Referendum: voting problems won’t go away for Ukip and social media use

“Ukip is to face a tribunal over its use of analytics during the EU referendum after refusing to cooperate with an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The ICO announced a formal investigation into how political parties use data analytics to target voters in response to concern about how social media was used during the referendum.

“We are concerned about invisible processing – the ‘behind the scenes’ algorithms, analysis, data matching, profiling that involves people’s personal information. When the purpose for using these techniques is related to the democratic process, the case for a high standard of transparency is very strong,” said Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, in an update on the ICO’s website.

Denham said more than 30 organisations, including AggregateIQ, a little-known Canadian firm that received millions of pounds from the leave campaign, were under scrutiny. While some were co-operating, she said, “others are making it difficult”.

She said that the ICO had issued four information notices, formally ordering organisations to disclose information, “including one to Ukip, who have now appealed our notice to the information rights tribunal”.

Separately the Electoral commission is investigating whether Vote Leave, the lead campaign for the leave vote in the referendum, broke spending laws by coordinating spending with other campaign groups.

A Ukip spokesman said the party was prepared to cooperate with the ICO, and was only appealing against a threat of criminal sanctions. “We’re perfectly happy to deal with them, but not under the threat,” he said.”

“Electoral Commission launches inquiry into leave campaign funding”

”Watchdog has ‘reasonable grounds to suspect offence was committed’ by Vote Leave, a student campaigner and another Eurosceptic group.

The watchdog will investigate whether Vote Leave, which was the officially designated Brexit campaign during the referendum, broke campaign finance rules.

Bob Posner, the commission’s director of political finance and regulation, said there were legitimate questions over the funding of campaigners which “risks causing harm to voters’ confidence in the referendum”.

The campaign, run by political strategist Matthew Elliott and former special adviser Dominic Cummings, will be investigated alongside Veterans for Britain and student activist Darren Grimes, now the deputy editor of the Brexit Central website, where Elliott is now editor-at-large.

The investigation has been opened after a review of previous assessments that the Electoral Commission conducted in February and March 2017, where it initially decided no further action was needed.

The commission said new information had since come to light which meant it had “reasonable grounds to suspect an offence may have been committed”.

Grimes and Veterans for Britain will be investigated as to whether he delivered an incorrect spending return in relation to a donation they received from Vote Leave and related campaign spending.

Vote Leave’s spending return will also be investigated, as well as whether the campaign breached its spending limit.

“There is significant public interest in being satisfied that the facts are known about Vote Leave’s spending on the campaign, particularly as it was a lead campaigner with a greater spending limit than any other campaigners on the ‘leave’ side,” Posner said.”

Voting processes need tightening (and scrutiny) urgently

Why shouldn’t our council’s Scrutiny Committee check in its Electoral and Returning Officer’s procedures – even if the Monitoring Officer doesn’t like the idea because it MIGHT be considered political (by him)? A clean bill of health would reassure voters surely?

“The list of Brexit campaigners done for breaking the rules is getting lengthy.

Following the record £12,000 fine for breaches of spending rules, the pair of £1,000 fines for other offences, the company fined £50,000 for illegal text messages and the 11 anti-EU campaign groups struck off for breaking referendum rules, there’s now another £1,500 fine on a different Brexit campaigner:

The Electoral Commission has fined Mr Henry Meakin, a registered campaigner in the EU referendum, £1,500 for failing to submit his spending return on time. It is an offence not to deliver a spending return by the due date.

Though Mr Meakin reported spending of £37,000 in the campaign, the return was received more than 5 months late.”

Nominative determinism and 22 MEPs who need to resign

How ironic (as Owl is sure many people will point out) that
the UKIP MEP who allegedly got into an altercation with another UKIP MEP (Stephen Woolfe tipped as yet another potential leader) is called Mike Hookem!

But also how shocking that these people – who have got what they want and despise the EU – should still be around the European Parliament, sponging off it.

On his website, Hookem says that he joined the party because he was committed to showing his constituents “what a corrupt and dictatorial system the European Union is and how many of the decisions taken by faceless, unelected bureaucrats, directly affect them”. As far as we know he has not complained about being paid by them.

Our UKIP MEP is William, Earl of Dartmouth, hardly short of a bob or two.

There are TWENTY TWO of them costing us millions of pounds a year which could better go to our NHS! AND their salaries have gone up 15% as they are paid in EUROS!

(Nominative determinism is the theory that a person’s name has some influence over what they do with their life).

Brexit: a desire to return to the old certainties of Budleigh Salterton!

A european academic writes:

“Last week’s referendum, in which middle-aged and elderly British citizens with a noticeably shaky grasp of economics, international affairs and foreign languages voted in large numbers for the UK to leave the European Union, represents a Quixotic collective impulse to return to the security and timeless certainties of Budleigh Salterton.

Britain, or at least the 52 per cent of voters who endorsed the call to quit the EU, is demanding a halt to the relentless march of modernity with its multiculturalism, its immigrants from Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, its Jihadi terrorists and its Brussels-based bureaucrats and politicians who have had the temerity to legislate for Englishmen and -women.”

Neil Parish does the Brexit hokey-cokey


He was one of 79 Tory MPs who voted with the opposition to force the EU referendum.

He then backed – vociferously – Remain,

Now he backs Brexiter Andrea Leadsom.

Hugo Swire has not yet declared. Might he also back a Brexiter?

Well, you have to be flexible in the Parliamentary jobs market.

Parliament: new inquiry into implications of leaving the EU announced today

“In the light of the outcome of the referendum on EU membership, the Foreign Affairs Committee is launching a rolling inquiry into the Government’s handling of the process of departing the EU and the ongoing implications of the decision for the UK’s role in the world. This will build on the findings of the Committee’s report, published in April 2016, outlining both the short- and long-term implications of the vote for the UK’s global role.

Inquiry: Implications of leaving the EU for the UK’s role in the world
Foreign Affairs Committee

Terms of reference

The Committee welcomes written submissions which address in particular:

The type of relationship that the UK, its Crown Dependencies and its Overseas Territories should seek to pursue with the EU in future
The implications of the decision for the UK’s strategic orientation, global posture, alliances and international trade.

The Government’s management of negotiations to determine the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU, including their political direction and the structures and resources to be put in place to orchestrate the transition.

The work of the FCO in the transition process, both in negotiations with the EU and in managing the UK’s broader global role including trade agreements

Because of the rapidly changing situation and the rolling nature of this inquiry, no deadline is being set for written submissions. However, submissions received by 30 September will inform the Committee’s work in October.”

EDDC, DCC, LEP – tell us how Brexit will ( or will not ) affect us

Owl eagerly awaits the pronouncements of:

Paul Diviani – EDDC
John Hart – Devon County Council
Chris Garcia – Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership

on how leaving the EU will affect our locality, their plans and their budgets.

You did all have a Plan B for this eventuality didn’t you?

Devon and our Local Enterprise Partnership’s dependence on EU funding

“The 2007-13 round of the European Regional Development Fund delivered 65,000 jobs and more than 15,000 new businesses.

The main priorities in the Heart of the South West for this round of the programme are:

• research and innovation;
• supporting and promoting small to medium-sized enterprises;
• low carbon;
• Information and communications technology …

… A total of £116,315,073 of ESIF has been provisionally allocated to the Heart of the South West LEP, made up of: £57,596,574 European Regional Development Fund; £43,178,166 European Social Fund and £15,540,333 European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. (Exact figures will vary slightly reflecting changes to exchange rates.)

A European Strategic Investment Fund Committee for the Heart of the South West has been established. This committee, which was set up following an open advertisement, is made up of leading figures in the HotSW private and public sector and is on hand to assist and inform potential applicants about the process and advise on criteria that is most likely to achieve success. …

… The European Growth Programme is worth just over €7.3billion (almost £5.8billion). It is made up of the following three Funds:

• European Regional Development Fund (€3.6billion)
• European Social Fund (€3.5billion)
• Part of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development* (€221million)

The Rural Development Programme 2014 to 2020 has a total value of over £3.5 billion, of which €221 million will be invested through the European Growth programme to help promote rural economic growth.

We have agreed the major points of principle about the ERDF operational programme with the European Commission. Therefore, although the programme document has not formally been agreed, we feel able to invite applicants to apply for funding. The references in the call documents are based on the latest text of the ERDF Operational Programme. This text may be subject to further amendment during final agreement with the Commission. We will take the possibility of relevant changes to the text into account when assessing outline and full applications, and where such changes occur, will notify applicants of any issues that arise, and propose a method of dealing with them. We expect the operational programme to be formally agreed before the need to enter into funding contracts with applicants.

Between 23 March and 27 March, calls for projects are going live across all three of the above programmes. These can be accessed at

European Structural and Investment Funds
The Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions are the managing authorities for ERDF and ESF funding through the Growth Programme, funds established by the European Union to help local areas stimulate their economic development. By investing in projects the funds will help to support innovation, businesses, skills and employment to improve local growth and create jobs. For more information visit”

Brexit, developers, local plans and devolution

So, we voted out – and suddenly housebuilders (developers) shares plunged by 40%.

There does not seem to be an immediate link with voting out, but there is. We are in for an unstable time. There will be a recession and pundits differ only on whether it will be short (around 2 years) or long (anywhere from 5-20 years depending on who you listen to). House prices will reflect this by falling and mortgage rates may well rise, pushing some into negative equity and others wary of buying in case they fall into negative equity.

Housebuilders will also need to factor in higher import costs coming in the near future when EU trade reduces and new trade agreements have not begun, along with a local skills gap as workers from the EU dry up. Plus likely (possibly temporary)increases in income tax to cover lost government income from (again possibly temporary) shrinking markets. Not to mention higher unemployment benefits to those whose jobs currently depend directly and indirectly on those employers who would normally benefit from being in the EU.

To compound this, many developers have recently taken their huge profits out of their businesses by giving their directors massive bonuses.

All these factors cause a “perfect storm” for Local Plans and the general East Devon economy. Our Local Plan is predicated on continuous growth and increasing employment, fuelling a constant demand for new housing. And, more worryingly, there are penalties if this does not happen. If we (and all other councils) do not maintain a 5-year land supply, we are penalised by having our housing numbers INCREASED by 20%.

Another complication is that, currently, our council (and others) depend for income on the government’s “New Homes Bonus” – the more new homes it gets a developer to build, the more income it gets.

All this conspires to suddenly make our local plans hardly worth the paper they were written on.

Then there is devolution – which in Devon and Somerset also highly depends on housebuilding – having “promised” an extra 176,000 houses over and above Local Plans, and also dependent on continuous growth and constantly increasing employment. It is no coincidence that the Chairman of our Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP: the lead in the devolution bid) is Chairman of big developer, Midas.

Our LEP was also promised “jam tomorrow” funds (over 30 years) from the government AND anticipated masses of EU funding, all riding on the back of a new Hinkley C nuclear power station. All other devolved areas were given similar promises.

Our new government will now have its hands full attempting to negotiate its way out of the EU, rewriting or scrapping those EU laws we have (including those on environmental protection and workers rights) and trying desperately to work out where this notional extra £350 million a week is eventually going to be spent. It has already been promised to the health service, areas currently in receipt of EU regeneration funding and academic research programmes currently supported by EU grants. That is simply an arithmetical nightmare and almost certainly an impossibility.

This leaves East Devon in a precarious position: heavily dependant on new housebuilding and continuous year on year economic growth with constant employment growth and receipt of funds from a distracted government which has also promised to stem immigration – many having voted for this as its first priority. These two priorities will mean little time for other things. Not to mention having to deal at the same time with the implications of Scotland and Northern Ireland’s differing position on their future in the UK and EU.

The Local Plan and devolution deals are now almost certainly of much lower priority to this beleaguered government and this may well lead to unintended consequences the like of which our council and our LEP can only imagine and for which they have no plan B.

Many warned that economic growth and increasing employment between now and 2030, when our local plan ends, was unattainable and that at least one event would intervene for which there was no contingency. Few expected it to happen quite so quickly.

Diviani “trusts the electorate”

“Councillor Paul Diviani, Leader of EDDC, said: “The British people have spoken and why not? They were asked a question and they have answered it.

As far as I’m concerned it was the right answer because I trust the electorate to get the answer right.”


“EU Referendum: “East Devon to be one of the last districts to declare results”

East Devon will be one of the last local areas in the UK to return their EU referendum result. The district will return their verdict at 5am on Friday morning.

Residents in Exeter, however, won’t have to wait as long. The city’s verdict is expected to be revealed at 3am.

South Hams are set to announce theirs 3.30am, Teignbridge at 4.30am, West Devon at 5am, Plymouth at 5am and Torridge between 4am and 6am.

Exeter has many more voters than East Devon, so has Plymouth.


“Welcome to the angry, divided Kingdom”


“As the big vote approaches and many voices say the EU referendum has whipped up the politics of hate, John Harris and John Domokos go on a five-day road trip from post-industrial Labour towns to rural Tory heartlands. In Birmingham, Leave voters cross racial and cultural divides; in Manchester, students uniformly back Remain; while people in the city’s neglected edgelands want out. And one fact burns through: whatever the result, the UK’s grave social problems look set to deepen.”

Whoops! As everyone in East Devon knows, referendums are not binding!

Well, we could have told you that Britain! Here in East Devon our council thinks referendums (referenda for the posh people) are just a minor annoyance and to be automatically ignored.

A really crucial detail about the upcoming EU referendum has gone virtually unmentioned and it is probably the most crucial detail: Parliament doesn’t actually have to bring Britain out of the EU if the public votes for it.

That is because the result of June 23 referendum on Britain’s EU membership is not legally binding. Instead, it is merely advisory, and, in theory, could be totally ignored by UK government.

This incredible detail is explained in a new blog post by Financial Times columnist and legal expert David Allen Green.

Green says that no legal provision was included in the EU referendum legislation that requires UK Parliament to act in accordance with the outcome of the EU referendum.

Instead, what will happen next if the public votes for a Brexit will be purely a matter of parliamentary politics.

The government could decide to put the matter to parliament and then hope to win the vote, Green says. Alternatively, ministers could attempt to negotiate an updated EU membership deal and put it to another referendum. Finally, the government could just choose to totally ignore the will of the public.”

Voting deadline extended to midnight Thursday

The deadline for registering to vote in the EU referendum has been extended, the government has said.

Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock said the government would legislate to extend the cut-off until midnight on Thursday.

It follows a computer glitch which left some people unable to sign up before the original midnight Tuesday deadline.

The Electoral Commission urged people to sign up until the end of Thursday in order to vote on 23 June.

PLEASE do not leave it till the last-minute – do it NOW! With your national insurance number to hand (it is usually on payslips) it will take less than five minutes.


Fixed term parliaments – a headache for the EU referendum

“What do fixed term Parliaments mean?

The new rules require a PM with a Commons majority to call the next general election on a five year fixed timetable.

However, should the PM resign or lose a no-confidence vote, the process to be followed is still unclear. The monarch could ask another member of the largest party to try to form a government. But if they too declined, conceivably the Leader of the Opposition could be asked to and might seek to form a minority government without any immediate dissolution.

To dissolve Parliament early a vote of two thirds of MPs is needed, which would normally require that (most) MPs from both the government and the main opposition should support the motion.”

How effective is Parliament in controlling UK government and representing citizens?

PLEASE register to vote in the referendum, whatever your choice

The deadline to register to vote in the EU Referendum is Tuesday 7th June. It’s easy to register to vote online!

You’ll need to enter some personal information, and you’ll need your National Insurance Number to hand, but it’s really simple and should take less than five minutes.