Remainer fury yesterday was fierce, on the release by the Intelligence and Security Commission of the long-awaited Russia report. The fury on show extended to members of the committee itself. It was not, however, directed at the Russians, for having attempted to interfere in the 2014 Scots referendum, but at the entire Leave side, for the result of the 2016 referendum not having been subject to Russian interference.
They excoriated the security services for not finding something that wasn't there. They wanted, I bet, to excoriate the Russians for not having interfered. But most of all they were furious that the 52% won the referendum fair and square, when for four years FBPE stars have tacitly supported suggestions that the Russians crooked the result. They failed even to find anything on Arron Banks, long the target of Russian smears. Brendan O'Neill has a piece in the Speccie hoping, I think naively, that this report will now end Russsian conspiracy whispers in relation to the referendum. I doubt it.
The report did however include one paragraph of note - but we have to read through the redactions -
One of the fundamental pillars of a free democracy, the integrity of the secret ballot, is largely safe - or it was when the committee took its evidence, and before the 2019 election.
What is safe is the process that involves stubby pencils on bits of string and collapsible hardboard voting booths, locked boxes being opened and votes counted in local town halls and sports centres. This, at least, Blair could not foul with his 'reforms'. However, I'll bet a pound to a pea that the redactions include reservations about the integrity of the postal voting system. It is this, rather than fantasies about the integrity of the 2016 referendum, that should now dominate the committee's concerns.
The 2019 general election saw the proportion of postal votes rise to 37%. At the same time, public confidence in the integrity of the postal vote process has fallen. Voters know what's going on, even if the Electoral Commission doesn't. What's extraordinary about the postal vote level in the 2019 election is that a 120-page report on the election by the Commons Research dept, a report that includes an analysis of everything from the weather on polling day to the numbers of spoiled ballots, makes not one mention of this extraordinary increase in postal votes.
Covid may mean great pressure to move to wholly postal voting, absent a vaccine. Before we acquiesce, we must be sure that the process is secure. Here is where members should turn their attention, not chasing remainer fantasies around the integrity of the 2016 referendum.
The report is also critical of the extent of Lords' interests in Russian money, and the Mail points out Peter Mandelson's shareholdings in Russian defence firm Sistema, and that he previously sat on the company's board. Peter's interests aren't just Russian, though - he's also President of both the Great Britain China Centre and the German British Forum.