Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The EU Referendum is in danger of being illegitimate

If a Leave vote triumphs on June 23rd it will be nothing short of a miracle. Not least because of the gross incompetency of the official Vote Leave campaign, but because, and without wishing to don any tin-foil headgear, there has been attempts to stack the deck in favour of a Remain vote every step of the way.

Firstly we had the wording of the referendum question itself, the original of which the Electoral Commission judged to unfairly favour the Remain side, forcing the government to reword it to it's current format.

Then the government attempted to amend the purdah rules in the run up to the referendum itself, allowing it to use the full force of the government machine right up until polling day. Fortunately, this too was defeated in the house of commons. Not to be outdone of course, the government circumvented this particular hurdle by financing a mailshot - at a cost of £9m to the taxpayer - before the purdah period came into force, despite previously stating that they had no intention of doing any such thing. This came on top of the funding allocated to each camp, in effect doubling the amount of public money spent on the Remain campaign. Despite it's claim to be an impartial leaflet, it was an appalling piece of propaganda, full of half-truths, omissions and outright fabrications.

Furthermore, the government has not shied away from using Whitehall and the civil service to it's advantage. Reports in February detailing how senior civil servants were being issued guidelines banning the disclosure of documents related to the referendum, to pro-Brexit ministers. Moreover, Harry Cole reported in The Sun that the government had enlisted a team of civil servants to prepare all the anti-brexit messages you've been hearing from various world leaders. Or were you under the impression that those warnings had been spontaneously given?

On top of these underhanded tactics, we've been getting increasing reports of activity that undermines the integrity of the franchise itself. The Electoral Commission has admitted that over 3000 EU nationals have wrongly been sent polling cards and postal votes, despite being ineligible to vote in the referendum. Postal voters in Bristol were issued with voting guidelines which seemed to indicate a preference for a Remain vote. Polling cards in Stoke had been found to have been dumped in a field.

This doesn't even cover Cameron's lying to parliament about his pitiful reforms or indeed the prospect of there being no informed consent for either result. The whole exercise has been conducted in extraordinarily bad faith, and whatever the result, it's safe to say that the issue will be far from settled come June 24th.

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