Posts in News

First APPG Oral Evidence Session

17/06/2019 Posted by APPG, News 0 thoughts on “First APPG Oral Evidence Session”

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Electoral Campaigning Transparency held his first oral evidence session with Jessica Garland from the Electoral Reform Society and Kyle Taylor from Fair Vote. Stephen Kinnock MP, APPG Chair and Kenneth Clarke MP, APPG Vice-Chair were both attending the session.

The session was incredibly productive and acted as a strong framing conversation for the rest of the inquiry.

Stephen Kinnock MP said:

‘It is already clear we need a more powerful regulator that can enforce the law out of fear of recourse for wrongdoing.”

Kyle Taylor from Fair Vote said:

‘Fair Vote first pursued these issues more than a year ago. Much more needs to be done. The stakes are bigger than any one election. They concern a wide range of election campaigning areas like funding and online advertisements. Those who break the law should be investigated and prosecuted.’

Jessica Garland from the Electoral Reform Society said:

‘We don’t want to be in a context when the results of an election are put into question. We want to have the right monitoring in the first place to avoid that.’

On funding, Kenneth Clarke MP said:

‘We should have a complete openness on sources of finance. At the moment it seems you can do whatever you like in a campaign. It’s a danger to our democracy.’

This first APPG oral evidence session pointed out that at the moment, there is a culture of malfeasance because deterrents are not significant enough. Campaigners know that it’s very unlikely that they would ever face consequences for what they do in election time because the Electoral Commission does not have sufficient powers to investigate and prosecute offenders.

The next session is 24 June and open to the public.

 

Listen to the first Oral Evidence session

 

APPG Inquiry Formally Opens – Share your expertise

07/06/2019 Posted by APPG, News, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “APPG Inquiry Formally Opens – Share your expertise”

We have formally opened a written evidence submission period for the APPG on Electoral Campaigning Transparency.  It will be open until 25 July 2019 at 5pm. If you have specialised knowledge or would simply like to contribute, you can do so here:

https://forms.gle/y4CbwxcEt4KmjRtV8

Please note we have a commitment to transparency. This means all submissions will be publicly available. We look forward to hearing from you, and please do share this link with other people you believe will be positive contributions.

You can find more information on the APPG here

First Meeting of APPG on Electoral Campaigning Transparency Held

16/05/2019 Posted by APPG, News 0 thoughts on “First Meeting of APPG on Electoral Campaigning Transparency Held”

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Electoral Campaign Transparency – formed in Parliament yesterday – will launch an inquiry into Britain’s electoral campaign rules. It will take evidence from experts and civil society to feed into a Green Paper advising the government on how to better safeguard and strengthen our democracy.

It comes after increasing pressure on the government to act in safeguarding elections from unscrupulous political donations, campaign advertising and foreign interference. The government recently published its response to the consultation on ‘Protecting the Debate’, pledging some changes. But there is little detail so far, campaigners say.

Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, chair of the new group, said:

“The fall-out from the 2016 referendum has exposed the fact that our democracy is in danger of being overwhelmed by a toxic combination of dodgy data and dirty money. Drip by drip we have seen how our legislative and regulatory frameworks are simply not fit for purpose.

“Our political system can only function effectively if the public is confident that our elections and referenda are being policed effectively and that the playing field is level. Yet we currently have analogue regulations governing a digital age.”

 

Caroline Lucas Green MP for Brighton Pavilion , vice-chair of the new group, said:

“The work of the appg on electoral campaigning transparency seeks to make our electoral laws fit for the 21st century. This is not about Brexit, this is about all future elections and ensuring that the people can determine the future of the UK by strengthening our democratic processes.

This APPG will work to increase confidence in our governance institutions and to return power to the people”

 

Kenneth Clarke, Conservative MP for Rushcliffe, vice chair of the APPG, said: 

“This APPG is about looking forward not backward. No one can deny that we learned some valuable lessons about our democratic system in 2016. It’s time to act on those lessons to safeguard UK democracy and that’s why I’ve joined this APPG on Electoral Campaigning Transparency. Our current campaign laws are designed for soapboxes and leaflets and the fact is elections are fought and won not just on the doorsteps but online as well.

“An issue this important and this complex requires crossparty cooperation. Public confidence in elections must be restored and members of this APPG will be working to strengthen our laws, which by extension will strengthen our democracy.”

Meanwhile the government is still not willing to enforce better regulations on electoral practices.

We will continue campaigning to hold the government accountable and ensure electoral transparency.

 

APPG Vice Chairs Include:

Caroline Lucas MP

Kenneth Clarke MP

Wera Hobhouse MP

Deirde Brock MP

Owen Smith MP

Lord Chris Rennard

Launching An APPG on Electoral Campaigning Transparency

09/05/2019 Posted by APPG, News 0 thoughts on “Launching An APPG on Electoral Campaigning Transparency”

We are launching an initiative to strengthen our democracy and improve our transparency standards in our elections. Fair Vote will be serving as secretariat to an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Electoral Campaigning Transparency to be chaired by Stephen Kinnock MP.

It’s a major step forward in changing our laws to improve our democracy.

Our membership will aim to include MPs from all parties of the House because our scope of work is intentionally focused on common sense, cross-partisan areas of concern: transparency, deterrence and monitoring.

This APPG is built on Fair Vote’s recommendations and will be pushing for “quick win” reforms to electoral campaigning transparency including:

  • Giving the Election Commission more powers to punish and deter offenders;

  • Reporting campaign spending online;

  • Ending financial transfers between aligned campaigning groups;

  • Strengthening digital campaigning laws.

And, as soon as it is created, the APPG will be investigating major areas including:

  • Funding and spending on campaigns (to include issues such as where money comes from, money spent outside of regulated periods (e.g. database creation, involvement of third parties/external agencies etc), reporting on spending (e.g. breakdown of social media spend, reporting in real time), local and national spending limits and regulating the difference;

  • Online political campaign adverts (to include but not be limited to: imprints, public searchable ad databases and codes of practice for campaigners);

  • Investigatory and enforcement powers of the Electoral Commission;

  • Possible regulatory frameworks to ensure maintenance of laws put in place.

 

Find out more about the APPG here

Fair Vote UK files motion to reopen case in Mississippi against companies associated with Arron Banks

16/04/2019 Posted by News, Press Releases 0 thoughts on “Fair Vote UK files motion to reopen case in Mississippi against companies associated with Arron Banks”

Fair Vote UK files motion to reopen case in Mississippi against companies associated with Arron Banks

While giving testimony to the DCMS select committee, Brittany Kaiser, former Cambridge Analytica employee, said that Arron Bank’s company Big Data Dolphins was storing and using British citizen’s data at the University of Mississippi.

In response to this revelation, Fair Vote UK immediately sought legal counsel in Mississippi and pursued a preservation order over this data so that the companies in question could not destroy or tamper with it. Fair Vote UK successfully obtained two separate restraining orders preventing destruction. However, the case was later dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, thereby dissolving the prior restraints against destruction.

There are now six major developments that weigh in favour of the court reconsidering its dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint on jurisdictional grounds.

The Mississippi court granted the motion to dismiss filed by defendants Big Data Dolphins LTD and Eldon Insurance Services LTD on the grounds that Mississippi did not have personal jurisdiction over the nonresidents defendants. Just three months later, the defendants nullified the court’s findings by filing their own lawsuit in against the University of Mississippi – affirming that Mississippi does indeed have jurisdiction over them.

Big Data Dolphins and Eldon Insurance have failed to fully disclose what personal data they possess.
The Information Commissioner’s Office fined Eldon Insurance for its misuse of sensitive personal data and started an audit in November 2018.

The National Crime Agency started investigating Eldon Insurance, its owner Arron Banks and Elizabeth Bilney in November 2018.

Parliament released Disinformation and ‘fake news’: Final Report, a report that detailed the “porous relationship” between Eldon Insurance and Leave.EU.

Big Data Dolphins and Eldon Insurance have a relationship with data scientist Dr. Domenico Mimmo Parisi, the founder and head of National Strategic Planning & Analysis Research Center’s at Mississippi State University, who recently accepted a position with the Five Star Movement, a right-wing political party in Italy.

Kyle Taylor, Director of Fair Vote UK, said: “The six major developments since the case was dismissed illustrate why the court should reconsider the dismissal.

Big Data Dolphins and Eldon Insurance have now consented to litigate the very issue they hotly contested just a few months ago. It’s important to remember this isn’t a suit claiming that they have offshore data, it is a preservation order to ensure nothing is destroyed while the relevant bodies can determine whether data protection laws were broken. If there was no misconduct, we see no reason why Eldon or Big Data Dolphins to oppose the motion.”

Click here to read the full motion.

Fair Vote UK welcomes Labour party policy adoption of key digital democracy reforms

06/02/2019 Posted by News, Press Releases 0 thoughts on “Fair Vote UK welcomes Labour party policy adoption of key digital democracy reforms”

Today Tom Watson announces Labour party proposals to rebalance the distorted digital market by establishing a new statutory regulator with powers to prevent market abuse and break up monopolies, introducing a Digital Bill of Rights and a legal Duty of Care to give more powers and protections back to consumers, particularly children and introducing Digital Democracy Guarantees – new rules to protect our democracy from subversion online.

Fair Vote UK’s white paper on digital democracy first published in April 2018 – was one of the first calls for such changes following the whistleblower allegations relating to private data taken from Facebook and misuse of private data in the EU referendum by Vote Leave. Since then, they have actively worked for legislative change that regulate social media platforms, enshrine citizens’ digital rights and fundamentally change rules to safeguard our democracy from foreign interference and disinformation online.

Kyle Taylor, Director of Fair Vote UK said:

“This is a really important first step in finally starting to tackle these serious issues facing our democracy. It has been almost a year since allegations of law-breaking and data theft emerged and more than six months since the Electoral Commission found Vote Leave guilty of breaking Electoral Law. There is an active NCA investigation into Arron Banks and Leave.EU and the ICO is also investigating further allegations of data crimes. It is obvious we need independent regulation of digital platforms and serious reforms to digital spaces so they cannot undermine our democratic institutions.

Tom Watson’s announcement today is an important first step and now the government should follow the opposition’s lead and introduce legislation to set up a new statutory regulator, enshrine digital rights into law and overhaul campaigning rules to protect our elections from foreign interference and disinformation. The evidence is clear. This shouldn’t be that difficult.”

10 reasons why a public inquiry is the only way forward

25/01/2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “10 reasons why a public inquiry is the only way forward”

Why only an inquiry will do

We urgently need to raise £35,000 to take the case for a public inquiry into the referendum campaign to the next stage – an oral permission hearing at which our lawyers make the case for permission to proceed direct to a judge and explain why the written refusal of permission was wrong.

Overnight we’ve raised £7500 in response to our urgent appeal, which is fantastic. Thank you to everyone who’s donated so far. Over the weekend we very much hope we can raise the remaining £30,000 needed to move forward at this critical stage.

Please do consider supporting us now, even if you have in the past. We believe the stakes in our case are too important to let it stall.

It’s worth keeping in mind that there are 10 powerful reasons why only a public inquiry can get to the bottom of wrongdoing in the EU Referendum and help change the law so it will never happen again:

  1. Only an inquiry could reach comprehensive, robust, independent, evidence-based conclusions about what really happened in the EU Referendum – including involvement of individuals, companies and donors abroad and exploitation of loopholes in electoral law – to ensure the truth is known, lessons are learned for the future, and public confidence is restored.
  2. Only an inquiry would allow the UK to take the lead on investigating issues of Russian interference in the EU Referendum (avoiding the lead investigation by default being Robert Mueller’s examination of the role of Russian influence in the US elections). There is no Police, National Crime Agency or any other form of investigation happening at present that can compel Russia to publicly explain its actions. The need for accountability of this kind was why an inquiry had to be ordered by Teresa May herself into Alexander Litvinenko’s killing. That happened because Marina Litvinenko won a judicial review challenging Mrs May’s refusal to establish one.
  3. Only an inquiry would be in a position make factual findings on evidence other bodies – such as the Electoral Commission and Information Commissioner – have been unable to secure because of the limits on their jurisdiction. An inquiry would allow for a form of accountability for wrongs that are not currently crimes or regulatory offences (or which may be, but cannot practically be prosecuted).
  4. Inquiries can require witness attendance, cross-examination and the production of documents. The unwillingness of individuals – like Dominic Cummings – and organisations – like Facebook- to co-operate with investigations to date can be overcome using these special investigatory powers which other bodies lack.
  5. Only an inquiry will be able to do these things publicly. There would be clear transparency benefits. As well as having a narrow focus on commission of offences, Police, National Crime Agency and Electoral investigations are inevitably be conducted in private. By contrast, an inquiry allows core participants to engage in the Inquiry and, where permitted by the Chair, to cross-examine witnesses in public and to examine documents, and for the media to report fully on the steps taken in the investigation.
  6. The process of the inquiry and action on its recommendations for changes in the law could help address the threat to democracy and restore trust and confidence in the machinery needed to guard against it, especially because of its functional independence.
  7. That functional independence could address concerns about the role of senior public figures. For instance, a number of senior politicians, including those who sat on the Vote Leave Board and/or the Vote Leave Campaign Committee. To date, only Mr Cummings has been asked about his role and he flatly refused to be questioned about it publicly (by the DCMS Committee). Only an inquiry will be able to put questions to them and require answers.
  8. An inquiry would not be starting from scratch. It would draw on the expertise of the Electoral Commissioner and Information Commissioner  and build on the evidence gathering those bodies have undertaken so far along with that of the DCMS Committee.
  9. An inquiry would be able to draw lessons from events and prevent events from re-occurring by making recommendations, including for law reform. The recommendations already made by the Electoral Commission, Information Commissioner  and DCMS Committee could be considered and endorsed if appropriate, but the main purpose of the inquiry would be to make evidence-based recommendations based on its own investigation, not to duplicate the work of others.
  10. Inquiries are powerful things. Bringing the truth to light publicly can facilitate catharsis and assist in improving and rebuilding public confidence in the integrity of democratic processes and healing divisions (including those arising from one country having interfered in the domestic affairs and democratic processed of another country). An inquiry would allow an acknowledgement of what went wrong and ensure that the record is set straight. And if information about the commission of crimes came to light as a result of an inquiry, this could be separately dealt with by the police prosecutors – as happened after the phone hacking inquiry.

Only an inquiry will do!

Where we are: our case for a public inquiry forges ahead

22/12/2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Where we are: our case for a public inquiry forges ahead”

An end-of-year note from our Director, Kyle Taylor

I wanted to update you on our legal challenge to the Prime Minister’s refusal to hold a public inquiry into irregular and unlawful conduct during the EU referendum.

Our judicial review application has been submitted and a judge will soon be considering whether to grant permission for our case to go to the next stage: a full judicial review hearing where we will get to set out our case in full.

Our legal team, including leading public law barrister, Michael Fordham QC has set out a compelling case as to why it is unlawful for the Prime Minister’s not to properly consider holding a public inquiry. The Prime Minister’s approach so far has been to evade our reasonable questions and raise procedural arguments to avoid dealing with the substance of our case.  We are confident the Court will see the force in our arguments and will allow our case to proceed so that these issues, which are of such importance to us all, can be properly argued in Court.

The Government is trying to avoid public scrutiny of the EU referendum campaign. Demand an inquiry with us now.

As the Government forges on with attempting to secure a Brexit deal amongst ever increasing gridlock and vitriol in Parliament, more voices are questioning how our democratic processes can be trusted until there is a proper investigation into the implications of the cheating and overspending which so compromised the EU Referendum.

We know that an inquiry now cannot change the referendum result but we need to show that cheating is not welcome in our democracy.  We want an inquiry to properly and publicly consider what went wrong, to identify lessons for the future and to hold those responsible to account.  Without this, what is to stop others from similarly corrupting our democratic process in the future?

Please share our call for a public inquiry into the EU referendum.

Our legal arguments are sound and we have good prospects of taking our case to the next stage.  We need you to share our case with everyone you know and keep up the fight to demand justice and fairness in our democratic processes.

More to come.

Kyle

Kyle Taylor

Director, Fair Vote UK

PS – Please share our CrowdJustice page on Facebook and twitter.

Facebook moves to make UK political ads ‘transparent’

17/10/2018 Posted by News, Press Releases 0 thoughts on “Facebook moves to make UK political ads ‘transparent’”

From today, Facebook will be rolling out a tool that will attempt to make political adverts transparent.

Following revelations brought forward by Chris Wylie, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower and Brexit whistleblower, Shahmir Sanni, Facebook has slowly introduced measures to prevent fake news and foreign intervention into elections.

Kyle Taylor, Director of Fair Vote UK, said: “Facebook didn’t really want to introduce transparency, they were well aware of these issues for quite some time. It’s a shame that the Europe has suffered three democratic processes, that we know of, to have been affected by the lack of transparency in political advertising – the Brexit referendum, the referendum on the 8th Amendment in Ireland and our recent General Election. While this is a start, self-regulation is not enough to ensure proper behaviour. This needs to be part of electoral law with adequate deterrents to guarantee these giant corporations don’t hijack our democracy again.”

Hillary Clinton joins Damian Collins and Tom Watson in calling for the public inquiry into the EU Referendum that Fair Vote UK is fighting to make a reality

09/10/2018 Posted by News, Press Releases 0 thoughts on “Hillary Clinton joins Damian Collins and Tom Watson in calling for the public inquiry into the EU Referendum that Fair Vote UK is fighting to make a reality”

Hillary Clinton has joined Damian Collins MP and Tom Watson MP in calling for an inquiry into misconduct during the Brexit referendum, saying that democracy is in crisis and that Conservative party is failing democracy.

Fair Vote UK are pursuing a judicial review claim for a public inquiry into Brexit because of rampant irregularities including illegal activity, Russian interference and data hacking.

Fair Vote UK and Bindmans LLP have sent a pre-action letter to the government raising concerns over the decision not to hold a full public inquiry, which has attracted support from Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson MP and chair of the DCMS committee Conservative MP Damian Collins

So far Fair Vote UK has raised over £30,000 to pursue the judicial review. Fair Vote UK are appealing for donations for the legal challenge through the Crowd Justice website. 100% of funds raised goes directly to the legal costs.

Kyle Taylor, Director of Fair Vote UK, said: “Hillary Clinton has joined an ever increasing chorus of voices calling for an urgent inquiry into what on earth happened during the Brexit referendum. Clinton rightly sees the failure of our Government to conduct an investigation into what happened as a total abdication of their responsibility as protectors of and believers in democracy. ”

Shahmir Sanni, the Brexit whistleblower, said: “It is astounding that the Government has thus far refused to carry out a full public inquiry into what happened during the Brexit referendum, if it hadn’t been for the evidence I brought forward we might not even know that Vote Leave broke electoral law in the pursuit of their goals. The suggestion that an inquiry is an attempt to undermine Brexit is ridiculous and to be honest, an irrelevant accusation. It is about one thing and one thing only, democracy. I urge the people of the UK who care about protecting their rights as citizens to determine the future of their country to back Fair Vote’s judicial review.”