THE Elections Bill is another assault on democracy. In May and July 2018, the Electoral Commission reported that multiple breaches of electoral law, false declarations and covert campaign over-spending by pro-Leave groups had taken place.

Vote Leave’s members included Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, Michael Gove, Steve Baker, Liam Fox, Andrea Leadsom, Chris Grayling, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Lord Forsyth and Bernard Jenkin.

The Commission found serious breaches of the laws put in place by parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums, including evidence of illegal unreported coordination between Vote Leave and BeLeave. Vote Leave, BeLeave and Veterans for Britain, another pro-Brexit organisation, were fined.

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The commission also fined Arron Banks’s Leave.EU campaign group and referred its campaign chief, Liz Bailey, to Scotland Yard. Banks rejected the report, saying the Commission had engaged in a “politically motivated attack on Brexit” and that it was a “Blairite swamp creation packed full of remoaners.”

Why is all of this important?

Vote Leave reached its spending limit two days before the referendum took place, and by illegally continuing to campaign it more than likely meant that the legality of the vote itself is in question. It is also more than likely that the outcome of the referendum was also affected.

In December 2018, The Independent reported that Professor Philip Howard, director of the Oxford University Internet Institute, said: “My professional opinion is that it is very likely that the excessive spending by Vote Leave altered the result of the referendum. A swing of just 634,751 people would have been enough to secure victory for Remain. Given the scale of the online advertising achieved with excess spending, combined with conservative estimates on voter modelling, I estimate that Vote Leave converted the voting intentions of over 800,000 voters in the final days of the campaign as a result of the overspend.”

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In December 2018 a legal challenge against the government, brought by four expatriates, to overturn the referendum result because of overspending breaches by the Leave campaign was lost.

What has all this got to do with Westminster’s Elections Bill?

It is payback time for Gove and his Brexit cronies. Anything that gets in their way, be that the democratic institutions or even democracy itself, must either be abolished or brought under their heel. This includes the Electoral Commission that was a thorn in the side of Gove et al in 2016. They have never forgotten the fines imposed on them or being referred to Scotland Yard and the National Crime Agency.

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This egregious bill is just another nail in the coffin of our civil liberties, to be added to the Trade Union Act 2016 (condemned by the British Institute of Human Rights, Liberty and Amnesty International), the Investigatory Powers Act (2016) and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which effectively allows the police, acting under instruction from government, the power to stop any protest. The offences created by this last bill criminalise peaceful protesters.

Add to this the attacks on the Commons Select Committee on Standards and the independence of the media and the judiciary, the illegal proroguing of parliament, undermining the devolution settlement by introducing the “Brexit Freedoms” Bill and the post-Brexit Internal Market Bill.

Bur fret not. We, the people of Scotland, have a get-out-of-jail card. I give you a clue: it starts with the letter I.

Gordon Murray