Privatising elections, referendums and accusations of fraud and rigging
By Graham Vanbergen – Most people in the UK have no idea that the Conservative government have privatised more state assets since 2010 that all previous privatisation programmes put together. By the end of this parliament, George Osborne’s will have sold over £100 billion of Britain’s institutions to shore up the national black hole that he is unable to achieve with policy decisions. This figure does not include the enormous sale of state owned buildings and land. But if ever you wanted an example of the neoliberal ideology out of control it would be the privatisation and subsequent rigging of elections.
In January 2013, David Cameron said the British people must “have their say” on Europe as he pledged an in/out referendum if the Conservatives win the election. This was a dice rolled to save his political career that was to lead to a shameful campaign on all sides of the political sphere. It divided the nation and caused the implosion of mainstream politics that we are witnessing right now.
The BBC reported that the prime minister said he wanted to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU and then give people the “simple choice” between staying in under those new terms, or leaving the EU. Clearly, this was going to be a huge gamble but to save face with his own party and to quell an increasingly confident Ukip who were taking Tory votes – in the end Cameron capitulated.
However, politicians have resources. One of those resources was the privatisation in 2010 of the management of Britain’s election system, including counting, handling postal votes and reporting.
In November 2013 the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, was passed by the Scottish Parliament, following an agreement between the Scottish and the United Kingdom governments, and was enacted as the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013. To pass, the independence proposal required a simple majority. With some exceptions, all European Union (EU) or Commonwealth citizens resident in Scotland aged 16 or over could vote, a total of almost 4.3 million people.
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Exactly one year earlier in November 2012, it was reported that Peter Lilley MP became a director of IDOX.
IDOX plc (this from the IDOX website homepage) “is a supplier of specialist information management solutions and services to the public sector and to highly regulated asset intensive industries around the world in the wider corporate sector. IDOX got the privatisation contract for election management and counting in the UK.”
Peter Lilley’s company IDOX was given contracts across Scotland by SNP and Labour councils to quietly privatise the entire electoral process, control of postal votes and election counts across Scotland for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
By May 2013 IDOX boasted they already had control of elections and voter registration across the UK in the privatisation of all elections, an astonishing feat given the timescales involved.
Peter Lilley, not unaccustomed to controversy or political conflict of interest had previously been selected by the Conservative Party to join the House of Commons Select Committee on Climate Change. Lilley, who was at that time Vice Chairman and Senior Independent Non-Executive Director of Tethys Petroleum and had received over $400,000 in share options was seen as being unsuitable for the position because of this role and a perceived conflict of interest. Those who objected were sidelined and the position proceeded.
He was one of only three MPs to vote against the Climate Change Act. Further scrutiny came from the highlighting by Private Eye that Lilley had previously lobbied then climate change minister Ed Miliband with letters requesting the ‘cost of global warming’.
In the May 2016 election(not to be confused with the referendum) in Scotland, the Conservatives did ‘surprisingly well’ with postal votes, which were counted by Lilley’s company.
“Concerns have been raised with the Electoral Commission about the involvement with Idox of former Tory Cabinet minister Peter Lilley, who is a senior non-executive director. Idox has had a hand in providing count software, including postal vote management support, among other services, for elections since at least 2012.”
According to ‘whatthepoliticinsdontsay‘ -The contracts were awarded to ensure private control of all Scottish elections for the three year period covering the EU election, the general election, the EU referendum and the Scottish Elections which allow IDOX to control, open, count and put forward “postal” ballot papers to be put into ballot boxes right up to the 10pm deadline.
About 20 per cent of votes in Scotland are postal votes.
Despite a police investigation into allegations that postal votes had been tampered with in the Scottish independence referendum, the police did not hand over their report to prosecutors until much later September 2015, ensuring the General Election was allowed to go ahead under the full control of IDOX.
Two weeks later the Scottish Daily Record reported “No prosecutions over referendum postal vote tally, confirm prosecutors”
It should be of little surprise that objectors have questioned the rationale of awarding contracts to Idox with strong links to one political party and about the ‘creeping privatisation’ of elections that has since all but been fully privatised at lightening speed.
“Campaigners are now asking whether the debate line-up was decided based on specific pre-existing criteria or if the BBC has colluded in rigging the election by purposely including UKIP at the Greens’ expense.”
“Biased reporting by the BBC in the lead up to Scotland’s independence referendum last year was a “significant factor” in the country deciding to remain part of the Union, Alex Salmond has claimed.”
There was also concern by MP’s across the political spectrum that the EU referendum would be rigged by the MP’s themselves; “TORY ministers are “rigging” the vote on Britain’s membership of the European Union, MPs from all parties warned yesterday.”
In addition, many British Expats like myself were denied any say in the EU referendum due to missing postal votes and other strange goings-on in what is increasingly becoming seen as another scandal brewing over postal votes.
In England about 16.5 per cent of votes in the last general election were postal votes and with a referendum where the nation was clearly divided 50:50 every single vote was to count.
There might be a rationale for privatising the NHS and even a warped ideology that wants to privatise education, but privatising the elections of a country, where directors are leading, high profile politicians are the creations of a corrupt credo leading to suspicions, quite rightly so, of vote rigging.
And if you still think that the British government would not even consider conducting elections in such a toxic atmosphere as to rig them, one only has to ask why it is that the Police were called in to investigate David Cameron letters as an election fraud probe now gathers pace and that 30 Conservative MP’s are being investigated by police in the last election for electoral fraud where the Conservatives won by a majority if just 15 seats.
Even that the Government’s new anti-corruption tsar says officialdom is in denial over state of electoral fraud as he launches investigation into the voting system.
And the result to all this. The Independent reported a few days before the EU referendum that “Nearly a third of Leave voters believe Britain’s intelligence agency MI5 is in cahoots with the Government to stop Britain leaving the European Union, according to a new poll. Even 22 per cent of Labour voters think the same and only 40 per cent of all voters combined thought this was ‘probably not true’. It’s bad enough having the corridors of power inhabited with the creeping colonisation of corporate corruption but the rigging of elections is a characteristic of banana republics, not proper democracy.