By Joe Harker
The Vote Leave campaign that successfully campaigned to get the UK out of the EU has been found guilty of breaking the spending rules according to the Electoral Commission. The campaign faces a possible fine after whistleblowers claimed Vote Leave used proxy youth campaigns to circumvent the spending limits.
Youth focused campaign group BeLeave received over £600,000 in funding from Vote Leave which they are accused of doing to get around the Electoral Commission spending limit of £7 million. Whistleblowers say the money went directly to a data marketing company called Aggregate IQ and never left the control of Vote Leave, therefore breaching electoral rules.
Former Vote Leave chief Matthew Elliott accused the Electoral Commission of committing a "huge breach of natural justice" by listening to "fantasists". He said: "They've listened to these, quite frankly marginal characters who came out in March, and listened to their stories, but haven't had evidence from Vote Leave side of things.
"I think it is a huge breach of natural justice that they haven't wanted to listen to our opinions and our story and we were the people running the campaign."
Anyone hoping that this might bring Brexit crashing down should prepare for disappointment. While the official campaign to leave the EU broke the law and cheated, the government seems set with continuing the Brexit process. Several cabinet MPs were prominent members of Vote Leave and whistleblower Shahmir Sanni accused 10 Downing Street of trying to discredit evidence. Whatever happens to Vote Leave the government will most likely push forward with Brexit.
However, Labour MP Steve Reed has pointed out that Vote Leave are getting off lightly by political standards. He said that if an MP had been found guilty of breaching electoral rules then they would be disqualified and the vote would be re-run. It is highly unlikely that Brexit will receive the same treatment as MPs.
openDemocracy UK accuses Vote Leave of attempting to bury bad news by manipulating the media. It is easier to bury bad news when the headlines are dominated by other concerns and it was Vote Leave who leaked the bad reports to the BBC.
This allowed Vote Leave members to get ahead of the issue and comment on the matter as the Electoral Commission could not comment on the reports before they had published it themselves. openDemocracy UK fear that Vote Leave's rule breaking will be buried beneath the World Cup and when it is mentioned the campaign members already have their side of the story out and ready to be quoted.
Rules in elections are there for a reason and rule breaking shouldn't be ignored just because you got the result you wanted. Cheating in democracy should not be ignored just because it provides a convenient result in a vote. The democratic process should be held to a higher scandal, win or lose things must be done the right way rather than the convenient way. Rules matter and breaking the rules should matter enough to warrant more than a slap on the wrist fine.