Evidence given to Commons fake news investigation shows Vote Leave ran BeLeave adverts

Evidence given to Commons fake news investigation shows Vote Leave ran BeLeave adverts

One of the BeLeave adverts submitted to the fake news investigation

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee published images today of adverts run by marketing firm Aggregate IQ on behalf of Vote Leave.

Screen grabs of adverts were submitted by Facebook to the Committee as part of an investigation into fake news. 

As well as Vote Leave adverts, the screenshots show BeLeave and Brexit Central adverts.

Vote Leave has been fined by the Electoral Commission for breaking electoral law after it failed to declare a donation of £657,000 to BeLeave.

The money was spent on the marketing services of Aggregate IQ, and brought Vote Leave over its £7 million spending limit.

Committee chair Damian Collins tweeted a link to the dossier of evidence, which shows adverts with the BeLeave logo and contains data on how long the ads ran for, and the demographics they reached by age, gender and location.

Vote Leave was fined £61,000 and its official David Halsall was reported to the police as a result of the Electoral Commission’s investigation.

Vote Leave called the findings “wholly inaccurate”.

Darren Grimes, founder of BeLeave, was fined £20,000 and also reported to police. He accused the Commission of being “biased” and is currently crowdfunding to appeal its verdict.

An Electoral Commission spokesman said: "The laws we enforce were put in place by Parliament to provide voters with transparency and confidence in the system. We conducted a thorough and fair investigation and found that the law had been broken and have applied our sanctions accordingly.

Shahmir Sanni, the whistleblower who first raised concerns over misappropriation of funds between Vote Leave and BeLeave, has criticised supporters of Mr Grimes, including pro-Brexit MP Priti Patel and free market think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).

Mr Sanni used to work for the Vote Leave campaign and his claims were first published in the Observer.

Patel has tweeted her support for the crowdfunder, as has fellow Brexiteer Lucy Allan MP, while the IEA employs Mr Grimes as its digital manager.

talkRADIO has contacted Allan and Patel for comment.

Mr Sanni is running his own crowdfunding campaign, which currently sits at £45,063, to bring legal action against 10 Downing Street and his former employer, the TaxPayer’s Alliance.

“Before the information I wanted to share reached the public domain the Prime Minister's office issued a statement which revealed my sexuality. That statement was sent by No. 10 to the media. What followed was one of the most awful weekends in my life. No. 10 had outed me as being gay,” he wrote on the campaign page.

He began the campaign in April and in June he brought a case against the TaxPayer’s Alliance.

“My Tribunal claim is that they sacked me for speaking up about the illegality at Vote Leave, and then continued to vilify me in the media to try to distract from what I was saying,” he wrote.

The TaxPayer's Alliance confirmed to talkRADIO that official proceedings have started and said: "The TaxPayers' Alliance is aware that a claim has been lodged by Mr Sanni at the employment tribunal.

"Given that we are now involved in a formal legal process it is not appropriate for us to make any further comment, save that our position is that The TaxPayers' Alliance acted at all times in a fair and correct manner and we reject (and will be defending) the claims Mr Sanni has made.

"No further comment will be made at this time."