The Remain campaign flouted Electoral Commission rules so it could overspend by up to £7.5 million during the referendum

The Remain campaign flouted Electoral Commission rules so it could overspend by up to £7.5 million during the referendum, a Guido investigation can reveal. Over the next few days Guido will be looking at how the various Remain groups coordinated their messaging, campaign plans, data, materials and donations, causing them to overspend by more than double the legal limit. Sorry Electoral Commission HQ, you’re going to have to come back early from your Christmas holidays…

The Electoral Commission rules are clear: if one campaign “coordinates [its] activity with another campaigner”, then they are “highly likely to be working together”. This definition of “working together” is important, because the Electoral Commission also says: “the lead campaign group must count all of the spending of all the campaigners it works together with towards its own limit”. Guess what… they didn’t.

Two books provide detailed accounts of a number of Remain campaigns coordinating plans and working together in the weeks leading up to the referendum. Tim Shipman’s All Out Warreveals “[Craig] Oliver led an early-morning conference call for the media teams at 6.15am. At 7.30am there was a second conference call, in which Stronger In would tell Labour In, Conservatives IN and the Liberal Democrats about their plans for the day”. This clearly counts as “coordinating” and “working together” under the Electoral Commission’s definition.

In his book Unleashing Demons, Craig Oliver somewhat ill-advisedly admits to coordination between the various Remain campaigns: “I join a 7.30 a.m. cross-party call chaired by Will Straw. It’s designed to catch up with what the In campaigns for the various political parties are doing that day. I want to get across a blunt message: this matters. We failed on immigration yesterday, hardly anyone stuck to our line that we accept it’s a problem, but Leave’s solution of trashing the economy is no way to deal with it”.

This reveals clear coordination between Remain campaigns both in terms of messaging and campaign plans for individual days. It would have allowed numerous Remain campaigns to provide a unified message on key issues, as well as adapt their individual campaign activities to complement those of other Remain campaigns. Remember the Electoral Commission rules: “the lead campaign group must count all of the spending of all the campaigners it works together with towards its own limit”…

The combined spending of The In Campaign Ltd (Britain Stronger in Europe), Conservatives IN, Labour and Liberal Democrats during the control period was £14,496,806. Given the clear evidence of coordination between these campaigns, this means that Britain Stronger in Europe looks to have breached its spending limits by up to £7,496,806, more than double the legal limit allowed under Electoral Commission rules.

There has been a lot of attention in the Remain media about alleged coordination between the various Leave campaigns, yet no focus on Remainers breaching the rules. Imagine what the Electoral Commission would have done if they discovered that Vote Leave, Leave.EU and UKIP had a daily morning call to discuss campaign plans. Guido has a lot more to come on this. Stay tuned…

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