Today, the Sunday Telegraph
carries the shocking news “that the Electoral Commission has already spent more than £400,000 of taxpayers’ money defending its decision to fine a pro-Brexit campaigner £20,000.
“Court papers have revealed this figure, which seems rather excessive and out of proportion for the accusation made against the campaigner, Darren Grimes – formerly of this parish – who is adamant that he is ”completely innocent” and being pursued simply for “ticking the wrong box”.
“It does raise questions as to the Commission’s motives in pursuing this case so aggressively, especially after it has already been subject to accusations of having a Remain bias”.
In fact the final bill is likely to be £436,000. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. It regulates party and election finance and sets standards for well-run elections. It’s annual budget is £16,420,000, of which staff costs are £7,752,000. The Commission is independent of government and political parties and is directly accountable to the UK Parliament through a Committee chaired by the Speaker of the House of Commons, which might explain the apparent waste of public money.
It’s Chairman Sir John Holmes spoke of his regret at the referendum result and stated “There was a panoply of Eurosceptic nonsense by Leave supporters”. Professor David Howarth, a Commissioner and former LibDem MP said “The pro-Brexit majority could be reversed by the process of Leave voters dying”.
Over half of its Board made “remain” supporting statements. Four out of ten of the election watchdog’s commissioners refused to resign after they were accused of compromising their impartiality by making apparently pro-Remain statements.