <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3442602/army-hero-who-led-biggest-tank-battle-in-iraq-war-close-to-becoming-tory-mp/">the shortlist</a> of potential Conservative candidates for Aldershot under headlines declaring him to be a ‘war hero’, due to <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/1426875/Desert-Rats-storm-into-Basra.html">his key role</a> in the British Army’s (ultimately <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/2591095c-4f34-11dc-b485-0000779fd2ac">failed</a>) operation in Basra, Iraq.</p> <p>Speaking to openDemocracy about the journalists leading the attacks on Dent Coad, one Westminster insider said:</p> <p>“These people are always about together, drinking in Portcullis House or one of Parliament’s many bars.”</p> <p>The selection in Aldershot, in which Brannigan stood, was arguably the most controversial of the 2017 election. Then sitting Eurosceptic MP Gerald Howarth’s son Christopher, works in Westminster, running the powerful hard-Brexit lobby group of MPs, the European Research Group. The local association was reported to want the prominent Brexit supporting MEP Daniel Hannan to replace the retiring Howarth. However, the central party refused, drawing up a short-list of potential candidates that included Downing Street staffer Brannigan and the successful candidate and now MP, Leo Docherty.</p> <p>Brannigan had previously <a href="http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/politics/tory-councillor-could-be-county-police-boss-1-3963565">failed</a> in an attempt to be Conservative candidate for Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner.</p> <p>Dent Coad, meanwhile, is continuing to ask tough questions about the Grenfell fire.</p> <p>At a time when public trust in politics and news media is low, openDemocracy will continue to ask tough questions about who exactly is operating in our democracy, and to what ends.</p><p><i>Correction, 2 May 2018</i></p><p>This article was amended to reflect the fact that the Sun mentioned Emma Dent Coad on only one front page and that Harry Cole was not involved in the Sun's reporting on Ms Dent Coad. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/nathan-akehurst/developers-can-get-away-with-murder-interview-with-kensington-s-emma-dent-coad">“Developers can get away with murder” – an interview with Kensington’s Emma Dent Coad</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-2-inferno">The Grenfell Inferno</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jake-stanning/grenfell-tower-lack-accountability-deliberate-residents-contempt">At Grenfell, a lack of accountability was deliberate – and residents were treated with contempt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/theresa-may-has-prioritised-rights-of-absentee-landlords-over-grenfell-victims">Theresa May has prioritised the rights of absentee landlords over the Grenfell victims </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/steve-tombs-and-david-whyte/on-grenfell-one-law-for-rich-one-poor">One law for the poor at Grenfell Tower</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government investigations Grenfell Tower Fire Adam Ramsay Wed, 02 May 2018 07:58:32 +0000 Adam Ramsay 117621 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Epsom &amp; Ewell: a battle between collaborative community and competitive loneliness on London’s fringe https://www.opendemocracy.net/adam-ramsay/epsom-ewell-battle-between-collaborative-community-and-competitive-loneliness-on-london- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> On a clear day, you can see the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf from the top of Epsom Down. But the six hundred or so participants in the weekly Epsom Park Run don’t live in the capital: Epsom &amp; Ewe... </div> </div> </div> <span>On a clear day, you can see the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf from the top of Epsom Down. But the six hundred or so participants in the weekly Epsom Park Run don’t live in the capital: Epsom &amp; Ewell is very much its own place, a community where sports clubs, local campaigns and support groups flourish.</span> <span>But as in other places, a failure to connect the dots and work together, rather than compete and overlap, was apparent from our packed-out community workshop in the local college. For many participants, this lack of communication and joined up thinking, along with a dearth of money for civil society, mean too much competition for too little funding. </span> <span>There was also a concern that simply because people have capacity, volunteers are being taken for granted. For-profit businesses are now contacting the Volunteer Centre to ask if they can advertise for volunteers - a notion which many felt conflicted directly with the very premise of civil society. </span> <span>Another common concern was that Epsom &amp; Ewell is in need of a local forum to put ideas forward and leaders to make things happen. There are lots of skills and lots of willingness and capacity to make things better, but there’s little coordination. </span> <span>This is unlikely to be solved just by putting stuff online: ‘What’s on in Epsom’ is one forum (it was the first in the now nationwide ‘What’s on in my town?’ franchise) with 15,000 Facebook followers in the borough. It displays events and news articles, but it is reliant again on using ‘the community’ as reporters, rather than paid journalists. The Epsom Guardian, meanwhile, is now running on a very tight budget. It does not have designated reporters and apparently relies on the community to send in stories and photos. </span> <span>And as these media spaces disappear, Epsom &amp; Ewell also lacks physical spaces for people to congregate. As with other places we visited, the number of new-build gated communities was striking. </span> <span><strong>Dorothy:</strong> “A lot of statutory funding is being pulled away and that is... putting much pressure on grassroots organisations and creative ways of continuing, but what it also means is… (there are) collaborations happening... the only way you are going to... continue is... creativity, its collaborations, its partnerships. It’s not about one organisation riding off to the sunset because that is not the reality and no one organisation can deal with the scale of things. So, there is a kind of a little bit of light in the silver lining in the cloud.”</span> <span>There was a real desire to understand what the identity of Epsom &amp; Ewell is and will become over the next ten years, and a determination that these independent towns can’t simply become part of the sprawling London metropolis. This was central to their sense of who was part of civil society and how they come together as a community. Will it be a centre for retail, a market hub, a commuter town, a destination for tourists visiting London or a thriving hub for young professionals and students? (there’s a branch of the University of the Creative Arts here) Could more creativity in the town involve the students/young professionals? How do they encourage commuters and short term visitors (e.g. students) to get involved in local life so that people get to know each other better?</span> <span><strong>Margaret:</strong> “I think we have got a very strong local community... but we also want to think about how we feel about central government imposing things upon us. Not that I am anti-central government, it’s about the balance... I think we have got such a lot of ownership about what is going on here and what we want…”</span> <span>But the biggest threat to this sense of community comes from the cost of housing: very high house prices lead to increased privacy and fencing off from community. There’s nowhere for key workers to live. Nearly 3,000 homes are being built on old hospital land sold to developers, but none of it is genuinely affordable or social housing. More expensive real estate brings less contact with each other and more exclusivity. One key question is whether the community will support new housing initiatives on some of Epsom &amp; Ewell’s  greenbelt land - which currently constitutes 50% of the land in the borough - to meet demand? </span> <strong>Russ:</strong> <span>“The biggest concern I have is that we still talk about me instead of we… We all build our own little empires, we all have our own little gates at the front of our houses, we are all very protective.”</span> <span>One example of successful civil society organisation in Epsom &amp; Ewell was the recent blocking of the construction of a new Aldi supermarket and campaigns against other chain stores dominating the high street. (There are interesting comparisons here with other places we have run workshops: in Shirebrook and Mansfield communities raised the fact that the supermarket they had been promised had not arrived. In Sunderland it was viewed as a positive sign that a KFC had recently opened in town.) Where people come together and effect change, confidence grows and a sense of civil society is felt. </span> <strong>Sue:</strong> <span>“One word which I came with… is justice... somehow... the vision… to be fulfilled is to seek for justice for each group. Be it young people who are struggling to find identities, or people brilliantly coming from abroad or people who are vulnerable, somehow, together we need to seek justice to enable each person to have the opportunity to flourish and become themselves. So, each person can be unique with themselves with their own gifts but somehow as a community, we lose perhaps, an independent spirit, perhaps whatever it is, which stops us coming together to really thrive as a town together.”</span> <span>Many in the room mentioned the importance of accepting and welcoming diversity, and particularly being open to refugees (the organisation Refugees at Home organises in Epsom). There needs to be more coming together, more collaboration, more understanding and more openness and inclusivity. Others talked about the lack of diversity in Epsom contributing to a lack of creativity, unlike much of London for example.</span> <span>Despite its relative wealth many of the same social problems persist. Loneliness and social isolation for many, particularly older people was a major concern, and because of austerity, the majority of local day centres have closed down in recent years.</span> <span>In many ways, Epsom is a powerful analogy for much of the country: economic forces are sucking it towards the city of London, but it’s striving to develop its own identity. How that struggle plays out - between England as a hinterland for a once imperial capital, and England as a country in its own right - could be vital to the future not only of this one town, but of the whole country.</span><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Epsom </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Epsom UK Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics WP imported wagtail Adam Ramsay Tue, 01 May 2018 08:15:52 +0000 Adam Ramsay 117596 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Division and unity in Sunderland https://www.opendemocracy.net/adam-ramsay/division-and-unity-in-sunderland <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As the British economy has moved away from manufacturing and toward financial services, growing numbers in the city are unemployed, underemployed or in precarious employment, and the use of food banks... </div> </div> </div> <span>As the British economy has moved away from manufacturing and toward financial services, growing numbers in the city are unemployed, underemployed or in precarious employment, and the use of food banks is on the rise. Inequality has increased, with life expectancy as much as 14 years lower for residents in areas of Sunderland like Hendon, than it is for people outside the city in rural Northumbria. </span> <span>And yet Sunderland - where one of the </span><a href="https://civilsocietyfutures.org/where/"><span>Civil Society Futures community workshops</span></a><span> took place last year - maintains a strong sense of identity, closely connected to its industrial history and its football team.  Can it grasp its future? And what needs to change for local people?</span> <span>For many participants in our workshop, greater inclusion in decision making was key to rebuilding their community: “</span><span>A much more equal and inclusive society where people aren’t isolated and can achieve their potential. That’s just the whole thing. It just makes me so frustrated when I come across people who have got incredible skills but because they’re different, in some respect, they’re disregarded.”</span> <span>Those we spoke to highlighted the benefits brought by having the city football club in the Premier League, including a boost to the local economy from travelling supporters and greater prominence and pride. A branch of KFC has recently opened in Sunderland, which was considered a good sign for the town’s prestige, development and potential for growth, in spite of increasing problems with obesity – particularly among the young. A larger KFC had opened when Sunderland AFC were promoted to the Premier League, but it had since closed when they were relegated at the end of the 2016/17 season.</span> Identity and immigration <span>For many, a staunch identity and social cohesion in long standing communities is seen as a great strength that mitigates impacts of poverty and deprivation. But it can also exclude some incoming residents.</span> <span>“The one thing they do have in spades is a bit of social cohesion I think, I mean I don’t know, I’m not from here but it’s too long since I lived anywhere else, but I would be surprised if you found places as socially cohesive as Sunderland, I mean in some ways it’s maybe not a good thing because it’s quite exclusive in a way, certainly north of the river it’s very white working class cohesive, not so clever when you get you know, immigrant families say coming into the area, but that’s one reason why the kids don’t, or the people don’t tend to see themselves as in poverty, because they think ‘I’ve got a nice life, got my family, got my nanna’.”</span> <span>There are concerns about growing polarisation and a lack of good leadership locally and nationally to bring people closer together.  </span> <span>“I live in Roker… We’ve got a lot of asylum seekers, we’ve got a load of international students, we’ve got a load of white working class and a load of white middle class, and I’m seeing attacks up and down Roker Avenue and burnt doors and bleach and paint and all kinds, and union flags being flown in back gardens and it’s like you say, it’s just becoming more disparate, it’s not, it’s not a good climate.”</span> <span>“Something linked in with that is fear of the other, whatever the other happens to be, whether it’s somebody for a migrant population or whether it’s somebody who comes from a different estate, different area, there’s just that fear or the other.”</span> <span>This has been expressed particularly in the ‘Justice for Chelsey’ campaign, which could be characterised as ‘uncivil society’ organising. The campaign developed after a local woman was alleged to have been sexually assaulted by an asylum seeker. Arrests were made but no charges were brought by police after a lengthy investigation. Public debate was felt to have been constrained by the police, local council and local press, enabling social media to take control of the narrative, polarising the debate further. The English Defence League became involved and large street demonstrations were met by counter demonstrations, with tensions building between the local white-British and British-Asian communities. As one workshop participant explained:</span> <span>“This is the biggest issue that I can see amongst the young people in this city at the moment. The kids that I work with in the BME community are just ordinary kids who have lived here and they’re struggling with what they’ve seen and how they’ve grown up. The white kids are over here. They’re on their own journey, moving on in their city. We had an incident in the city, the Justice for Chelsey business. And that has split kids who went to school together. The girl involved in that went to my school. She was known. When the Asian kids tried to support her, they were excluded and they don’t understand why. Because what they’re saying is, they have the same values.</span> <span>This has had a real impact on how the city attracts outsiders and the likelihood that newcomers will stay and invest in the city. There is instead a talent drain away from the city.</span> <span>“We’re losing key people. We’re losing people because they don’t want to live in the city. That is to do with racism. We have 20 percent of our students at university are international students. I can’t think of any international students that have stayed. I was speaking to one lovely student from Eritrea. Not a refugee, a student... She’d encountered so much racism in the city, there was no way she’d consider staying here. This is the worry. Unless we change some of the stuff, we will lose people being attracted to our city.”</span> Trust and power <span>There seemed to be a general lack of trust in local and national politics, where there is a feeling of inertia and a lack of accountability. Locally there are systemic issues linked to drastic funding cuts and an absence of joined up thinking and long term vision, with “nobody who’s got the gumption or the kind of moral fibre to see it through”. Moreover the Westminster government is seen to act “as if the north ends at Manchester”, with the investment necessary to tackle deprivation unlikely to materialise.</span> <span>Participants had a strong will for civil society to encourage and empower the local authority to do better. Local government needs to play a key role, and there is some good evidence of creative policy impacting positively in the region, for example in the regeneration of Seaham, in Durham. There was however a general doubt that local government would overcome its stagnation and become more rather than less involved in the near future.</span> <span>“That’s what scares me as a Labour voter is that we’ve always had a sitting council, and it’s a job for life, and it’s stagnant and it’s corrupt and it’s a joke basically, and the alternative is just unthinkable, which is UKIP or something like that, which is just abhorrent, but... you’d have to put a rocket up their arse to get real action and real change and real local representation.”</span> Change starts here <span>There was a strong belief that change had to come from within communities and civil society.</span> <span>“There are people in those estates and everything that are perfectly capable of doing stuff, there are people, just nobody’s told them that and nobody’s given them the tools for them to do it; the government doing it and the local authority doing it is never going to make any difference, you’ve got to encourage folks to do it themselves.”</span> <span>In certain parts of town, young people were struggling because many of the programmes/youth groups had closed down. Parents could not afford childcare or youth clubs so many young people would be out on the streets on evenings, weekends and holidays and perhaps getting into trouble. </span> <span>People highlighted competition and repetition within Sunderland civil society, with improved networking and communication greatly needed.  There has been some recent organisational success in Sunderland, with grassroots community power being strengthened in Hendon through a scheme called ‘Back on the Map’, and Sunderland’s bid to be UK City of Culture in 2021 bringing groups together, even though Coventry was ultimately awarded the title.</span> <span>Similarly, work is underway towards establishing Sunderland as a </span><a href="https://transitionnetwork.org/"><span>Transition Town</span></a><span> and a more sustainable city, involving initiatives to reduce carbon consumption, improve local ecology and grow more food locally.  There’s also a significant amount of creative work involving elderly and disabled groups, not least through </span><a href="http://theculturalspring.org.uk/"><span>The Cultural Spring</span></a> <span>What the people we spoke to in Sunderland want is ‘vision and imagination’ from proactive civil society and local government, using creative and joined up thinking to build on Sunderland’s historic strengths as a cohesive city working around the River Wear and the coast. </span> <span>They want help building trust between long standing residents and newer arrivals including migrants and students. They want better city transport links by river and by bicycle, so they can become more integrated, less divided and more sustainable. They want improved links to Newcastle and other north east cities so that creative civil society can flourish. They want more opportunities for young people, with schools and universities working better with civil society.  </span><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk WP imported wagtail Adam Ramsay Mon, 30 Apr 2018 09:45:51 +0000 Adam Ramsay 117568 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Scotland in Union held talks with Cambridge Analytica https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/scotland-in-union-held-talks-with-cambridge-analytica <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The vice-chair of the campaign against Scottish independence met with the controversial data firm months after revelations about their involvement in Trump’s campaign came out.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytica/SCL's Alexander Nix. Image, Sam Barnes. CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A prominent campaign against Scottish independence, Scotland in Union, had talks with the controversial data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, openDemocracy can reveal.</p><p dir="ltr">William Ramsay, deputy chair of Scotland in Union, boasted to diners at an exclusive fundraising dinner in London last year that the pro-union group had been in talks with Cambridge Analytica. </p><p dir="ltr">Ramsay also said that Cambridge Analytica had told him about the Scottish National Party’s “army of supporters” and “sophisticated database” and joked about hacking SNP data.</p><p dir="ltr">Ramsay made the comments last November during a Scotland in Union fundraising dinner in the Caledonian club in London’s upmarket Belgravia. The £150 a head event was attended by a number of key Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat figures, including former Scottish deputy first minister Jim Wallace, Labour peer George Foulkes, and Jacob Rees Mogg’s wife, Helena. </p><p dir="ltr">During a speech after the dinner, Ramsay said: "The SNP have an army of supporters, and a sophisticated database - I know that from speaking to Cambridge Analytica the other day, who are not working for them, thank goodness.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica has been accused of illegally accessing data of 87m Facebook accounts during president Trump’s election campaign and of engaging in ‘dirty tricks’ in elections around the world. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to an undercover openDemocracy reporter after his speech at the Scotland in Union fundraising dinner, Ramsay confirmed that Scotland in Union was in talks with the group, but was unsure whether they would be able to afford to employ the firm. However, he later said in a phone call that his organisation had decided not to use Cambridge Analytica because of the controversy around the firm’s use of data in both the US and the UK.</p><p dir="ltr">At the time of SiU’s announcement, the firm was best known for running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, for which it has been accused of stirring racism and Islamophobia.</p><p dir="ltr">But Ramsay said that Scotland in Union was interested in data analytics and even joked about hiring “a hacker to get into the SNP’s data.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica has dominated headlines in Scotland in recent weeks. Last week Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted the SNP had met the company in 2016 but decided not to use them. In <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-43822311">a testy debate</a> in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused the SNP leader of looking “pretty shifty” in her party’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica. </p><p dir="ltr">Davidson has lent her support to Scotland in Union, and was one of dozens of MSPs that <a href="https://www.scotlandinunion.co.uk/manifesto_pledges">signed the pro-union groups ‘charter’</a> ahead of the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. </p><p dir="ltr">Shortly after the London dinner, Scotland in Union was plunged into <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pro-union-donors-named-in-data-leak-xbc2sh25h">crisis</a>, as someone <a href="http://www.thenational.scot/news/15811372.Scotland_in_Union_face_questions_as_we_reveal_foreign_billionaire_s_donation/">leaked</a> their whole database to a group of pro-independence news outlets, revealing among other things that they had received £15,000 from a foreign national. </p><p dir="ltr">As a result of the leak, the organisation was investigated by the <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15920822.Unionist_campaign_accused_of_trying_to__intimidate__watchdog/">Electoral Commission</a> for a potential breach of election law – though it claimed the money wasn’t included in the £100,000 they have spent on Scottish elections in recent years.</p><p dir="ltr">It is understood that Scotland in Union’s Will Ramsay was introduced to a representative from Cambridge Analytica at a business mentoring event in London but the pro-union outfit says it rebuffed later requests for a meeting with chief executive Pamela Nash because of concerns about Cambridge Analytica and their work.</p><p dir="ltr">“We have never worked with Cambridge Analytica or any other organisation of its kind,” a spokesperson for Scotland in Union said. </p><p dir="ltr">An SNP spokesperson said that the revelations about Scotland in Union having talks with Cambridge Analytica were “serious”, adding,</p><p dir="ltr">“CA have also spoken about meetings they have had in Scotland. These weren’t with the SNP, so who were they meeting and did anyone hire them? Pro-Brexit campaigners in Scotland need to say whether they were involved, as this comes on top of the murky donations funnelled to the Leave campaign through the DUP by the Scottish Tory-lined Constitutional Research Council.”</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives said: “The Scottish Conservatives have never had any contact with Cambridge Analytica, and don’t work with Scotland in Union.”</p><p dir="ltr">Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said:</p><p dir="ltr">"The hypocrisy here is really quite galling. The same politicians who have spent a week attacking another party for meeting Cambridge Analytica before deciding not to work with them are themselves closely associated with another organisation which has done exactly the same thing. </p><p dir="ltr">“Given the strong links between Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians and Scotland in Union, I am sure they will now make the same demands of 'disclosure' from SiU that they have of others. And I'm sure we'd all appreciate some clarity from Labour and the Conservatives as to their links while they're at it, given that they are the only parties who have failed to clarify whether or not they have ever used Cambridge Analytica's services."</p><p dir="ltr">At a separate press conference in London yesterday, Cambridge Analytica spokesperson Clarence Mitchell said that “the SNP were very keen to work with Cambridge Analytica” but the Brexit referendum got in the way.</p><p dir="ltr">“There were a series of contacts,” Mitchell said. “The SNP were happy to have those discussions.”</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nathan-oxle/cambridge-analytica-hacked-our-social-lives-to-win-elections-but-more-is-at-stake-than-v">Cambridge Analytica hacked our social lives to win elections - but more is at stake than votes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/marcus-gilroy-ware/cambridge-analytica-outrage-is-real-story">Cambridge Analytica: the outrage is the real story</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Scotland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Scotland UK Cambridge Analytica investigations Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Tue, 24 Apr 2018 17:30:15 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 117470 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy investigations raise fresh questions about Arron Banks's wealth and the real source of the Brexit campaign's largest donations.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33531217.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Arron Banks."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33531217.jpg" alt="Arron Banks." title="Arron Banks." width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Brexit donor Arron Banks likes to boast about his money. Reported estimates of his fortune vary from <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8cddfeea-5c02-11e7-b553-e2df1b0c3220">£100m</a> to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/19/mp-calls-for-inquiry-into-arron-banks-and-dark-money-in-eu-referendum">£250m</a>. In his book, <a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/arron-banks-brexit-diaries">The Bad Boys of Brexit</a>, Banks says that in 2015 he decided to spend millions of pounds on influencing British politics because “my businesses in this country and overseas, where I own a number of diamond mines, were doing really well.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Banks was the biggest backer of the Brexit campaign, donating more than <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/19/mp-calls-for-inquiry-into-arron-banks-and-dark-money-in-eu-referendum">£8m</a>. In spring 2016, the one-time Ukip donor gave<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-leave-eu-campaign-arron-banks-jeremy-hosking-five-uk-richest-businessmen-peter-hargreaves-a7699046.html"> £6m in loans</a> to Leave.EU. These loans - a huge sum for a British political campaign - were due to be repaid by the end of 2017. But Banks has not called in these debts, openDemocracy has learned.</p><p dir="ltr">You might imagine that a man who could afford to just write off £6m in loans to Leave.EU must have significant disposable income? Perhaps. After a major openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">investigation</a> last year found serious questions about the extent of Banks’s wealth, the Electoral Commission announced that it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/01/electoral-commission-to-investigate-arron-banks-brexit-donations-eu-referendum">investigating</a> whether, in the run-up to the Brexit vote, Banks and one of his companies broke campaign finance rules requiring transparent sources of funds, and prohibiting donors from outside the UK. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Over the weekend, it emerged that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is also <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/14/leave-eu-arron-banks-new-question-referendum-funded-brexit-cambridge-analytica">investigating</a> Banks and Leave.EU over possible breaches of the Data Protection Act. The ICO is further investigating the relationship between Leave.EU and other companies controlled by Banks. Questions have been raised about Leave.EU's links with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/17/cambridge-analytica-brittany-kaiser-leave-eu-brexit">Cambridge Analytica</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Recent investigations by openDemocracy and our partner journalists at SourceMaterial have raised fresh questions about the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">value of Banks’s business empire</a>, his <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">business associates</a>, and the real source of the Brexit campaign’s largest donations.</p><p dir="ltr">The true value of Banks’s claimed “significant” diamond discoveries in Lesotho is questionable, while his insurance business has been propped up by a £77m cash injection from an unknown source, and people <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">who specialise</a> in using tax havens to protect the secrecy of wealthy clients were taking up seats on the board of one of his companies. </p><p dir="ltr">Public and political demands for clarity over the origins of Banks’s money are mounting.</p><p dir="ltr">Responding to our latest revelations about Banks’s mining and insurance businesses, Ben Bradshaw called on Banks to “be clear about the full facts” of his business interests. </p><p dir="ltr">“These latest revelations about Mr Banks makes it all the more important that he is completely transparent about the sources of his wealth and his funding of the Brexit campaign,” the Labour MP told openDemocracy.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Geologically impossible’</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks has spoken often of his mining interests. He <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=hkVMDQAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT41&amp;lpg=PT41&amp;dq=arron+banks+%E2%80%9Cseveral+old+De+Beers+mines%E2%80%9D&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=Y7aP40qJkp&amp;sig=C46X4M6hIZx-CgTbf7lWuJKL2hs&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjyyfzb9cDaAhWECcAKHXa-APQQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&amp;q=arron%20banks%20%E2%80%9Cseveral%20old%20De%20Beers%20mines%E2%80%9D&amp;f=false">has said</a> that he owns “several old De Beers mines” in southern Africa. In September 2017, he announced a “<a href="https://www.economicvoice.com/brexit-businessman-arron-banks-in-major-lesotho-diamond-find/">significant find</a>” in Lesotho. Newspaper reports at the time suggested that he was poised to use the windfall to <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nigel-farage-poised-to-form-ukip-splinter-party-v5dvxq7sr">bankroll</a> a new political party for his friend Nigel Farage.</p><p dir="ltr">“The area around the latest find has already produced some of the world’s most beautiful and clear stones,” Banks told an <a href="https://www.economicvoice.com/brexit-businessman-arron-banks-in-major-lesotho-diamond-find/">obscure website</a> that, we discovered, happens to be run by a former Ukip candidate. “Judging by our initial exploration I am confident it won’t be long before we find similar large diamonds.” </p><p dir="ltr">So Banks’s Lesotho diamond business is thriving? Well, our investigations cast some doubt on that. </p><p dir="ltr">We found that the area of the “significant find” in Lesotho had produced only a few hundred pounds’ worth of diamonds in the two decades before Banks bought it. Keith Whitelock, a geologist and expert on Lesotho diamonds, told us that it was “geologically impossible” to find commercial quantities of diamonds in the mine.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s not all. When we looked into Banks’s business dealings in Lesotho we found even more surprising things. </p><p dir="ltr">Back in 2015, Banks <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-times-diary-tms-arron-banks-on-the-bnp-bercow-keeps-digging-god-and-mrs-thatcher-john-gets-the-hump-svfkpxv7gm6">boasted</a> to the Times that his political consultancy, Chartwell, was advising the Basotho National Party (BNP) ahead of the then upcoming Lesotho general election. Sure enough, we found photos on social media of a smiling Banks, arms raised aloft, being paraded at a BNP rally in the capital Maseru.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Banks and Pryor waving BNP rally Lesotho_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Banks and Pryor waving BNP rally Lesotho_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Banks and Pryor waving to a BNP stadium rally in Lesotho. Photo: Facebook. Fair use.</span></span></span>But when we dug into the relationship between Chartwell and the BNP, it turned out that it was rather different to most political consultancy gigs. Rather than the party paying Chartwell for its advice, we discovered that Banks was transferring money to the BNP: at least £65,000, a significant sum in one of the poorest and smallest countries in southern Africa, which has <a href="https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD">a GDP per capita</a> of just $1,040 (£730).</p><p dir="ltr">Some of the cash was deposited into a private account linked to BNP leader John Thesele Maseribane rather than the official party account. </p><p dir="ltr">“I was trying to protect the sponsor,” Maseribane told a local newspaper in Lesotho. “If a sponsor requests a very confidential transaction devoid of noises, then that’s the route we’ll take. If the sponsor says please protect me, that’s what we’ll do.” &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The BNP is a useful ally for Banks in Lesotho: while <a href="http://archive.ipu.org/parline/reports/2181_E.htm">the party</a> has just five seats in the country’s parliament, it is part of the current ruling coalition. </p><p dir="ltr">Directors of Banks’s local mining company in Lesotho are also close to business associates of the family of BNP leader Maseribane. </p><p dir="ltr">Banks said our reports about his Lesotho investments and political ties were a “political attack,” without commenting further.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Insurance mogul</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks has never said that diamonds are the main source of his wealth. That’s his <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/revenue-ukip-donor-arron-banks-insurance-business-eldon-2017-10">insurance</a> business. Banks has routinely been described as an “<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/59c74846-a2e0-11e4-ac1c-00144feab7de">insurance tycoon.</a>” He’s boasted as recently as October 2017 that he was in line to make millions of pounds from floating his company Eldon Insurance - which uses the brand Go Skippy - on the London Stock Exchange. (Banks <a href="http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-4958846/Brexit-bad-boy-net-millions-insurance-float.html">told journalists</a> at the time that Eldon used the same artificial intelligence experts that Leave.EU had deployed to target swing voters during the Brexit vote).</p><p dir="ltr">Banks said he would float Eldon in early 2018. So far this has not happened. </p><p dir="ltr">There is nothing particularly unusual about a private company deciding not to list on the stock exchange but, at the same time as Banks was telling journalists he would float Eldon, a businessman closely involved in Banks’ insurance empire was embroiled in a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">money laundering probe</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">On 19 October 2017, Alan Kentish, chief executive officer of STM Group - <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">which specialises in offshore “wealth preservation”</a> - <a href="https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2017/10/30/sipp-provider-chief-arrested-in-gibraltar/">was arrested</a> by the Royal Gibraltar Police under their Proceeds of Crime Act. They are investigating whether he had failed to notify authorities of potential money laundering by one of STM’s clients. Following his arrest, Kentish resigned his directorships of two companies linked to Banks.</p><p dir="ltr">Kentish is a long time business associate of Banks. Both were founder-directors of a company called Southern Rock in 2004. Southern Rock is a key part of Banks’s business empire - it underwrites his insurance policies. A sister company, Rock Services, was one of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/04/ukip-donor-arron-banks-shows-tax-cheque-sent-hmrc">Ukip’s biggest donors</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">But just before Banks started giving money to Ukip, Southern Rock was in real trouble. Financial regulators in the tax haven Gibraltar investigated the firm, and found that it was keeping its reserves far below what was needed. Banks, the regulator said, had to find an extra £60m in financing. As far back as 2011 Southern Rock’s accounts had warned that it was “<a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373954159/accounts-2011-technically-insolvent-pdf">technically insolvent</a>.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Gibraltar._El_Peñón.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Gibraltar._El_Peñón.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="231" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gibraltar. Photo: Luis lopez de Ayala.</span></span></span>Southern Rock was saved in 2015 by selling various rights to future income for £77m to another of Banks’s businesses, the tax haven Isle of Man-based company ICS Risk Solutions. ICS was at the time the parent company of Eldon. Around the same time, Banks started making huge donations to Brexit campaigns. </p><p dir="ltr">An investigation <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">by SourceMaterial</a>, publised on openDemocracy, has found that Kentish and other STM-linked directors were key figures in this bailout. </p><p dir="ltr">Corporate records show that on 29 April 2015, the day before this rescue deal, Louise Kentish, the wife of STM’s boss, <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717866/ICS-directors-2015">joined the ICS board</a>. On 24 June 2016, the day after the Brexit referendum, Kentish <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717784/ICS-directors-2016">also joined the board</a>, along with two other new directors - the former and current chairmen of STM. </p><p dir="ltr">Banks has stated that he owns 90% of Eldon and ICS, but Companies House records say that he actually owns less than 75% of the companies, raising the possibility of an unknown investor.</p><p dir="ltr">STM also played a cameo role in another of Banks's Brexit vehicles. Better for the Country Ltd, one of the main firms Banks used to donate to the Brexit campaign, was set up by an STM Group company. </p><p dir="ltr">Better for the Country - and whether it was the true source of this cash - is now part of the Electoral Commission investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">Kentish and his fellow ICS directors hold the key to the origins of the funds that saved Southern Rock. Without that £77m cash injection, it is hard to see how Banks could have funded his political donations while keeping his insurance business afloat. </p><p dir="ltr">Then, just months after the rescue, Banks started making huge donations to political causes, including the more than £8m he funnelled to pro-Brexit campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">Bradshaw told openDemocracy that Banks “should cooperate fully with the investigation being conducted by the Electoral Commission, including being clear about the full facts behind the bailout of Southern Rock.” </p><p dir="ltr">Kentish, like Banks’s Southern Rock, is based in Gibraltar. While Banks was splurging money on the referendum campaign, his insurance business was being propped up by a cash injection from an unknown source, while people who specialise in using tax havens to protect the secrecy of wealthy clients were taking up seats on his board.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://investegate.co.uk/stm-group-plc--stm-/rns/director-declaration/201711141146274660W/">STM has said</a> that the Gibraltar investigation, under which Banks’s associate Kentish was arrested in October 2017, relates to a client company of STM and that it expects Kentish to be exonerated. </p><p dir="ltr">Andrew Wigmore, a spokesman for Banks, said our questions were “baseless” and evidence of a “biased hatchet job”.</p><p dir="ltr">Separately, the ICO&nbsp;is also investigating the relationship between Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance. </p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/shameless-millionaire-behind-brexit-campaign-10696703">Leave.EU Twitter</a> account has often featured the logos of Banks’s insurance businesses. Last year, when asked about the use of Leave.EU’s database to send advertisements for his companies, Banks told the Observer: “Why shouldn’t I? It’s my data.” </p><p dir="ltr">Last week, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/14/leave-eu-arron-banks-new-question-referendum-funded-brexit-cambridge-analytica">Banks said</a> that “Eldon has never given or used any data to Leave.EU. They are separate entities with strong data control rules. And vice versa.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">More questions</h2><p dir="ltr">This isn’t the first time that openDemocracy has raised questions about Banks’s wealth. </p><p dir="ltr">In October 2017, reporters Alastair Sloan and Iain Campbell <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">asked a simple question</a>: how did Banks afford Brexit? They’d spent much of the past summer appraising the publicly available information about his wealth. </p><p dir="ltr">After that story was published, Bradshaw, the Labour MP, called on the government to investigate the possible role played by “dark money” in the EU referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Since then, the Electoral Commission has launched its <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-is-it-electoral-commission-is-investigating-banks-for">investigation</a> into whether all the cash donated by Banks actually came from him, and whether the various campaigns he was involved with broke election spending rules. </p><p dir="ltr">Now the ICO is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/14/leave-eu-arron-banks-new-question-referendum-funded-brexit-cambridge-analytica">investigating</a> Leave.EU and Banks over possible breaches of the Data Protection Act.</p><p dir="ltr">Until we know where Banks’s money has come from, we won’t know who ‘bought’ Brexit. But we’re getting closer. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">Arron Banks and Brexit’s offshore secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/following-banks-money-who-provided-payment-in-paraphernalia">Following Arron Banks&#039; money: who delivered the payment in paraphernalia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">Not everyone agrees with Arron Banks about the value of his diamond mines</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-is-it-electoral-commission-is-investigating-banks-for">What (precisely) is the Electoral Commission investigating Banks for?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government investigations Arron Banks Brexit Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Tue, 17 Apr 2018 10:20:16 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 117339 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>You can't understand the Cambridge Analytica scandal until you understand what its parent company does.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-UStanks_baghdad_2003.JPEG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-UStanks_baghdad_2003.JPEG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>US tanks arriving in Baghdad in 2003, by Technical Sergeant John L. Houghton, Jr., United States Air Force, public domain.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">"The Gulf War Did Not Take Place". This audacious claim was made by the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard in March 1991, only two months after NATO forces had rained explosives on Iraq, shedding the blood of more than a hundred thousand people.</p><p dir="ltr">To understand Cambridge Analytica and its parent firm, Strategic Communication Laboratories, we need to get our heads round what Baudrillard meant, and what has happened since: how military propaganda has changed with technology, how war has been privatised, and how imperialism is coming home.</p><p dir="ltr">Baudrillard's argument centred on the fact that NATO's action in the Gulf was the first time audiences in Western countries had been able to watch a war live, on rolling TV news – CNN had become the first 24-hour news channel in 1980. Because camera crews were embedded with American troops, by whom they were effectively censored, the coverage had little resemblance to the reality of the bombardment of Iraq and Kuwait. The events known to Western audiences as "The Gulf War"&nbsp;–&nbsp;symbolised by camera footage from 'precision' missiles and footage of military hardware&nbsp;–&nbsp;are more accurately understood as a movie directed from the Pentagon. They were so removed from the gore-splattered reality that it's an abuse of language to call them the same thing. Hence, the "Gulf War" did not take place.</p><p dir="ltr"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="315" width="560" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RhpgCaPoBaE"></iframe> <i>(You can see a classic example of this footage courtesy of the Smithsonian Channel)</i></p><p dir="ltr">Not long after Baudrillard’s iconic essay was published, Strategic Communications Laboratories was founded. "SCL Group provides data, analytics and strategy to governments and military organisations worldwide" reads the first line of its website. "For over 25 years, we have conducted behavioural change programmes in over 60 countries &amp; have been formally recognised for our work in defence and social change.”</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, military propaganda was nothing new. And nor is the extent to which it has evolved alongside changes in media technology and economics. The film Citizen Kane tells a fictionalised version of the first tabloid (or, as Americans call it, 'yellow journalism') war: how the circulation battle between William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World arguably drove the US into the 1889 Spanish American War. It was during this affair that Hearst reportedly told his correspondent, "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war", as parodied in Evelyn Waugh's <i>Scoop</i>. But after the propaganda disaster of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tet_Offensive">Tet Offensive</a> in Vietnam softened domestic support for the war, the military planners began to devise new ways to control media reporting.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Cholon_after_Tet_Offensive_operations_1968.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Cholon_after_Tet_Offensive_operations_1968.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Civilians sort through the ruins of their homes in Cholon, the heavily damaged Chinese section of Saigon. By Meyerson, Joel D, Wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">As a result, when Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falklands in 1982, they pioneered a new technique for media control: embedding journalists with troops. And, as former BBC war reporter Caroline Wyatt <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/collegeofjournalism/entries/36887f1a-a3a8-3005-a642-1ce7dcccf60b">blogged</a>, "The lessons from embedding journalists with the Royal Navy during the Falklands war were taken up enthusiastically by military planners in both Washington and London for the First Gulf War in 1991."</p><p dir="ltr">The UK defence secretary during the Falklands War when the use of embedded journalists was pioneered was John Nott (who backed Brexit). As my colleague Caroline Molloy pointed out to me, his son-in-law is Tory MP Hugo Swire, former minister in both the Northern Ireland Office and the Foreign Office. Swire's <a href="http://www.thepeerage.com/p49322.htm" title="http://www.thepeerage.com/p49322.htm">cousin</a>&nbsp;–&nbsp;with whom he would have overlapped at Eton&nbsp;–&nbsp;is Nigel Oakes, founder of Strategic Communications Laboratories. It's not a conspiracy, just that the ruling class are all related.</p><p dir="ltr">But back to our history: by the time of the 2003 Iraq War, communications technology had moved on again. As the BBC's Caroline Wyatt explains in the same blog, "satellite communications are now much more sophisticated, meaning we almost always have our own means of communicating with London. That offers a crucial measure of independence, even if reports still have to be cleared for 'op sec' [operational security]. The almost total control by the military of the means of reporting in the Falklands would be unthinkable in most warzones today."</p><p dir="ltr">In February 2004, another major disruption in communications technology began: Facebook was founded. And with it came a whole new propaganda nightmare.</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time as this history was unfolding, though, something else vital was happening: neoliberalism.</p><p dir="ltr">Looked at one way, neoliberalism is the successor to geographical imperialism as the "most extreme form of capitalism". It used to be that someone with a small fortune to invest could secure the biggest return by paying someone else to sail overseas, subjugate or kill people (usually people of colour) and steal them and/or their stuff. But they couldn't keep expanding forever&nbsp;–&nbsp;the world is only so big. And so eventually, wealthy Western investors started to shift much of their focus from opening new markets in 'far off lands' to marketising new parts of life at home. Neoliberalism is also therefore this process of marketisation: of shifting decisions from one person one vote, to one pound (or dollar or Yen or Euro) one vote. Or, as Will Davies puts it: "<a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2017/04/30/essay-populism-and-the-limits-of-neoliberalism-by-william-davies/">the disenchantment of politics by economics</a>”.</p><p dir="ltr">The first Iraq War&nbsp;–&nbsp;the one that “did not take place”&nbsp;–&nbsp;coincided with a key stage in this process: the rapid marketisation (read 'asset stripping') of the collapsing Soviet Union, and so the successful encirclement of the globe by Western capital. The second Iraq War was notable for the acceleration of another key stage: the encroachment of market forces into the deepest corner of the state. During the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the campaign group War on Want, private military companies "burst onto the scene".</p><h2 dir="ltr">The privatisation of war</h2><p dir="ltr">In a 2016 report,&nbsp;<a href="https://waronwant.org/Mercenaries-Unleashed">War on Want</a> describes how the UK became the world centre for this mercenary industry. You might know G4S as the company which checks your gas meter, but they are primarily the world's largest mercenary firm, involved in providing 'security' in war zones across the planet (don’t miss my colleagues Clare Sambrook and Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/g4s-securing-whose-world">excellent investigations</a> of their work in the UK).</p><p dir="ltr">In Hereford alone, near the SAS headquarters, there are 14 mercenary firms, according to War on Want's report. At the height of the Iraq war, around 80 private companies were involved in the occupation. In 2003, when UK and US forces unleashed "shock and awe" both on the Iraqi people and on their own populations down cable TV wires, the Foreign Office spent £12.6m on British private security firms, according to official figures highlighted <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/feb/03/britain-g4s-at-centre-of-global-mercenary-industry-says-charity">by the Guardian</a>. By 2012, that figure had risen to £48.9m. In 2015, G4S alone secured a £100m contract to provide security for the British embassy in Afghanistan.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 16.34.46.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 16.34.46.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="165" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">And just as the fighting was privatised, so too was the propaganda. In 2016,<a href="https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2016-10-02/fake-news-and-false-flags-how-the-pentagon-paid-a-british-pr-firm-500m-for-top-secret-iraq-propaganda"> the Bureau of Investigative Journalism</a> revealed that the Pentagon had paid around half a billion dollars to the British PR firm Bell Pottinger to deliver propaganda during the Iraq war. Bell Pottinger, famous for shaping Thatcher’s image, included among its clients Asma Al Assad, wife of the Syrian president. Part of their work was making fake Al Qaeda propaganda films. (The firm was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/sep/12/bell-pottinger-goes-into-administration">forced to close last year</a> because they made the mistake of deploying their tactics against white people).</p><p dir="ltr">Journalist Liam O’Hare<a href="http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/"> has revealed</a> that Mark Turnbull, the SCL and Cambridge Analytica director who was filmed alongside Alexander Nix in the Channel4 sting, was employed by Bell Pottinger in Iraq in this period.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">The psychological operations wing of our privatised military: a mercenary propaganda agency.</p><p dir="ltr">Like Bell Pottinger, SCL saw the opportunity of the increasing privatisation of war. In his 2006 book “<a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=K1oiAQAAMAAJ&amp;q=%22strategic+communications+laboratories%22&amp;dq=%22strategic+communications+laboratories%22&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjThLW06o7aAhUkJ8AKHdSyBiAQ6AEINDAC">Britain’s Power Elites: The Rebirth of the Ruling Class</a>”, Hywel Williams wrote “It therefore seems only natural that a political communications consultancy, Strategic Communications Laboratories, should have now launched itself as the first private company to provide 'psyops' to the military.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">While much of what SCL has done for the military is secret, we do know (thanks, again, to<a href="http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/"> O’Hare</a>) that it’s had contracts from the UK and US departments of defence amounting to (at the very least) hundreds of thousands of dollars. And a document from the National Defence Academy of Latvia that I<a href="http://www.naa.mil.lv/~/media/NAA/AZPC/Publikacijas/DSPC%20PP%201%20-%20NATO%20StratCom.ashx"> managed to dig out</a>, entitled “NATO strategic communication: more to be done?” tells us that they were operating in Afghanistan in 2010, and gives some clues about what they were up to:</p><p dir="ltr">“more detailed qualitative data gathering operation was being conducted in Maiwand Province by a British company, Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) is almost unique in the international contractor community in that it has a dedicated, and funded, behavioural research arm located in the prestigious home of British Science and research, The Royal Institute, London.”</p><p dir="ltr">In simple terms, the SCL Group – Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm – is the psychological operations wing of our privatised military: a mercenary propaganda agency.</p><p dir="ltr">The skills they developed in the context of warzones shouldn’t be overplayed, but nor should they be underplayed. As far as we can tell, just as the Pentagon used simple tools like choosing where to embed journalists during the Gulf War to spin its version of events, so they mastered the tools of modern communication: Facebook, online videos, data gathering and microtargeting. Such tools aren’t magic (and Anthony Barnett <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/how-should-we-think-about-roles-cambridge-analytica-facebook-russia-and-shady-billio">writes well</a> about the risks of implying that they are). They don’t on their own explain either Brexit or Trump (I wrote <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/remainers-dont-use-our-investigations-as-excuse">a plea</a> last year that Remainers in the UK don’t use our investigations as an excuse for failing to engage with the real reasons for the Leave vote). I wouldn’t even use the word “rigging” to describe the impact of these propaganda firms. But they are important.</p><p dir="ltr">As the<a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/data-democracy-and-dirty-tricks-cambridge-analytica-uncovered-investigation-expose"> Channel 4 undercover investigation</a> revealed, this work has often been carried out alongside more traditional smear tactics, and&nbsp;–&nbsp;as Chris Wylie explained&nbsp;–&nbsp;in partnership with another nexus in this world: Israel’s conurbation of private intelligence firms, a part of a burgeoning military industrial complex in the country which Israeli activist and writer<a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt183pct7"> Jeff Halper argues</a> is a key part of the country’s “parallel diplomacy” drive.</p><p dir="ltr">(Of course, this isn't unique to the UK and Israel. Until Cambridge Analytica achieved global infamy last week, the most prominent mercenary propaganda firm in the world was Peter Theil's company<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palantir_Technologies"> Palantir</a> (named after the all-seeing eye in Lord of the Rings). Theil, founder of PayPal (with Elon Musk) and an executive of Facebook, wrote a notorious<a href="https://www.cato-unbound.org/2009/04/13/peter-thiel/education-libertarian"> essay in 2009</a> arguing that female enfranchisement had made democracy untenable and that someone should therefore invent the technology to destroy it. Palantir’s most prominent clients are the United States Intelligence Community, and the US Department of Defence. Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie claimed this week that his firm had worked with Palantir. It’s also noteworthy that one of Palantir's shareholders is Field Marshal Lord Guthrie, former head of the British Army, and adviser to<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain"> Veterans for Britain, one of the groups which funnelled money to AggregateIQ</a> ahead of the European referendum. Guthrie also works for Acanum, one of the leading private intelligence agencies, who, in common with Cambridge Analytica's partners<a href="https://www.blackcube.com/board/"> Black Cube</a>,<a href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/meir-dagan-corporate-spy/"> listed</a> Meyer Dagam, the former head of Mossad, as one of their advisers, until he died in 2016. Again, it's not a conspiracy, it's just that these guys all know each other. But I digress.)</p><p dir="ltr">Back to SCL: why are NATO's mercenary propagandists getting involved in the US presidential election and&nbsp;–&nbsp;if the growing body of evidence about the link between Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ is to be believed&nbsp;–&nbsp;Brexit?</p><p dir="ltr">The obvious answer is surely partly true. They could make money doing so, and so they did. If you privatise war, don't be surprised if military firms start using the tools of war on 'their own' side. When Eisenhower warned of the Military Industrial Complex, he was thinking about physical weapons. But, just as unregulated semi-automatics invented for soldiers end up going off in American schools, it shouldn't be any kind of surprise that the weapons of information war are going off in Anglo-American votes.</p><p dir="ltr">But in a more general sense, this whole history is exactly what Brexit was about for many of the powerful people who pushed for it. As we’ve been investigating the secret donation which paid for the DUP Brexit campaign, we keep coming across this web of connections. Priti Patel worked for Bell Pottinger in Bahrain. Richard Cook, the front man for the secret donation to the DUP, set up a business in 2013 with the former head of Saudi intelligence and a Danish man involved in running guns to Hindu radicals who told us he was a spy. David Banks, who ran Veterans for Britain, worked in PR in the Middle East for four years – and Veterans for Britain more generally is full of these contacts.</p><p dir="ltr">I could go on. My suspicion is that this isn’t because there’s some kind of conspiracy revolving around a group of ex-spooks. It’s about the fact that power comes from networks of people, and the wing of the British ruling class which was in and around the military is moving rapidly into the world of privatised war. And those people have a strong ideological and material interest in radical right politics.</p><h2 dir="ltr">"The most corrupt country on Earth"</h2><p dir="ltr">Another way to see it is like this: Britain has lost most of its geographical empire. And most of our modern politics is about the ways in which different groups struggle to come to terms with that fact. For a large portion of the ruling establishment, this involves attempting to reprise the glory days by placing the country at the centre of two of the nexuses which define the modern era. </p><p dir="ltr">The UK and its Overseas Territories have already become by far the most significant network of tax havens and secrecy areas in the world, making us the global centre for money laundering and therefore, as Roberto Saviano, the leading expert on the mafia argues, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/may/29/roberto-saviano-london-is-heart-of-global-financial-corruption">most corrupt country on earth</a>. And just as countries with major oil industries have major oil lobbies, the UK has a major money laundry-lobby.</p><p dir="ltr">Pesky EU regulations have long frustrated the dreams of these people, who wish our island nation to move even further offshore and become even more of a tax haven. And so for some Brexiteers&nbsp;–&nbsp;this money laundry lobby&nbsp;–&nbsp;there was always strong incentive to back a Leave vote: European Research Group statements going back 25 years show as much.</p><p dir="ltr">But what the Cambridge Analytica affair reminds us of is that this is not just about the money laundry lobby (nor the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/big-agriculture-s-brexiteers-are-pulling-wool-over-our-eyes">agrochemical lobby</a>). Another group with a strong interest in pushing such deregulation, dimming transparency, hyping Islamophobia in America and turning peoples against each other is our flourishing mercenary complex – one of the only other industries in which Britain leads the world. And so it's no surprise that its propaganda wing has turned the skills it's learned in war towards its desired political outcomes.</p><p dir="ltr">In his essay, Baudrillard argued that his observations about the changes in military propaganda told us something about the then new post-Cold War era. Only two years after Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web, he wrote a sentence which, for me, teaches us more about the Cambridge Analytica story than much of the punditry that we've seen since: "just as wealth is no longer measured by the ostentation of wealth but by the secret circulation of capital, so war is not measured by being unleashed but by its speculative unfolding in an abstract, electronic and informational space."</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise your military propaganda operation. It walked into the space created when social media killed journalism. It is yet another example of tools developed to subjugate people elsewhere in the world being used on the domestic populations of the Western countries in which they were built. It marks the point at which neoliberal capitalism reaches its zenith, and ascends to<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali"> surveillance capitalism</a>. And the best possible response is to create a democratic media which can’t be bought by propagandists.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/how-should-we-think-about-roles-cambridge-analytica-facebook-russia-and-shady-billio">How should we think about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Russia and shady billionaires</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali">The problem isn’t just Cambridge Analytica or Facebook – it’s “surveillance capitalism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/David-Burnside-Putin-Russia-DUP-Brexit-Donaldson-Vincent-Tchenguiz">Is there a link between Cambridge Analytica and the DUP’s secret Brexit donors?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/edward-wilson/from-falklands-to-brexit-cut-price-jingoism">From the Falklands to Brexit: cut-price Jingoism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? uk UK Conflict Democracy and government Internet Cambridge Analytica DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Wed, 28 Mar 2018 16:44:30 +0000 Adam Ramsay 116936 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Crimes' committed by Brexit campaigners? One extraordinary coincidence offers a new clue https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-evidence-that-leave-groups-co-ordinated-to-get-round-re <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Did Vote Leave abuse the rules to 'spend as much as necessary' to win? We've uncovered a small but revealing error which calls into question all their denials.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Chris Wylie.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Chris Wylie.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="248" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytics whistleblower Chris Wylie gives evidence in the House of Commons today. Image, House of Commons.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In April 2016, Aggregate IQ was a tiny digital services firm working out of a cramped office in British Columbia, Canada. The company had no web presence and no obvious track record. Yet over the final two months of the Brexit campaign, several pro-Leave campaign groups (Vote Leave, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Veterans for Britain</a> – and bizarrely, a 23 year old fashion student named&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Darren Grimes</a>) would spend over £3.5m with Aggregate IQ.</p><p dir="ltr">Why?</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking in parliament today, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump">Chris Wylie</a> said that all these Leave groups were working together – and breaking the law. “This must be co-ordination,” he told MPs. Under British law, there are strict campaign spending limits, and groups that ‘work together’ have to pool their spending under one combined cap.</p><p dir="ltr">But the various Leave groups all declared their spending with AIQ separately, and claim that the firm treated them as separate clients, without co-ordinating their campaigns. This allowed them to throw dramatically more cash than would othewise have been possible into winning the knife-edge Brexit referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">We now know that&nbsp;AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica – the firm behind Trump’s campaign which has been accused of a massive Facebook data breach – <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/24/brexit-whistleblower-shahmir-sanni-interview-vote-leave-cambridge-analytica">are closely intertwined</a>. AggregateIQ developed the very election software that Cambridge Analytica sold for millions of dollars during the <a href="https://gizmodo.com/aggregateiq-created-cambridge-analyticas-election-softw-1824026565">2016 US presidential election</a>. This raises the possibility that AIQ – the company that Vote Leave spent some 40% of their cash with – was using data illegally harvested from Facebook.</p><p>Jeff Silvester chief operating officer at AIQ said: “AggregateIQ works in full compliance within all legal and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions where we operate. AggregateIQ has never managed, nor did we ever have access to, any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica.”</p><h2>A strange new coincidence</h2><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has been reporting evidence that Leave groups were working together for months. Last year <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">we revealed</a> exactly how Vote Leave took advantage of loopholes in electoral law to funnel £625,000 to the 23-year old fashion student Darren Grimes. Grimes ran a campaign called BeLeave. Another whistleblower, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/24/brexit-whistleblower-shahmir-sanni-interview-vote-leave-cambridge-analytica">Shahmir Sanni</a>, has now revealed that BeLeave was run from Vote Leave’s offices, and had no control over the sudden, massive £625,000 donation, all of which was spent directly with AggregateIQ.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, openDemocracy has uncovered more information that casts serious doubt on Vote Leave’s contention that Grimes’s BeLeave was a separate campaign. Vote Leave and Darren Grimes made the <em>very same mistake</em> on their returns to the Electoral Commission. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Vote Leave and Darren Grimes made the very same mistake on their returns to the Electoral Commission&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In all, the various Leave campaigns sent 14 invoices to AggregateIQ for digital campaigning and marketing work worth over £3.5m. The DUP and Veterans for Britain correctly listed AIQ’s address in their returns. But Vote Leave and Darren Grimes both listed the exact same incorrect address. And Darren Grimes’s signature doesn’t even appear on the invoice.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking today, SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said that this was further evidence of Leave groups working together: “It can only be explained by one person filling out multiple forms for different groups, and making the same mistake...The case that senior Leave members have to answer becomes more serious by the day.”</p><p>Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie has called for a parliamentary inquiry into whether the Leave campaigns broke UK electoral law by co-ordinating. Not least because the idea of joint working was actually proposed in public by leading Brexiteer Steve Baker (now Theresa May’s Minister for Brexit) in February 2016, four months before the referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave, Baker wrote in an email <a href="https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/foreign-affairs/news/68508/pat-mcfaddens-letters-police-and-electoral-commission-vote-leave">leaked to the Times</a> before the vote, could “create separate legal entities each of which could spend £700k. Vote Leave will be able to spend as much money as is necessary to win the referendum,” <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">Baker</a>, a former chair of a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">controversial hard-Brexit lobby group</a>, told colleagues. A Vote Leave spokesman later had to clarify that “Steve would never encourage anyone to break the law”.</p><p>The Electoral Commission is currently investigating Vote Leave’s donation to the 23-year old Darren Grimes – for the third time. This week <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/mar/26/vote-leave-members-may-have-committed-criminal-offences">lawyers concluded</a> that in their formal opinion there was a ‘prima facie’ case that Vote Leave had colluded with BeLeave in order to get round spending limits. </p><p>Our reporting has raised a number of specific questions about whether the various Leave campaigns were working together.</p><h2><span>1. How did four different campaigns find AggregateIQ?</span></h2><p>There is a string of evidence connecting AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica. But there’s still a very simple question about the firm which we’ve been asking for a year, and still haven’t had a decent answer to.</p><p dir="ltr">How did the various Leave campaigns find a company that, as the Observer's Carole Cadwalladr <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy">has shown</a>, didn’t even show up on online searches before the European referendum? And yet four separate campaigns – Vote Leave, the DUP, BeLeave, and Veterans for Britain all somehow <em>did</em> find them.</p><p dir="ltr">In the case of BeLeave, Darren Grimes, founder of the campaign, claims he heard about the group from friends who worked in the Vote Leave office, who he’d got to know over the course of the campaign. But as we have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">previously reported</a>, most of the payment to AIQ came directly from the Vote Leave bank account.</p><p>In the case of the DUP, we first rang their campaign manager Jeffrey Donaldson to ask him how he found out about the company almost a year ago. He said he <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">couldn’t remember</a>, and would have to look through his paperwork. We rang him again today. He told us it was an “internal referral” from one of the DUP’s staff that led him to AIQ, but wouldn’t tell us which staff member, nor how they heard about the firm.</p><p dir="ltr">So why would all these campaigns decide to spend money with the same firm? Ex-Vote Leave supremo Dominic Cummings has said that AIQ were the best in the business. (A testimony from Cummings on AIQ’s homepage was removed last week.)</p><p dir="ltr">But whistleblower Chris Wylie has suggested another reason. The ex-Cambridge Analytica data specialist told openDemocracy that rather than working on discreet digital campaigns for each of the Leave groups, AIQ effectively pooled all the campaigns together, using resources from smaller campaigns to fund the larger campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">“AIQ was running all campaigns together. It wasn’t siloed,” says Wylie, who points to BeLeave to illustrate his point. In June 2016, when BeLeave received £625,000 from Vote Leave, the tiny youth campaign had just over 1,000 emails. If AIQ was only targeting BeLeave supporters it would have almost no data to work with. “They would have been spending £625 for each person they targeted. That would be crazy,” said Wylie.</p><h2>2. Why did Vote Leave, Grassroots Out, Leave.EU, the DUP and UKIP all used the same obscure&nbsp;branding agency in Ely?</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_0633.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_0633.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Soopa Doopa's headquarters, Ely. Image, Adam Ramsay, CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p>Before the European referendum, Soopa Doopa branding in Ely had a turnover of £750,000 and two staff. In 2015-16, this boomed to £2.1 million on the back of a string of contracts with supposedly different campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">We spoke on the phone with the company’s founder, and asked how all these different campaigns had ended up finding his company. He replied that they were all really the same campaign, weren’t they?</p><p dir="ltr">So we went to Ely, to track the firm down. After touring the various addresses listed on Companies House and with the Electoral Commission, we found ourselves outside its official HQ: an empty house at the end of a suburban terrace row.</p><p dir="ltr">The company’s founder, Jake Scott-Paul, is a vocal Brexit supporter. Among his 142 Twitter followers (when we wrote about them last year) were the biggest Brexit donor Arron Banks and his spokesperson Andy Wigmore.</p><p dir="ltr">You can read about our Soopa Doopa adventures <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">here</a>.</p><h2>3. Where does Veterans for Britain fit in?</h2><p>Since October 2016, Veterans for Britain, who funnelled £100,000 to AggregateIQ, has been led by Lee Rotherham, the former&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">head of special projects</a>&nbsp;for Vote Leave. In the Vote Leave submission to the Electoral Commission for designated status as the lead campaigner, they described Rotherham’s job with them as “coordinating with specialist researchers working in parallel for allied think tanks and groups… and maintaining formal and informal outreach across the wider Eurosceptic movement.”</p><p dir="ltr">As we wrote in the autumn, “What the Electoral Commission will have to decide is whether Lee Rotherham “co-ordinating with… allied groups” counted as “working together” as defined by Commission rules, and if it included such co-ordination with Veterans for Britain, of which Rotherham would soon become executive director.”</p><p dir="ltr">Rotherham told openDemocracy that during his time working for Vote Leave, he “was in touch with a range of Eurosceptic campaigners, of which VfB [Veterans for Britain] was one group” – which in itself breaks no rules. He denies all allegations of co-ordinating campaign activities and expenditure, denies referring AggregateIQ to the group, and denies being behind the £100,000 donation.</p><p>Veterans for Britain also received a £50,000 donation from Arron Banks’ firm ‘Better for the Country Ltd’, which donated to a range of different Leave campaigns.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Patel PA-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Patel PA-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="327" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Former cabinet minister & PR agent Priti Patel at Veterans for Britain's final campaign event event before the referendum. Image, Hannah McKay, PA images, all rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The famous Vote Leave bus is visible in photos (see above) from Veterans for Britain’s final event, with WWII veterans at an airfield in Berkshire, which was attended by Brexit-supporting Tory minister Priti Patel. If this was a joint event, we could expect it to count under working together rules. Yet Vote Leave doesn’t seem to have declared it.</p><p>You can read our profile of Veterans for Britain <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">here</a>.</p><h2>4. The DUP got a £435,000 secret donation, then spent it with the same groups as everyone else. Another coincidence?</h2><p>The Democratic Unionist Party had two members of the Vote Leave board, Nigel Dodds and Christopher Montgomery – respectively the DUP’s leader in Westminster, and the DUP’s Westminster chief of staff. The latter was later credited in <a href="http://brexitcentral.com/50-groups-behind-article-50-part-i/">a pro-Brexit website</a> with “bringing together Conservative and DUP MPs” to deliver Brexit.</p><p>As openDemocracy revealed last year, the party received a controversial donation of £435,000 from an anonymous source (via a front group in Glasgow with <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">lots</a> of surprising <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">links</a>) and, like Veterans for Britain and BeLeave, they spent the money in the final fortnight of the campaign. While the biggest single chunk of it was £282,000 for adverts in the Metro, the rest of their major items of spending went to Soopa Doopa and AggregateIQ: the same obscure firms used by Vote Leave and other Leave campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP went on to <a href="http://www.thedetail.tv/articles/brexit-technology-firm-used-by-dup-in-northern-ireland-elections">use AggregateIQ again</a> in a subsequent Northern Irish Assembly election, employing the firm to run campaigns for candidates running in the main university constituencies.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave in Northern Ireland was co-ordinated by Lee Reynolds, who was on secondment from his job as campaign manager from the DUP, though Reynolds has previously denied to openDemocracy that there was co-ordination between the two campaigns.</p><h2>How to spend 'as much a necessary'</h2><p dir="ltr">In the UK, donations to political campaigns are capped to limit the influence of the hyper-rich on British democracy. But it increasingly looks like the European referendum was used to pioneer a range of techniques for circumventing these rules. </p><p dir="ltr">Whatever our various opinions about Brexit, we should ask ourselves a simple question: do we want to live in a country where anyone can, to quote Steve Baker, “spend as much money as is necessary to win”?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">Revealed: The Tory MPs using taxpayers’ cash to fund a secretive hard-Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Who are Veterans for Britain?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £425,000 DUP Brexit donation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP Donaldson can’t remember why his Brexit campaign spent more than £32,000 on controversial data analytics company linked to Trump</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Cambridge Analytica investigations Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 27 Mar 2018 19:33:17 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 116907 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is there a link between Cambridge Analytica and the DUP’s secret Brexit donors? https://www.opendemocracy.net/David-Burnside-Putin-Russia-DUP-Brexit-Donaldson-Vincent-Tchenguiz <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today we reveal the close relationship between a key Cambridge Analytica backer and a senior pro-Brexit Northern Irish PR man – who has Russian friends in high places</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytica/SCL's Alexander Nix. Image, Sam Barnes. CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica stands accused of using <a href="https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/vbxmm9/cambridge-analytica-ceo-caught-on-tape-saying-companys-facebook-scam-helped-elect-trump">‘unattributable and untrackable’</a> advertising to get Donald Trump elected, of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election">illegally accessing</a> 50 million Facebook profiles, and of much more besides. The controversial data company also has friends in high places, from <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/mar/21/tory-donors-among-investors-in-cambridge-analytica-parent-firm-scl-group">Tory party donors </a>to the British military.</p><p dir="ltr">But openDemocracy has now discovered that Cambridge Analytica’s establishment links run even deeper, leading to one of the most senior figures in Northern Irish unionism – a PR man who has represented everyone from British Airways to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/ballymoney-trail-david-burnside-troubles-loyalist-tories-pr-fixer">Russian oligarchs</a> – and raising questions once more about who gave the DUP a secretive <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">£435,000 donation</a> for its Brexit campaign. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Former Ulster Unionist MP <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/ballymoney-trail-david-burnside-troubles-loyalist-tories-pr-fixer">David Burnside </a>has been one of the most influential PR figures in Britain for decades, a <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5487121/May-accused-denial-Kremlin.html">Tory dono</a>r with links to senior figures in <a href="https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2014-07-01/russian-front-camerons-encounter-with-putin-friend-at-tory-party">Vladimir Putin’s inner circle</a>. We have now learned that Burnside also works for Vincent Tchenguiz, a property tycoon who was the largest shareholder in Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, for almost a decade.</p><p dir="ltr">A number of links between the various pro-Brexit campaigns and Cambridge Analytica have already been established. Taken together, Vote Leave, the DUP and other Brexit campaigners spent millions with <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">a data analytics company</a> that has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/14/robert-mercer-cambridge-analytica-leave-eu-referendum-brexit-campaigns">linked</a> to Cambridge Analytica and is currently <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42055523">under investigation</a> by the UK Information Commissioner. The Leave campaign’s biggest donor, Arron Banks, also says Cambridge Analytica <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-facebook-cambridge-analytica-brexit/brexit-campaigner-banks-says-cambridge-analytica-pitched-but-we-did-not-hire-them-idUKKBN1GX19P">pitched to work</a> with him but that he never sealed the deal. These are coincidences that key Leave figures have so far <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">failed to adequately explain</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">There is no allegation that the Ulster Unionist David Burnside, via his close relationship with Cambridge Analytica-backer Vincent Tchenguiz, has done anything wrong, or that he is connected to the DUP’s controversial £435,000 Brexit donation. But his close relationship with Tchenguiz who, for almost a decade, was the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/211152/trump-data-analytics-russian-access">biggest shareholder</a>&nbsp;in the company that created Cambridge Analytica, raises fresh, troubling questions about how the Leave campaign was run, who paid for it – and in particular how far the web of influence of Cambridge Analytica and the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/16/15657512/cambridge-analytica-christopher-wylie-facebook-trump-russia">Trump-backing billionaire Robert Mercer</a>&nbsp;may stretch.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy today, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “We have seen this week the extent to which Cambridge Analytica sought to distort and manipulate the democratic process around the world."</p><p dir="ltr">"Now we learn that a major shareholder in the company that created Cambridge Analytica is directly connected to a senior pro-Brexit Northern Irish unionist – who is himself linked to some of Vladimir Putin’s associates. This poses serious questions about who is funding our politics and how."</p><p dir="ltr">“The Tories are being propped up by a party which refuses to say where it got a £435,000 Brexit donation. If the DUP won't come clean about these questions, the government should make them."</p><h2>‘Connections to serious money’</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-1891961_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-1891961_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David Burnside. Image, Paul Faith/PA Archive/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Few in Northern Ireland are as well connected as David Burnside. A former MP, ex-head of press at British Airways, and a constant presence at Tory party conferences, the pugnacious, cigar-chomping PR man “has long moved in very different circles to most of Northern Irish political figures,” according to a well-placed unionist source in Northern Ireland. “Burnside is also the only person here with connections to serious money.”</p><p dir="ltr">Politically, Burnside is firmly on the right of Northern Irish politics. He cut his teeth as a young man in the early 1970s as a press officer for the hardline Vanguard Unionist Progressive party, but by the early 2000s Burnside was an Ulster Unionist MP. In 2003, however, he and another UUP MP led a rebellion against the party’s support of the Good Friday Agreement. That other MP was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">Jeffrey Donaldson</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Burnside remained in the Ulster Unionist Party fold, but has often called for his party to merge with its more hardline cousins, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Jeffrey Donaldson, on the other hand, joined the DUP in 2004, and went on to manage its pro-Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">As<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts"> openDemocracy revealed</a> early last year, the DUP’s Brexit campaign was funded by a controversial £435,000 donation – the largest in Northern Irish history. Almost all the money was spent on campaigning outside Northern Ireland. The <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/calls-for-dup-to-reveal-source-of-500-000-brexit-donation-1.3115919%3Fmode%3Damp">DUP has said</a> the money came from an organisation that “wants to see the union kept”. But we do not know who gave the DUP the money because of Northern Ireland’s unique <a href="https://www.thedetail.tv/articles/changes-to-northern-ireland-political-donation-secrecy-laws-face-further-delays">donor secrecy laws</a>. (The Conservative government recently <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-mary-fitzgerald/why-is-northern-ireland-office-protecting-dups-dirty-little">voted to maintain the veil of secrecy</a> around the DUP’s Brexit donor.)</p><p dir="ltr">Burnside is a Brexit-supporting unionist and a <a href="http://www.newcenturymedia.co.uk/team/">founder member</a> of both <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Friends_of_the_Union">Friends of the Union</a> and the Constitutional Reform Group, the pro-union think-tank set up by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Lord Salisbury</a> after Scotland’s independence referendum, whose <a href="http://www.constitutionreformgroup.co.uk/patrons/">patrons</a> include a roster of high-profile Brexit backers. Burnside remains close to many in the DUP, particularly in Westminster. This week, he declined to answer openDemocracy’s questions about the secret £435,000 Brexit donation, but a spokesperson said “you should ask the DUP”. (The DUP has consistently <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">refused to reveal</a> who is behind the secretive <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">front group</a> that channelled them the Brexit cash.) </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-5307004_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-5307004_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeffrey Donaldson (centre left) and David Burnside (centre right) in Orange Lodge sashes laying a wreath on the tomb of William of Orange, outside Westminster Abbey in 2007. Image, Fiona Hanson/PA.</span></span></span><br />Burnside left the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2009, saying he wanted to concentrate on his business interests. His PR firm <a href="http://www.newcenturymedia.co.uk/">New Century Media </a>has offices near St James’s Park in London and has represented some of London’s richest individuals – including multimillionaire property tycoon&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/vincent-tchenguiz">Vincent Tchenguiz</a>. That’s where Cambridge Analytica comes in.</p><h2>Vincent Tchenguiz and Cambridge Analytica</h2><p dir="ltr">For almost a decade the largest shareholder in SCL Group – the company that created Cambridge Analytica – was Vincent Tchenguiz. (As in ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2007/mar/25/theobserver.observerbusiness4">Ghengis</a>’: his father, the head of the Iranian mint, changed the family name to the Persian for the Mongol warlord.) Tchenguiz, a whip smart bon vivant born in Iran of Jewish-Iraqi descent, has been described <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs9v4Nb_TT8">by Bloomberg</a> as ‘the UK’s biggest private owner of residential real estate’. (He <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jan/17/citiscape-croydon-2m-recladding-bill-prompted-grenfell-disaster">made headlines in January</a> for reportedly forcing leaseholders to pay to replace Grenfell Tower-style cladding in a building owned by one of his companies.)</p><p dir="ltr">In 2005 Tchenguiz bought a 24% stake in SCL Group via his company Consensus Business Group. SCL boasts on its <a href="https://sclgroup.cc/home">website</a> of offering “data, analytics and strategy to governments and military organizations” in over 60 countries and has links to the heart of the <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/scl-group-s-founders-were-connected-to-royalty-the-rich-and-powerful-3pxhfvhlh">Tory party, British royal family and the British militar</a>y. SCL’s shareholders and officers have given <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/mar/21/tory-donors-among-investors-in-cambridge-analytica-parent-firm-scl-group">more than £700,000</a> to the Conservatives since 2015. It was also the company that, around 2013, created Cambridge Analytica to work on US political campaigns.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-7250720.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-7250720.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="664" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vincent Tchenguiz and Lisa Tchenguiz. Image, Ian West/PA Archive/PA Images.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Over the last week, Cambridge Analytica has been accused of illegally buying data on<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election"> 50 million Facebook profiles</a>, with its executives filmed claiming to use <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/cambridge-analytica-revealed-trumps-election-consultants-filmed-saying-they-use-bribes-and-sex-workers-to-entrap-politicians-investigation">honey traps and bribery</a> to smear political opponents. Its CEO Alexander Nix has now been suspended. Throughout the period of these activities, SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica shared directors and they are often seen as essentially the <a href="http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/">same outfit</a>. As Carole Cadwalladr <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump">wrote last weekend</a> in the Observer, “For all intents and purposes, SCL/Cambridge are one and the same”.</p><p dir="ltr">Tchenguiz sold his stake in SCL in the summer of 2015 for just £147,746. (A tiny sum for a man who <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365701/Vincent-gave-20-girls-2-000-spend-St-Tropez-The-amazingly-decadent-lifestyle-property-baron-centre-Britains-biggest-fraud-probe.html">paid women £2,000</a> to spend a night dancing on his yacht.) Just weeks later, Cambridge Analytica began working on the Ted Cruz presidential campaign. Over the next year, Cambridge Analytica would earn more than $13m, working first for Cruz and then for Donald Trump. Much of this money came from Robert Mercer, the billionaire Trump and Breitbart-backing financier who was so impressed with Cambridge Analytica that he <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-bannon-cambridge-analytica-facebook-20180320-story.html">reportedly become a major shareholder</a> in late 2013.</p><p dir="ltr">SCL’s current chairman, Julian Wheatland, is a former employee of Tchenguiz and widely seen as his<a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/scl-group-s-founders-were-connected-to-royalty-the-rich-and-powerful-3pxhfvhlh"> place man</a>. Wheatland is also chairman of Oxford West and Abingdon Conservative Association. US writer Ann Marlowe has <a href="http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/211152/trump-data-analytics-russian-access">suggested</a> that Tchenguiz sold his shares to avoid awkward questions about his background and links. Tchenguiz denies this. “Consensus Business Group lost interest,” a spokesperson for Tchenguiz said when asked why he sold his SCL shares in 2015. “It was never a strategic investment for the company.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">The dour Northern Irishman, the flamboyant playboy – and the Ukrainian oligarch</h2><p>Ulster Unionist David Burnside has represented Vincent Tchenguiz as his <a href="https://www.leaseholdknowledge.com/tag/david-burnside">PR adviser</a> for more than ten years. The two men are very different – the dour Northern Irishman and the flamboyant playboy – but have a strong working relationship, according to a former employee of Burnside’s PR firm New Century Media.</p><p>Burnside was representing Tchenguiz when, in 2011, the Serious Fraud Office <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/mar/09/tchenguiz-brothers-arrested-kaupthing-collapse-iceland">arrested</a> the property tycoon as part of a dawn raid prompted by the collapse of the Icelandic bank Kaupthing. The High Court later ruled the arrest illegal, and, in 2014, the SFO <a href="https://www.sfo.gov.uk/2014/07/25/serious-fraud-office-vincent-tchenguiz-announce-settlement-civil-claims/">paid Tchenguiz £6 million</a> in compensation and costs.</p><p dir="ltr">In addition to their ten year working relationship, there are a number of other connections between Tchenguiz and Burnside. Both Tchenguiz and his brother, Robert, are Tory donors, as are many of SCL/Cambridge Analytica’s senior figures. Burnside is also close to the Conservatives: his PR firm New Century Media has donated £142,850 <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=new%20century%20media&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;isIrishSourceYes=true&amp;isIrishSourceNo=true&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">to the Tories since 2009</a>. “All the company’s political donations are a matter of public record,” a spokesperson for New Century Media told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">Both men have another, intriguing link in common: Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch wanted by the FBI. Tchenguiz has invested in a business whose largest shareholder <a href="http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/211152/trump-data-analytics-russian-access">was Firtash</a>. After leaving Westminster, Burnside, alongside the PR firm Bell Pottinger, advised the Firtash Foundation, which is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/ballymoney-trail-david-burnside-troubles-loyalist-tories-pr-fixer">overseen by the Ukrainian oligarch</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Dmytro_Firtash.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Dmytro_Firtash.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dmytro Firtash. Image, Wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Firtash is currently facing extradition to the United States on <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/354809991/U-S-v-Dmitro-Firtash-and-Andras-Knopp">charges</a> of international money laundering and other offences. Last year, federal prosecutors in Chicago <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/doj-ex-manafort-associate-firtash-top-tier-comrade-russian-mobsters-n786806">described the Ukrainian</a> as an ‘upper-echelon [associate] of Russian organized crime’, and he has long been associated with financing pro-Putin candidates in Ukraine. He also has close ties to former Trump campaign manager <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/21/austria-grants-us-request-to-extradite-ukrainian-mogul-dmytro-firtash">Paul Manafort</a>. (Manafort, who was running the Trump campaign when Cambridge Analytica began working for it, was recently indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller on <a href="https://www.vox.com/2018/2/22/17042254/robert-mueller-paul-manafort-indictment">dozens of counts, i</a>ncluding fraud, as part of the ongoing US investigation into the Trump-Russia connections.)</p><p dir="ltr">Firtash has also <a href="http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/cambridge-becomes-a-home-for-ukrainian-studies">donated millions</a> to Cambridge University. Speaking in 2014, Firtash said the allegations against him were “<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-firtash/ukraines-firtash-says-his-detention-political-raps-u-s-idUSBREA2H1JU20140318">purely political</a>”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The Russian connections</h2><p>In Northern Ireland, David Burnside maintains a low profile, rarely making the headlines except for the occasional call for <a href="https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/time-to-resurrect-the-uuuc-to-bring-unionist-unity-says-uup-veteran-1-7861808">‘unionist unity’ </a>and a merger between the UUP and the DUP. But Burnside’s work has sometimes come to the attention of the UK press. It was reported that New Century Media earned at least £100,000 working for the <a href="https://bahrainwatch.org/blog/2014/07/05/bahrain-lobbyist-paid-for-table-with-uk-defence-secretary-at-tory-party-fundraiser-as-defence-ties-deepen/">Bahrain International Circuit</a>. However it is Burnside’s ties to Russia that have attracted most attention.</p><p>In 2012, Burnside invited <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/01/-sp-tory-summer-party-drew-super-rich-supporters-with-total-wealth-of-11bn">Sergey Nalobin</a>, the senior diplomat from the Russian embassy in London, to a Tory fundraising dinner. Nalobin, whose father was a top-ranking officer in the FSB, the successor agency to the Soviet KGB, was forced out of the UK by the Home Office in 2015. Burnside has also provided “reputation management" and "personal introductions to individuals within ... politics” as part of a £900,000 a year contract with <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/11786123/Russia-claims-four-diplomats-forced-out-of-London.html">Vladimir Makhlai</a>, a Russian billionaire who fled to Britain in 2005. When Makhlai stopped paying, Burnside got tough and sued in the high court, winning <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/ballymoney-trail-david-burnside-troubles-loyalist-tories-pr-fixer">a £500,000 ruling</a>.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 17.08.28.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 17.08.28.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="278" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David Cameron speaking at the party to Vasily Shestakov (second right) and Russian billionaire Andrei Kliamko (right), translated by Alex Nekrassov of New Century Media (centre) - image, the Guardian.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In 2014, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/01/-sp-tory-summer-party-drew-super-rich-supporters-with-total-wealth-of-11bn">a photo emerged</a> of then prime minister David Cameron with influential Russian MP <a href="http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2055962,00.html">Vasily Shestakov,</a> co-author with the Russian president of <em>Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin</em>. The photograph was taken the previous June at a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/01/-sp-tory-summer-party-drew-super-rich-supporters-with-total-wealth-of-11bn">secretive Conservative fundraising party</a> at Old Billingsgate Market. The Russians were guests of David Burnside, sitting at a table that cost up to £12,000 (the translator in the picture is one of Burnside’s staff).</p><p dir="ltr">Also pictured is <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/andrei-klyamko/">Andrei Kliamko</a>, a <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=3&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj1jO6hv4LaAhVmC8AKHct4BEUQFggwMAI&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thebureauinvestigates.com%2Fstories%2F2014-07-01%2Frussian-front-camerons-encounter-with-putin-friend-at-tory-party&amp;usg=AOvVaw3tk_zHhHO-LBfsrUw55Rpb">Russian judo executive</a> with business interests in Crimea, who according to Forbes Russia is worth $1.9bn, and Alex Nekrassov, <a href="http://www.newcenturymedia.co.uk/members/alex-nekrassov/">director of accounts at Burnside’s New Century Media</a>. (Nekrassov’s father, Alexander, is a prominent pro-Kremlin commentator who recently linked the story of the poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal to a Westminster paedophile scandal). </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">When the paedophile scandal surrounding <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Oxfam?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Oxfam</a> and other big charities got out of control and Westminster MPs were about to be dragged into it I warned to expect a huge provocation against <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Russia?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Russia</a> , to distract attention. It came in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Salsbury?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Salsbury</a></p>— Alexander Nekrassov (@StirringTrouble) <a href="https://twitter.com/StirringTrouble/status/976046486743146496?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 20, 2018</a></blockquote> <p> In May 2013, a month before David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and others were photographed wooing Tory donors at that fundraiser in Old Billingsgate Market, Burnside’s longtime colleague at New Century Media, Tim Lewin, founded the <a href="https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2014-07-01/russian-front-camerons-encounter-with-putin-friend-at-tory-party">Positive Russia Foundation</a>. In an interview, Shestakov <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=CTiCCgAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PA105&amp;lpg=PA105&amp;dq=tim+lewin+putin+dinner+2013&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=DniEJ_s3Jm&amp;sig=0h4X5fIjulna4qlKPMsFWpy2X5s&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiah7zcsL7XAhVKDcAKHSDGAqwQ6AEIODAF#v=onepage&amp;q=tim%20lewin%20putin%20dinner%202013&amp;f=false">described the Positive Russia Foundation</a>&nbsp;as "a new variant of RT, but under the patronage of English aristocrats" set up to <a href="http://en.itar-tass.com/opinions/1512">combat 'anti-Russian propaganda' in the British media</a>. The company <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/01/-sp-tory-summer-party-drew-super-rich-supporters-with-total-wealth-of-11bn">was dissolved</a> in 2016, as were two other companies that Lewin was a director of: <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/08532530">Crimean National Tourism Office Limited</a> and the <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/07768105">Crimean Economic Development Agency Limited</a>. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing, and New Century Media says it does not comment on client relationships.</p><p dir="ltr">Concerns about the role of Russia in British politics are growing. The Sunday Times recently reported that Russian oligarchs and their associates had <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/tories-break-theresa-mays-vow-to-ban-russian-donors-glp2bl7cm">donated more than £820,000</a> to the Conservatives since Theresa May became prime minister. Last year Ben Bradshaw MP, citing reporting by openDemocracy, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/19/mp-calls-for-inquiry-into-arron-banks-and-dark-money-in-eu-referendum">told parliament</a> that there was “widespread concern over foreign and particularly Russian interference in western democracies” and called for an inquiry into the role of dark money in the Brexit referendum. Key players in the Leave campaign such as Nigel Farage and Arron Banks have <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/brexit-donor-blasts-watchdog-as-swamp-creature-grw69n7sv">laughed off suggestions of any ties to Russia</a>.</p><h2>Who gets to shape our democracy?</h2><p>Carole Cadwalladr’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/21/cambridge-analytica-offered-politicians-hacked-emails-witnesses-say">revelations</a> in the Observer about Cambridge Analytica and its networks have dominated headlines across the world, taking&nbsp;<a href="https://qz.com/1233816/facebook-has-lost-50-billion-in-market-value-over-the-past-two-days/">$50 billion off Facebook’s share price</a> in just two days. They have raised a string of vital questions for modern democracy – who gets to shape our elections, and who has access to key information about our lives.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has been investigating a number of these issues for over a year. Our reporting on the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">DUP’s secret Brexit donation</a>; on the finances of the Leave campaign’s biggest backer <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">Arron Banks</a>; and on the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">many groups</a> seeking to shape Brexit have been picked up by media across the world. They have prompted questions in parliament; triggered a law change ending donor secrecy in Northern Ireland; and have contributed to three separate <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">ongoing investigations</a> by the UK Electoral Commission and one by the Charity Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">For a long time, we have been asking ourselves: how does Cambridge Analytica/SCL connect to the secret £435,000 funnelled to the DUP’s Brexit campaign? We now have one answer: that the man who controlled the biggest shareholding in SCL for more than a decade is represented by a key ally of the DUP.</p><p dir="ltr">There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by either David Burnside or Vincent Tchenguiz. But their link offers new insights into the secretive networks of money and influence that are seeking to shape western democracies. And it once again underlines the urgent need for full transparency on how the Leave campaigns in Britain operated to pull off one of the biggest political shocks in a generation.</p><p dir="ltr">Unaware that he was speaking on camera to an <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/exposed-undercover-secrets-of-donald-trump-data-firm-cambridge-analytica">undercover Channel 4 investigator</a>, Mark Turnbull, the Managing Director of Cambridge Analytica, said:</p><p>“Sometimes you can use proxy organisations, who are already there, you feed them. They are [often] civil society organisations - like charities, or activist organisations – and you feed them, they do the work...” The best thing about this type of messaging, he said, is that it has “no branding, so it’s unattributable. Untrackable.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Northern Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Northern Ireland UK Cambridge Analytica investigations Democratic Unionist Party Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Fri, 23 Mar 2018 11:07:34 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 116834 at https://www.opendemocracy.net