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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!