“If we allow cheating in our democratic process … What about next time?
What about the time after that? This is a breach of the law. This is cheating.
This is not some council race, or a by-election.
This is an irreversible change to the constitutional settlement of this country.”
With those words, former Cambridge Analytica research director, Chris Wylie, warned British lawmakers that the Brexit referendum had been rigged in favour of the Leave camp.
Since then further evidence has emerged that the Leave side freely and covertly broke campaign spending limits, giving them another means of skewing the results.
Echoing Wylie's take on the tainted referendum, the Irish Times' Kathy Sheridan wrote today:
What have we learned from the Brexit fiasco ? That we should take nothing for granted. That a small, well-funded band of determined, self-serving, amoral shysters can bring down a great country. That we are right to be fearful. That we should aim to do better but appreciate and loudly protect what we have. Because we now know up close what happens when a country grows complacent."Amoral shysters" such as Aaron Banks and Nigel Farage. In March of last year I took a cursory look at Mr. Banks.
In September 2013, the man who bought Brexit – Arron Banks – was in trouble.
For the past two years, financial regulators in Gibraltar had been scrutinising his insurance under-writer, Southern Rock. They had discovered it was keeping reserves far below what was needed.
This was a serious problem. Banks claimed he had already provided £40 million to plug the hole. He also told the regulator he would step down as a director, but has since been required to find an eye-watering £60 million in extra funding.
A year later, these financial worries seem to have completely evaporated. Banks had begun buying diamond mines, investing millions into chemical companies and wealth management firms, setting up loss-making political consultancies, and most famous of all – funding the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
Banks has claimed he was promoted and rose to lead his own sales team at Norwich Union – now part of Aviva. However, Aviva say they have no record of Banks ever having worked for Norwich Union. He has also claimed to have worked for Warren Buffett around this point in his career. We asked Buffett about this. He replied. "I have no memory of ever hearing of the name Arron Fraser Andrew Banks. He certainly never worked for me." Further checks across the Berkshire Hathaway group, made by Buffett’s office, yielded no evidence he had ever worked for any of his subsidiaries.Just last November, The Observer reported that Banks was under investigation by Britain's National Crime Agency for millions of pounds he pumped into the Leave campaign.
It makes a complete mockery of our democratic system that Britain will, in all likelihood, have already taken the irreversible step of leaving the EU before the results of this investigation into Banks’s alleged criminal wrongdoing are known. And it is a travesty that the Electoral Commission has, more than two years after the referendum took place, only just concluded its inquiry, which only came about as a result of Cadwalladr’s reporting in the first place.
This is not the only dark cloud hanging over the conduct of the pro-Brexit referendum campaigns. Earlier this year, the Electoral Commission found that both Vote Leave – the official Brexit campaign – and Banks’s Leave.EU broke electoral law by significantly exceeding official spending limits. Yet there has been a complete absence of consequences for those involved, including the cabinet ministers who convened and sat on the committee that oversaw Vote Leave’s campaign.
...All this should be sounding alarm bells in Westminster. Our electoral law is based not on tough regulation and enforcement but on openness, transparency and trust; it relies on people being honest and upfront, if only because any cheating will get found out, with consequences for their political careers. However, in a one-shot, high-stakes referendum campaign, there is far less to lose and it would appear that the key Brexit campaigns took advantage of that. They not only overspent, but made wildly misleading claims, for example, that leaving the EU would free up £350m in public spending every week, claims they knew they could not be held to account for.Yet it's all for naught. The AggregateIQ/Cambridge Analytica vote manipulation, the flagrant and wanton spending irregularities, the fraudulent promises of "amoral shysters" such as Banks and Farage - all these things that gave Leave the narrowest of referendum wins - none of it matters. Westminster is going to proceed as though the referendum vote wasn't rigged again and again and again.