Another week and another Prime Minister Question: I chose to go on the breaking news that the Tories are ducking from the use of stolen personal data by companies to target voters in the EU referendum. I highlighted that Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary was the figurehead for the VoteLeave campaign. Michael Gove, Environment Secretary was Co-convener of the campaign body. Turns out their campaign director praised the work of one of the companies now involved in the stolen personal data issue – he said they couldn’t have won “without them”. It is therefore clear that top UK Ministers must have known about the dodgy tactics being used.
The Prime Minister seems to think this is about trying to overturn the result of the referendum. It is not...it is about finding out who has been involved in illegal activities, who is trying to thwart democracy and importantly stopping it happening again. Another whistle-blower has confirmed that an organisation, BeLeave, aimed at younger voters was registered as a completely separate political organisation. However, it shared the same offices as VoteLeave; VoteLeave managed all its so called expenses and £600,000 spend and did all its administration. In what world could this be a separate organisation that has claimed under electoral law not to have worked with the VoteLeave campaign?
Then we have £425,000 of money from a Conservative led group being transferred to the DUP in Northern Ireland. We don’t know how all this money was spent but we do know it was spent supporting the campaign in the UK. Another clear dodge to get round spending limits. People may not be aware but donors to parties in Northern Ireland have been allowed to remain secret due to the historical troubles. The theory being that donors could then be targeted. The Electoral Commission said this is outdated and recommended a retrospective date of 2014 to be used for full declarations of donors and spending by parties in Northern Ireland. The Tory Government refused to abide by this and instead chose a date of 2017, meaning no requirement for the DUP to give full details of their 2016 £425,000 spend. I am clearly biased in my politics, but I defy anybody not to say this stinks to high heaven and is worrying when politicians and parties think they can behave how they want.
And to cap it all off, the Prime Minister’s personal secretary attacked one of the whistle-blowers by outing him as gay. Did the Prime Minster take responsibility? No. She said it was a personal statement and nothing to do with her. Eh, the personal statement was from an official government email. I genuinely despair at the so called leadership of the UK.
Ayrshire Growth Deal
I was glad the UK Government made a positive announcement on the £350m Ayrshire Growth Deal. However, a pledge to “open talks” is hardly earth shattering. Rest assured along with fellow Ayrshire MPs I will continue to push them on timescales and money. Of course the work done by Willie Coffey MSP and his colleagues have already secured the support of the Scottish Government.
These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard.