Government reticence on this issue does not serve the national interest. We must get to the bottom of what took placeby Ben Bradshaw / November 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
When I first started asking questions about Russian interference in British politics last year, I think it’s fair to say that most people thought I was a bit of a crank.
It was about a year ago when the first compelling and credible reports began to emerge in the US of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. There were reports around the same time of similar Kremlin activity in European countries.
Given the uniquely destabilising impact of Brexit and President Vladimir Putin’s well publicised support for it, it would have been very odd, I thought, if the UK had not been a target too.
As a former journalist I’m curious. Having worked in former Communist East Germany and had a stint as Security Minister in the Foreign Office, I have some knowledge and experience of how the Kremlin operates. So I began asking fairly simple and innocuous questions in parliament and in correspondence with ministers about what, if anything, our government knew.
The silence was deafening. Ministerial responses from the prime minister downward were a combination of denial and obfuscation. “Nothing to see here,” they assured me. That only made me more suspicious. Why was the British government so uniquely reluctant to talk about something that politicians in America and across Europe were discussing?
At the same time, having raised my concerns publicly, I began to receive information, encouragement and suggestions of lines of inquiry. Some of the people who contacted me were clearly conspiracy theorists pushing outlandish ideas, but others were serious and experienced investigative journalists, financial investigators and people with a great deal of knowledge of the intelligence and security services. They had been working on this subject for a considerable amount of time. Some of what they suggested to me sounded farfetched. But, every step of the way since, they have been proved right.
Twelve months on, we have multiple investigations by the Electoral Commission. These include the role of Russian generated and funded social media activity in the referendum campaign. In the last month alone we’ve had a whole run of news reports which have exposed how covert Russian twitter accounts were pushing anti-EU and anti-immigrant messages in the run-up to the Brexit vote.
“Given the destabilising impact of Brexit, it would have been very odd,…