Vote Leave chair: ‘We can’t prove our innocence because we destroyed the evidence’
- Credit: Archant
Former Labour MP Gisela Stuart has said the Vote Leave campaign cannot prove its innocence in an appeal about breaking electoral law - because it has destroyed all of the data.
Stuart told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that the appeal was dropped because of the costs associated with fighting its case against the Electoral Commission - and because of the difficulty proving their case.
She said: 'Our biggest problem in the end was that we destroyed all our data, and therefore some of the evidential basis which people are asking for.'
The Electoral Commission confirmed last week that Vote Leave, which was supported by senior politicians including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, had withdrawn an appeal against fines for breaches of electoral law committed during the 2016 EU referendum campaign.
The watchdog's investigation centred on a donation of almost £680,000 made by Vote Leave to BeLeave, a youth Brexit group.
You may also want to watch:
This spending took Vote Leave over its £7 million legal spending limit.
Stuart refused to apologise for breaking electoral law, blaming the 'unclear rules'. She said she believed Vote Leave had been compliant with the legal advice that they had been provided with.
- 1 These are the 322 Tory MPs who voted against extending free school meals to children
- 2 Priti Patel set to hand private firms £28 million in government contracts to deport asylum seekers from UK
- 3 Betty Boothroyd delivers scathing assessment of Boris Johnson's government
- 4 The harsh truths learned from halt in Brexit talks
- 5 Question Time: Ex-Tory minister accused of making 'sickening' comment about free schools meals row
- 6 Boris Johnson 'plans to resign' in six months because he can't live on £150k salary
- 7 Michael Gove's Brexit fantasy is leading us down a perilous path
- 8 At the upcoming US election, Donald Trump really is toast
- 9 German MEP tells Boris Johnson he 'owes' Britons a Brexit deal as she urged a return to EU trade talks
- 10 Priti Patel bullying inquiry may never be released, hints Boris Johnson's new civil service boss
She added the legislation and interpretation of the law needed rewriting.
She said: 'It was in relation of one particular donation where the Electoral Commission interpreted the rules as that being acting in concert, which we had got legal advice which said it wasn't.
'So the key question is if anybody wants a second referendum then the referendum legislation as it stands, and the way the Electoral Commission and Information Commissioner interprets them, needs rewriting.'
Pressed again if she would apologise on behalf of the campaign, Stuart said: 'At every stage we were ruled compliant according to legal advice we were given at that time.
'If money was the question, Remain spent by far more money than Leave did, the government spent more money on the campaign than we did.
'Do not say this was a question of money. This is why I say the rules should have been much clearer.
'We had a compliance committee, our legal advice was always that that was the right thing to do.
'If with hindsight the compliance, the regulators found otherwise, the regulator has the last word.'
Stuart disputed the suggestion that the referendum had been won on lies - saying that 'if this referendum had been based on a lie' opinions would have changed.
She claimed that opinions had 'hardened' since the vote - ignoring the fact that opinion polls now pointed to Remain being consistently ahead each time.
There have been calls for Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, both figureheads in the Vote Leave campaign, to address questions on the matter.
Become a Supporter
The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.