Yesterday we learned that the government has refused the publication of a report that examines Russian meddling in UK politics, including attempts to interfere in the 2016 EU referendum. The government gave a process excuse – that it needed more time to assess publication – as its flimsy reason for refusal. The result is that we will now have a General Election without a full understanding of the extent to which WE ALREADY KNOW a hostile foreign actor possibly infiltrated important recent democratic events. The investigation is done. The report is written. We are now knowingly calling an Election when new information exists on possible threats to its legitimacy. As a result, the Security Committee, which commissioned the report, will now be unable to use it as evidence for recommendations for greater safeguards for the upcoming Election.
Without real legislative change, we will be further exposing ourselves to risk from foreign interference in our elections. The elections laws in the UK have not been updated since 2001. Since that time, an enormous amount has changed, from the rise of social media and online campaigning to the deterioration of relations between the West and Russia. We already have substantial proof from the DCMS’s report on fake news to the APPG on Electoral Campaigning Transparency’s evidence in 2019 that our current laws are not fit for purpose. This report would likely reinforce this evidence and demonstrate the need for change. But the government has decided to silence the truth. We should not accept such negligence.
Safeguarding elections will remain urgent until politicians pass the right kind of reform. In January next year, the report on Electoral Campaigning Transparency will be published. Fair Vote UK will be working hard to ensure that the new government will enact its recommendations in full. Keep watching our Facebook, Twitter and this Blog for more information on how you can help to pressure decision makers to keep this high on their agenda. Together, we can make the difference that will help to re-establish trust in elections and our democracy.