Today the long anticipated publication of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s ‘Russia Report’ has revealed a dangerous culture of inaction at the top of the British state.
Despite mounting evidence of Russian interference in the UK’s democratic process over half a decade (including during the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, the EU referendum of 2016 and the general election of 2017), our Government has never conducted risk assessments of Russian-based or any foreign interference threat after the above mentioned events.
Stewart Hosie MP, a member of the Committee, was particularly critical of successive UK Governments at the launch of the report, accusing ministers of ‘actively avoiding’ this issue.
The wide-ranging report concluded that Moscow makes a concerted effort to disrupt UK democracy, with online disinformation campaigns a central part of the strategy. It is unclear at our end which organisation is responsible for dealing with this threat.
The report also called for social media companies to do more to remove ‘covert hostile state material’ from their platforms and encouraged the UK Government to name and shame those that do not. It also highlighted the fact the Electoral Commission and other relevant agencies currently lack the ‘weight and access’ to tackle this problem.
The uncomfortable and oft-underreported fact that the UK – and London in particular – has become a hotbed of Russian money laundering and corruption was also a headline conclusion of the report.
It is shocking that, in the face of such all-encompassing problems, our Government has done next to nothing about the Russian challenge.
It is indicative of a larger threat to our democracy: inaction driven by a perceived short-term benefit.
Under-resourcing and under-valuing of the institutions central to our democracy is now an endemic problem in this country. We have to start protecting and emboldening our democratic institutions. They are not invulnerable. They will wither on the vine if not continuously supported.
Fair Vote UK have been focussed on this problem for years. Our report – Defending Our Democracy in the Digital Age – called for many of the reforms that the ISC’s Inquiry have now re-highlighted.
Next week Fair Vote UK will be submitting to yet another inquiry being conducted by the influential Committee on Standards in Public Life.
Really, another inquiry? After half a decade since major flaws in our electoral system were most recently exposed it seems pretty clear we’ve thoroughly inquired.
We need our elected representatives to do something about it. Now is the time to take action.