Sunday, 4 October 2015

EU Referendum: The Independent Deception

With the front page of the Independent on Sunday we see a good example of what to expect during the referendum campaign; copious FUD, fear and what can only be generously described as misleading details. On a slightly optimistic note we are being forewarned explicitly as to what Brexiteers can expect in the forthcoming campaign. Such is the poor quality of the Independent's article that it's no surprise EUReferendum is prompted to rightly criticise it.

The immediate agenda of the piece can be seen as a reaction to the start of the Conservative conference, attempting to highlight so-called divisions in the Conservatives for the newspaper's partisan reasons. Like the BBC on so many occassions- as per criticisms by its own Wilson Report - the question of how our country is governed by our membership of the EU is always reflected through the prism of Tory splits. With this in mind we can see that the wider agenda of the Independent becomes obvious.

The wider agenda comes with the usual tediousness, which eurosceptics are familiar with, that makes the same old tired arguments of the supposed fear of leaving which apparently would "threaten millions of jobs". The failing paper tries to make its case with deception,
In campaigners say this would not be so easy, claiming technical rules for EU withdrawal mean, should Britain vote for “Brexit”, the remaining 27 states would negotiate between themselves to determine the terms of the new relationship. They have warned that this would risk disadvantageous rules being “dictated” to the UK...
The procedures for EU exit are outlined in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which states: “The member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing member state shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.” 
It's disappointing, to say the least, that a national newspaper struggles to comprehend the full concept of Article 50, the realities of which has been well rehearsed here. It's interesting that the paper left out the initial part of Article 50 (4) as highlighted below in bold:
4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.
It's omission meant the Independent was able to insinuate that the UK would be excluded from EU institutions entirely upon invoking Article 50. In this context we wonder why the full paragraph was not included.

The missing sentence makes clear that paragraph four only means the UK is excluded where EU institutions are discussing the UK's exit and this is entirely logical otherwise the UK would end up negotiating with itself regarding its exit. Article 50 forces the EU to negotiate with us with both being on opposite sides of the table.

The paragraph four exclusion is entirely consistent to Article 49 where accession countries are also absent from the European Council and the Council, by virtue of not yet being EU members. The UK will still partake in EU institutions where decisions are unrelated to its exit. In addition Article 50 (3) makes explicit that EU treaties will fall after two years regardless if no negotiation is successful so no terms can be "dictated" to the UK.

We are thus tempted to conclude that this is less a newspaper's ignorant and lazy conclusion and instead a rather cynical and deliberate attempt to encourage eurosceptics to fall into territory where the argument is confined to be all about tedious irrelevant detail to the detriment of the bigger picture. Concentrating on such tedious detail will put of the electorate. Conversely we could also conclude the Independent is probably not that clever but the outcome of its article is the same.

Yet this is not entirely the Independent's fault. Significantly a great deal of failure must lie with the eurosceptic movement, particularly UKIP, who have consistently, and largely failed, to provide a credible exit plan which would comprehensively negate the legacy media's falsehoods.

In contrast Flexcit drives a coach and horse through such europhile's shallowness and lack of substance. In addition it provides the foundation for the real battle, not tedious detail, but instead a new relationship with the EU. Cameron is very likely to offer one very weak form of relationship with the EU by Associate Membership. But Flexcit is a better offer.

Our real battle is with Cameron - we have a better offer than he does, and with this we can not only completely outflank Cameron but the likes of the superficial and dishonest Independent.EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum  

Saturday, 3 October 2015

EU Referendum, Data Mining And Hong Kong

Designation for the leave campaign means receiving official funding capped at £7million, a considerable sum which allows for more than a few contracts for friends. Designation also means that a large database, called Metis, consisting of millions of the electorate's details can be constructed in a national campaign as Mr Brexit notes. This database will have a lucrative market domestically particularly with the Conservative party and "Elliott's Four" have no qualms in spelling this out.

The AV referendum appears to have been acting as a dry run. During the campaign we can see the Action Centre section of the now defunct website (via Wayback Machine), where widgets could be added to blogs, Facebook and websites. Supportive tweets could be sent directly via the website and donations could be made which required names and addresses. All this information helping to build a database of supporters. Is it a coincidence that subsequently Metis began life in 2013 covering already 500,000 people?

What's interesting is this section of the Privacy Policy on the NotoAV website, (my emphasis): 
We may provide other third parties with information about our users, where this is likely to contribute to a successful outcome in the referendum for our campaign. Where you have not indicated that you agree to such sharing we will only provide third parties with statistical information cannot be used to identify you.

We may engage a third party to help us carry out any of our activities and these third parties may be located in countries that do not provide the same level of protection as is provided in the United Kingdom. We will ensure that these third parties have an obligation to protect your information in the same way that we protect your information.
Curiously one of Matthew Elliott's other business ventures Business for Britain does not have such an explicit "overseas third party" clause.

That NotoAV did begins to make more sense when we consider that Strateusis submitted a number of invoices to the AV campaign including this one below for £7,000 providing Search and Facebook marketing services:
Strateusis is, as we have noted before, registered in Hong Kong. Providing Facebook marketing services would strongly suggest it needs access to the database being accumulated, meaning that a copy of the data would be offshored.

If so this raises further concerns. Hong Kong data protection laws "are miles away" from developments internationally particularly within the EU. The main privacy law is the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (Cap 486) (the Ordinance). But crucially Section 33 of the Ordinance which prohibits the transfer of data overseas has never been enacted, meaning there currently is no effective legal restriction on cross-border data transfers in Hong Kong (Guidance on Section 33 published by the Privacy Commissioner is voluntary and not binding).

NotoAV does try to reassure us that they "will ensure that these [offshore] third parties have an obligation to protect your information in the same way that we protect your information". But given the very suspicious way the campaign was constructed, how can we be so sure?

Friday, 2 October 2015

Business For Elliott's Friends

We have previously established that after Elliott had been awarded the No2AV campaign, he appointed his friend and business associate Jag Singh as the Director of Digital Communications. Singh then appointed Message Space - the company in which he had a financial interest - as the campaign's digital agency. As notes: 
"Message Space was paid over £65,000, which including on 5 May – days before the poll – the biggest 1-day-blitz online ad buy in UK political history. One should note that Conservative Home - then under the proprietorship of Tim Montgomerie - was a major beneficiary".
It's also worth noting that Douglas Carswell, who has had a recent spat with Arron Banks over the former's support for the Elliott campaign, is also a customer of Message Space.

In addition to the £65,000 paid to Message Space (including one invoice for £17,000) Singh then went on to pay Strateusis well over £30,000, a Hong Kong company which he is a director. One such invoice, (below) showed a considerable sum of £20,000 for the vague term of "media planning". Interesting using the Hong Kong company meant he paid no tax on the money. Invoices for Message Space and Strateusis combined amounted to nearly £100,000.
Further invoices show yet another close associate of Elliott working for him in the AV Referendum campaign. We see that Dr Lee Rotherham was paid £4,166 (below), for "work undertaken". Rotherham advises The Taxpayers' Alliance on EU matters and has written at least two books with Matthew Elliott.
It's becoming perfectly clear that Elliott is completely unfit to lead any official leave campaign. Never has he advocated leaving the EU instead arguing that we stay in with unspecified reforms. More serious is the deep suspicion that his campaigns are being constructed largely to allow close friends to award themselves contracts.

However as Richard North says "should the [Electoral Commission] decide to ignore warning signs and make the award to the establishment grouping, there is always the prospect of a judicial review in the High Court".

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

EU Referendum: Enriching Matthew Elliott and Friends...?

When we look back at the AV referendum in 2011 with Matthew Elliot who became the officially designated campaigner, the publicity antics of the "No2AV" campaign had a lot to be desired. It was a referendum which was basically un-loseable. No-one had asked for the referendum, and certainly with the option of PR removed, it was clearly only a 'little offer' by the Conservatives as a concession to coalition Deputy Leader Nick Clegg who had personally dismissed AV as a "miserable little compromise"

Thus being a referendum no-one wanted and weren't convinced completely by the alternative it had a very significant in-built status quo effect. First Past the Post is easy to explain, AV was less so.

No wonder then the "Yes! To Fairer Votes" campaign lost. Yet despite these inherent advantages the No2AV brand chose to adopt what some might call dubious tactics to try to win an un-loseable referendum, tactics which encountered much criticism:
Unsurprisingly as a consequence Elliott did not emerge at the time with much credit. Campaign posters were understandably dismissed as scaremongering, lies and inaccurate. Indeed a number of complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority regarding a number of No2AV adverts.

Observing the poster above, as an example, it's not difficult to understand why the complaints were made. The distinct impression put forward by the No2AV campaign was that either we vote against AV or the "baby gets it". In addition to the somewhat crass imagery on the poster, further concerns were expressed that the costs highlighted was less than accurate.

Blogger Sunny Hundal not unreasonably noted that the £250 million figure used was "deeply dishonest". The figure was not AV as a system but calculated "from the £150m price of electronic machines to count votes cast under the AV system, plus the £82m cost of holding the referendum and a further £20m-plus expense of publicity campaigns to explain AV if the voting system is changed". It misrepresented the cost of AV as a system once implemented.

Elliott seemingly made such a shambles of the campaign he had to essentially be bailed out by senior Conservatives in order to rescue the campaign.

But astonishingly in contrast to historical analysis he has subsequently been described as a “campaigning genius”, and by himself as the "best campaigner in a generation" a reflection possibly on his ability to play the "Westminster bubble game" rather effectively.

What's interesting is the AV referendum showed up a lack of regulatory oversight regarding referendum campaigns. Complaints over political adverts to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) are dismissed as a matter for the Electoral Commission, But the Electoral Commission considers any referendum advertising complaints as a matter for the ASA as it only deals with political parties.

This allows an unregulated grey area when it comes to online referendum advertisements, which can be exploited by any group which can refuse to reveal who is backing it and by how much.

And it's with this in mind regarding an EU referendum we note more serious concerns with Elliott who has demonstrated such overt moves to try to be designated as the official "Leave" campaigner by the Electoral Commission .

Aside from the previous sheer incompetence of his AV campaign we also note that the AV referendum campaign gives us a vivid indication of how an Elliott campaign could turn out where the result appears less than important. We worry that via close relationships between companies Elliott could use an EU referendum campaign to try to benefit himself and his friends financially.

When Elliott was designated by the Electoral Commission for the No2AV campaign, with apparently little competition for the bid from other campaigners, it becomes very interesting that Jag Singh, a shareholder in WESS Digital was appointed Director of Digital Communications of the No2AV campaign.

This would be the same Jag Singh who is the sole director of Strateusis Limited which is registered in Hong Kong and was a shareholder in WESS Digital via Strateusis Limited.

We also see that MessageSpace, co-founded by Guido Fawkes aka Paul Staines was awarded a contract by being a so-called "Digital Agency" in the 2011 AV referendum:

And interestingly Singh tweeted during the AV campaign

How strange that the biggest one day blitz regarding online advertising happened to involve MessageSpace which is a company where Singh is an investor...a man who happened to be the Digital Director of the No2AV campaign.

These have been concerns which have been expressed before. With Jag Singh a self professed digital expert the EU referendum if nothing else will allow him to establish an enormous client database which could be useful to the Conservative party who may able to use such data for political advantages reasons in the 2020 general election. A large database clearly has potential financial benefits as well as political ones:
“There is a lot of opportunity to be increasingly clever,” says Andrew Whitehurst [sole Director] of WESS, a London-based firm that runs digital campaigns for all three major UK parties. The election’s outcome could result in even more data mining. The Conservatives have promised a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the European Union – a nationwide, binary choice much closer to a presidential election, which should make US techniques easier to import. "Winning elections nowadays is not really about convincing people, it’s about mobilising people,” says Whitehurst.
Having accurate records makes campaigning three times more efficient, says Thomas Borwick, founder of Kanto Systems. “In a perfect system you have the right person knock on the right door, who has something in common with the voter, can engage them in a conversation and make sure they go to the polling station.”
Thus do we see self interest in terms of party politics at work at the expense of trying to honestly win a referendum?

Deeper concerns come about when we scrutinise the accounts submitted to the Electoral Commission regarding the AV referendum in 2011.

More to follow...

Saturday, 26 September 2015

EU Referendum: WESS Digital, Guido And Matthew Elliott

It's interesting that when we began with a simple observation about WESS Digital's potential conflict of interest regarding Matthew Elliott's involvement in applying to the Electoral Commission in anticipation of the upcoming EU Referendum, it leads to further developments upon investigation.

We note that Guido asserted in my comments in an earlier blog that he had no involvement in WESS Digital Limited since 2013, a website which has now been deleted, despite apparently going "dark" two years ago. With this in mind we quote him here:
I have had no involvement in WESS since 2013, am not a shareholder and was never a director.
In addition Robert Oxley who also commented on my blog noted:
For the record, Matthew Elliott left Wess in 2013 following the launch of Business for Britain 
Companies House, however, records something quite different and via their records we see in the WESS Digital's Annual Return of 2014 that the shareholders were apparently made up to the 26th June 2014, not 2013 as claimed.  The details are as follows (click to enlarge):
It also seems rather odd for a company which promoted its data services for the 2015 election "disabands" well before 2015 without any kind of significant turnover which we might expect from an active company - its accounts recording shareholders' funds of being just only £3,977.

It gives an indication that our earlier assertion that it was being used as a company to become part of an anticipated early EU referendum and using its funding was not without merit. In addition we can see by Companies House records that the latest Company Accounts and the Annual Return are now overdue.

We also see by the Annual Return that until very recently its address was registered at 14 Bowling Green Lane, London EC1R 0BD. This is the address which coincidentally happens to be the same address MessageSpace is registered with - a company well known as co-founded by Guido. WESS Digital's registered address of Bowling Green has been used since the establishment of WESS. It certainly puts a different perspective on Guido's comments of; "I have had no involvement in WESS since 2013".

And by the recent Annual Returns we can see that two of the shareholders in WESS are companies. One such company shareholder was Strateusis Ltd the other being Guido Fawkes' Global and General Nominees Limited (GGN) which is an offshore company based in St Kitts and Nevis which publishes Guido Fawkes' blog.

Guido Fawkes aka Paul Staines has previously described himself as only an "adviser" to GGN despite that GGN publishes his blog and that he is a director of a very similar named company Global and General Nominees (Hong Kong) Limited, registered unsurprisingly in Hong Kong.

Strateusis Limited is also registered in Hong Kong and this certainly proves to be interesting. Jag Singh describes himself as the senior partner in Strateusis and it's revealing that a majority of so-called success stories listed on his website are companies he is involved with or has invested in with connections to Guido Fawkes.

To give one such example is Youfundme Limited, listed on the website. This is a company with two directors. One director is Andrew Whitehurst who is currently (and always has been) the sole director of WESS Digital. What a surprising coincidence.

The other director of Youfundme Limited is Voter Consultancy Limited. And Voter Consultancy Ltd has only one director, Thomas Borwick. Borwick also founded "Kanto Systems", which apparently is "a political data profiling company attempting to bring UK campaigning into the 21st century". Not unlike the raison d'etre of WESS Digital.

Kanto Systems is a company where Borwick is co-director with his brother. But then we discover Borwick is also the registered owner of the website URL "" domain with his address on whoislookup being given as as 55 Tufton Street, London SW1P 3QL.

As Richard North, of notes 55 Tufton Street is the home of Business for Britain limited, a company which is currently listed with Companies House as "dormant". Of course any dormant company which carries on trading has the potential of attracting the interest of HMRC.

Interestingly Borwick gives his e-mail as The URL "no.campaign" domain, listed here, is a domain which is registered to one Matthew Elliott. It has an address given as Albert Embankment SE1 7XQ, which funnily enough is now WESS Digital's new registered address since the 15th September 2015 as per recent documents listed with Companies House.

With this we can see clearly links between Jag Singh, Paul Staines, Matthew Elliott, Andrew Whitehurst and Thomas Borwick.

Should Elliott win the Electoral Commission's official designation, one wonders where the service contracts will be going...

More to follow...

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

EU Referendum And Bamboo Shoots

"The crowd are on their feet, they're trying to roar him home..."
The above quote is taken from the increasingly enthusiastic BBC's commentary during Mo Farah's final lap when winning the men's 5,000m in 2012 London Olympics. It illustrates neatly the importance of the impact of momentum. Athletics, like all sports, deploys tactics where often patience is a virtue and how to win depends on an acute awareness of when to strike for maximum effectiveness. Farah has shown himself to be a master of this, as we can see here:
Farah was content to sit at the back, going wide to pick up a drink of water from the feeding stations on the back straight early on and dump it over his head.
Only with seven laps to go did he move up through the field, cruising into second behind Ethiopia's Imane Merga before easing to the front with 1,600 metres to go.
With this in mind, a recent campaigner I'm in touch with noted a similar observations regarding Brexit:
The referendum has not even been called and by ...closing ears to other arguments at this early stage can [we] establish sufficient momentum to win?
This in a sense means a referendum is rather like sport; the cruel clarity means we either win or we don't. There's no middle way. But in another sense we also have to have momentum the closer we get to the poll.

I'm minded to reflect on the words of Frank Dick, who describes himself as an inspiring motivational speaker and has been the President of the European Athletics Coaches Association, Member of the IAAF Coaches Commission, as well as Chair (and architect) of the IAAF Academy. He observed:
Progress, however, requires a high level of patience. When I became Director of Coaching in 1979 my objective was to develop a team to challenge for the European Cup. When Great Britain won that trophy in 1989, several journalists asked what had made the difference that year - as if the achievement was just some thing that had suddenly happened. I suggested that it was something like growing Chinese bamboo.
You plant the bamboo and make sure it has all the right nutrients, water and amount of sunlight.  Nothing happens in the first year, nor in the second year, nor the third. In fact, you do not even get a single green shoot in the fourth year.  In the fifth, over a period of six weeks, it grows 30 metres! I do not think that my knowledge of Chinese horticulture impressed the journalists, but the point was made.
Success is not achieved by chance; it is necessary to work hard and allow time for development.  With a refined style of leadership which relies on constant evaluation and support, athletics will continue to grow and prosper.
In essence he asked the question did the bamboo grow 30 metres in six weeks or did it grow 30 metres in five years.

Hurrying off the starting blocks with no sense of strategy and momentum will get us nowhere.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Cameron's Only EU Option? The Doggy Bag.

Cameron has clearly misjudged the consequences of his EU referendum promise to the extent he has now changed strategy at least three times, largely on the whim of the EU telling him what to do. Thus we do wonder whether he knows what he's let himself in for.

Cameron simply cannot negotiate and agree a new EU treaty by his own deadline - by 2017. The EU works by its own timetable. All Cameron can do is to promise "jam tomorrow". It will be a promise based on so-called trust - and with "cast iron" - we are fully aware of how that works out.

His only option is to attempt to pass off Associate Membership as a new relationship, one which is suggested in a forthcoming EU treaty - embedded in the Fundamental Law draft treaty since at least 2013 - as a "new relationship for the UK". But that is only a doggy bag rather than the full menu which is available via presiding on international bodies as an independent country.
International bodies which largely determine Single Market rules.

Associate Membership then does nothing more than put countries in a position to argue they are reluctant to accept "ever closer union" while pretending they don't. The EU to its credit has never made the concept of "ever closer union" clearer.

And like 1975 we will have an attempt at the "reform nonsense" in direct contradiction of EU international treaties. Thus Cameron will leave us in "doggy bag" territory. Unable to deliver proper reforms the UK will merely pick up the leftovers at the behest of our EU masters. Cameron's constantly changing strategy in the face of EU objections makes it perfectly clear where the real power lies.

Here we can see that during a referendum campaign while Cameron will try to promise a better relationship with the EU, the Eurosceptics have a much better offer.

Unlike 1975 we have a substantially better vision of a new relationship with the EU, which will be outside "ever closer union". The mechanism with which we achieve that is to leave with Article 50.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Birmingham New Street

In the spirit of the revamp of King's Cross station in London two years ago where the ghastly, dreary and unwelcoming 1970's frontage was removed, we see that Birmingham New Street has had a significant redevelopment.

It appears we see some resemblance of a resurgence of the spirit of the Victorians where stations were seen as temples. Here with Birmingham New Street being opened today we now see natural light allowed into the interior for the first time since the city centre station was redeveloped in the 1960s.

If nothing else it has to be better than the horrible, disastrous, dark and unwelcoming station that was the 1960s abomination...

Hopefully this is another example of some mistakes of history trying to be rectified.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Guido Fawkes And Matthew Elliott: Curiouser and Curiouser

The above screenshot is from the site WESS Digital from 2013 (via WayBack Machine) - a website which has now been taken down - which clearly has Matthew Elliott describing himself as a non-Executive Director of WESS Digital Ltd.

Elliott's profile on WESS notes:
As well as being a non-executive director of Wess, Matthew is currently setting up a new campaign group which will launch in Spring 2013.
Elsewhere he has been described as being on the board of WESS.

It becomes interesting therefore that Companies House appears not to have any record of Elliott's capacity as a non-Executive Director from any of the six documents listed on the site since the company's incorporation on 22nd of October 2012. According to their records he has never been a non-executive director.

Both executive and non-executive directors are subject to the same responsibilities’ and liabilities and such a position of non-executive director has to be notified to Companies House via an AP01 form:
This Companies House form AP01 – Appointment of Director should be used to register the appointment of either a non-executive director or an alternate director with Companies House. Where an alternate is treated as a director for the purposes of the Companies Act 2006, Companies House requires form AP01 to be completed and returned to them. Form AP01 is the form used to appoint a director generally.

A non-executive director, like any other director of a company will require his/her appointment and details notified to Companies House.
We have to wonder therefore whether this is an oversight on WESS' website behalf or Companies House. It begs the question, assuming that Companies House records regarding WESS have been correct over a number of years, whether Elliott has acted as a non-executive Director without notifying Companies House, or has he been advertising himself publicly as being in a position without official merit?

With this in mind we note Robert Oakly's comment on our previous post:
For the record, Matthew Elliott left Wess in 2013 following the launch of Business for Britain and he does not hold any shares in the company nor have any legal relationship with it. Clearly, there was a mistake that Matthew's name remained on the website.
Yet not only has Elliott never had a legal relationship according to Company House records, it's interesting that even after the launch of Business for Britain, the WESS was edited to record Elliot's BfB's position without removing the "mistake" in Oakly's words, an alleged "mistake" which remained until at least 17th August 2015 and then the WESS website was subsequently pulled very recently with the same wording intact:
As well as being a non-executive director of Wess, Matthew is the current Chief Executive of Business for Britain.
So the website was amended to include the fact that Elliott had become CEO of BfB but claims of an apparent legal relationship, seemingly unknown to Companies House, remained on the website right up to 15 September 2015. This from a man who wishes to run an EU referendum campaign?

More to follow...

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Guido Fawkes And Matthew Elliott: WESS Digital Website Removed.

How interesting that not long after our blog piece yesterday and a couple of Twitter exchanges WESS Digital has deleted completely its website. It's not unreasonable therefore to conclude that deletion of the website is confirmation that our criticisms of it were correct, despite Guido's poor attempt at a rebuttal. Why delete a website rather than debate?

This a website which apparently describes WESS as specialising "in building digital solutions for political parties, think tanks, campaigns and candidates." Digital solutions mean deleting websites? Which are then cached? As much a lack of understanding, we guess, of the internet as the dynamics of a EU referendum.

Yet encouragingly the deletion of a website merely enhances our observations that Guido Fawkes and Matthew Elliott have a conflict of interest and are attempting to hijack the EU referendum campaign for personal financial gain.

And of course deleting websites never removes the digital footprint - the internet doesn't work like that. There are, for example, Google "cached" options.

If ever confirmation could be made of Guido and Elliott's financial intentions, deletion of WESS's website is surely it.EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum