By Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and Rector (i.e. president) of the University of Dundee. Craigmurray.org.uk.
It is hard to think of bigger news than that the Electoral Commission is taking the governing party to court over alleged fraud in its election accounts, with possible disqualifications that could cost the government its majority. Yet the issue has received remarkably little coverage apart from the very dogged work of Channel 4 News. Why is that?
There are a number of reasons. The first is that the media has a major pro-Tory bias and minimises bad news for the Tories as a matter of course. The most remarkable example of this is the continual playing down of divisions within the Conservative Party over Europe, which run to extreme levels of personal hatred and abuse. But you do not see that hatred and abuse reflected, whereas divisions within the Labour Party are reported daily in extreme detail.
If you doubt what I say, consider the fact that it is quite openly acknowledged that, under pressure from No.10, the media are organising the televised debates for the EU referendum so that Conservatives are never seen to be debating each other. That is the most extraordinary piece of media connivance, and even entails the media excluding the official Leave campaign from at least one national debate. What is deeply worrying is that the UK has become a country where nobody is surprised or concerned at this kind of blatant state propaganda manipulation.
Which leads me to the second reason for lack of mainstream prominence for the Tory electoral fraud. The entire political class realise that they are now floating atop a sea of massive popular resentment. There is a wariness of further laying bare the corruption of the system, and darkening the public mood still more. The Establishment wants the EU referendum to go through as smoothly as possible, with people voting how their betters instruct them; it is no time for Establishment dirty linen to be laundered in public. So they pretend that absolutely nothing is happening:
The Guardian briefly ran a story on the front page of their website – it was there only a few hours – explaining that legal restrictions made it impossible for them to publish. This is untrue, particularly when so much has been published by Channel 4. The Guardian also connived to make it appear that the only expenses in question were the costs of a bus. It is very much more than that.
The Ramsgate angle caught my eye because I used to live there, not far from the Royal Harbour Hotel which the Conservatives rented out for £14,000 to house activists bussed in to support their local candidate. You leave the money for your drinks in the Royal Harbour on the counter, it has an honesty bar – evidently as a door policy. The Conservatives did not declare this spending, which would have put their candidate far over his constituency spending limit. Having been rumbled, they claim it was a part of national spending.
I stood as an independent anti-war candidate against Jack Straw in Blackburn in 2005. One of the very many ways the system is fixed against independent candidates, is that while I had to keep spending within very tight limits, all the major commercial billboards in the city were plastered with massive “Vote Labour” posters. This did not count against Straw’s expenses because it was part of a national poster campaign, and his name did not appear on those huge billboards.
But there is a very definite difference between that, and the cost of bringing in workers who were actively canvassing and leafleting for a named candidate in the constituency. This must be constituency spending or the term is meaningless. There is no doubt that at least 14 Tory MPs whose campaigns ran this massive overspending (and that one undeclared hotel bill alone made the total overshoot the limit by 50%) ought to be disqualified.
But they will not be. The other reason that this has not been more of a story, is that everyone in the metropolitan political and media bubble knows that nobody will be disqualified. Because we only live in the illusion of a democracy, and threats to the Establishment are gently put to sleep.
When I stood against Jack Straw, he held specifically targeted “Muslims for Labour” rallies during the election campaign at which all the voters who came were given free food and drink. That is a specific criminal offence known as “Treating”. Jack Straw was foreign secretary at the time, and not only were the police aware of the treating, they were actually both inside the hall and guarding it from protestors outside.
In an effort to have the law of the land enforced, I gathered a number of sworn affidavits from voters who had been present, and gave them to the Police with my own sworn complaint. Here is one example of the affidavits:
“I,,,,, OF ,,,,,,, BLACKBURN DO HEREBY AFFIRM AS FOLLOWS:
1, I attended an event in Audley yesterday on Sunday 25 April 2010 at Jan’s Conference Centre in Blackburn.
2. I heard that Mohammad Sarwar MP and the ex Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Sultan Mahmood were going to be present.
3. I can confirm that the people on the stage were Mohammed Sarwar MP, Barrister Sultan Mahmood, Jack Straw MP, the ex Mayor Salas Kiyani, Lord Adam Patel and others.
4. They all gave speeches to support and ask us to vote for Jack Straw in the MP elections.
5. We were given free food consisting of roti, meat curry, sweet rice and coke.
I CONFIRM THAT THE CONTENTS OF THIS AFFADAVIT ARE TRUE AND TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE AND BELIEF
Affirmed this 26th day of April 2010
By the within named …… at
BLACKBURN in the County of Lancashire
Solicitor and Commissioner for Oaths”
This is the provision of the 1983 Representation of the People Act
114.-(1) A person shall be guilty of a corrupt practice if he .
is guilty of treating.
(2) A person shall be guilty of treating if he corruptly, by
himself or by any other person, either before, during or after an
election, directly or indirectly gives or provides, or pays wholly
or in part the expense of giving or providing, any meat, drink,
entertainment or provision to or for any person-
(a) for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or
any other person to vote or refrain from voting ; or
(b) on account of that person or any other person having
voted or refrained from voting, or being about to vote
or refrain from voting.
(3) Every elector or his proxy who corruptly accepts or takes
any such meat, drink, entertainment or provision shall also be
guilty of treating.
Blackburn police were obliged to investigate my complaint, and after interviewing witnesses a file was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service. I was told by Blackburn Police that the CPS had decided not to prosecute because it was an “old law”. While it is true that, like murder, it is an old offence, the crime had been included in the 1983 Representation of the People Act. I have no doubt whatsoever that Jack Straw was guilty of treating, ought to have been convicted, and was corruptly protected by the Crown Prosecution Service. Needless to say, the Director of Public Prosecutions at the time is now in the House of Lords. That folks is how the UK works.
The truth is that in this country, electoral law is not enforced against those in power. That is why there is not much publicity around the Tory electoral fraud in at least 14 of their constituencies. It will be made quietly to go away.