New Speaker, Tory Lies

Lindsay Hoyle is dragged to the Speaker's ChairSir Lindsay Hoyle is the new Speaker of the House.

Technically speaking this was more of a coffin than a Ko-Fi day – I picked up a cold at work, and have been having a miserable weekend. I hope you all had a great time, whatever you were doing.

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiI wouldn’t have taken the time off to watch the Speaker’s Election, because I was aware a lot of the time is spent with the camera offline while Kenneth Clarke and a couple of helpers count the votes.

(The Father of the House when John Bercow was elected, in 2009, was Alan Williams, who died in 2014: he was the Labour MP for Swansea West til he stood down for the 2010 general election, just as Kenneth Clarke is standing down tomorrow.)

Lindsay Hoyle was the Labour MP for Chorley since 1997 – he is now, by Commons tradition, the independent MP for Chorley til he resigns as Speaker. He was one of Bercow’s two Deputy Speakers since June 2010, so he does have long experience of how to do the job. Most people who expressed views appeared to feel he would be a good Speaker, though without Bercow’s ready willingness to challenge the government. He was the first Deputy Speaker to be elected by the Commons rather than appointed by the Leader of the House, and he was ahead in the voting at every interminable round of balloting. He was in the Speaker’s Chair when the terrorist attack on Whitehall took place on 22nd March 2017.

The last day of debate in the Commons is tomorrow: Parliament dissolves a minute after midnight Wednesday morning, and Civil Service purdah starts at the same time.

Nigel Farage is still threatening the Conservatives with up to six hundred The Brexit Party Ltd candidates, and we won’t know whether or not he intends to follow through until after 4pm Thursday 14th November – in fact we may not know for sure until Saturday 16th November when the lists are published. So, I’m not going to attempt any analysis of how the Brexit Party vote might affect this election until we actually know how many deposits Farage is thinking of paying out. (He charged about 3000 people £100 each via The Brexit Party Ltd website to be “considered” as PPC for the 2019 election, but there’s no indication any of them will actually get to stand – the prospective candidates we know about it are all Farage’s usual crowd.)

Key things we do need to think about:

Boris Johnson has refused to release the Intelligence Committee’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 referendum. We won’t now get to read it til after Parliament sits again.

Facebook has confirmed that political adverts on Facebook with regard to the UK general election can be complete lies.

Boris Johnson has hired Sean Topham and Ben Guerin, former contractors for CTF Partners, which specialises in unbranded online disinformation campaigns, to run the Conservative election campaign.

As you already should know, the Electoral Commission last year ruled that Vote Leave had broken electoral law by overspending during the 2016 referendum, and it’s been revealed via correspondence provided to the Commons committee investigating, that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were both aware of their campaign’s criminal overspending.

After 16 months of investigating Vote Leave, the Metropolitan Police passed a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service in October for “Early Investigative Advice” – legal advice from CPS about where the police need to provide further evidence for charges to be brought. None of this will come out now until after the general election.

Boris Johnson has got to win a majority. If he doesn’t, he will be politely invited to quit before he’s fired.

If Johnson wins a majority – even if by as few as 5 seats – he is secure as Prime Minister until or unless the Jennifer Arcuri scandal catches up with him or unless the Crown Prosecution Service decides the evidence against him is so compelling that they cannot evade their responsibility to prosecute. Which they will, if he’s PM, if they have the slightest excuse. That’s British institutions for you.

But, if Johnson fails to win a majority, even if the Conservatives remain the largest single party in Parliament, I think his political career is done for. He was elected leader for two big promises: he could deliver Brexit (and he can’t): and he would win a Tory majority in the next general election.

If Johnson wins a majority, he can deliver Brexit, even though much later than 31st October. But Johnson’s Brexit deal is no-deal Brexit on 31st December 2020 with no option to renew the transition period or, at that point, to revoke Article 50. (Even if he wins a majority, he may *still* not have a majority for no-deal Brexit, especially after the Intelligence Committee report is published.)

Another Tory PM might be able to negotiate allies from the LibDems or the DUP – Boris Johnson can’t.

If Johnson fails both – no majority, no Brexit – he will lose the support of MPs and he will be gone.

So, whatever else we can be sure of:

The Conservatives will run a disinformation campaign to get their candidates elected. They will attack LibDem in seats which are Tory/LD marginals, Labour in Tory/Lab marginals, Corbyn and Swinson everywhere, Labour and the SNP in Scottish three-way marginals.

A lot of their campaign material may be unlawfully not tagged as Conservative campaign material.

Report it. All party political ads in an election must be clearly tagged as from the party that’s paying for them. If you think this is a party political ad for the Tories that’s not marked as such, that’s a criminal offence, report it. (To the police, if it’s on Facebook: Facebook won’t care.)

[Update: A correction I’m happy to make – if you see a political ad on Facebook marked “Sponsored” but without indication of who has paid for it, you can report it to Facebook and FB will remove it from the site. But, even if such ads are removed, they are still a criminal offence, and if you have the time/energy to do so – also document them and report them to the police.]

Do not share or repeat damaging material about any party or candidate unless you know for sure where it came from and that of your own knowledge it’s factual. Do not take part in Conservative misinformation campaigns against the LibDems or Labour or the SNP.

If you can, refute false stories as you become aware of them. Even if the false stories seem to be damaging a party you’d rather not win or a party leader you’re against – whether this is about attacking Corbyn or Swinson or Sturgeon, Labour or LibDems or SNP, if it’s a Tory lie refute it, don’t spread it.

I feel like I’m spitting into the wind when I say this. A lie can go round the world before truth has got her boots on. But whatever else we know about the upcoming election campaign: Johnson will be desperate to win, and the Conservatives will tell lies like it was 2016 again, because the same three men are running the Tory campaign who ran the Vote Leave campaign. They know they’re being investigated by they police, they know the evidence against them from 2016 is with CPS, and they know if they lose, everything falls down around them, but if they win, they still have a chance.

They’ve got to lose.

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