Rejoiner plot! Pro-EU group helps Lords block reform of election watchdog

Brexit discussed by Lord Adonis in January

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Legislation to reform the Electoral Commission has been voted down in the Lords and sent back to MPs in the Commons. The Election Bill had been brought in because of concerns over alleged bias by the Electoral Commission in pursuing leading Brexiteers after the EU referendum. The Commission refused to investigate complaints about Remainer groups but took cases against Vote Leave, millionaire Arron Banks and campaigner Darren Grimes.

Mr Grimes eventually defeated the Commission in the High Court after the Commission tried to fine him £20,000 for a paperwork error.

At the time the Commission’s chairman Sir John Holmes, who has since been replaced, had openly supported Remain during the referendum.

And in 2019 Nigel Farage claimed: “The Electoral Commission is full of Remainers.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel was ignored when she reported Remainer groups and Jacob Rees-Mogg also criticised the Commission.

After the Lords voted down reform Best for Britain, which led attempts to overturn the 2016 EU referendum, sent out a briefing explaining its role in drafting wrecking amendments to the Election Bill.

It said: “Amendments 45 and 46 to the Bill, which passed with help from Best for Britain and moved in the House by constitutional expert and former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Judge, seek to protect future elections by ensuring that the Electoral Commission remains fully independent of government.

“The amendments passed in the House of Lords this evening by 265 votes to 199, meaning that MPs will now be forced to vote on the specific issue of the Electoral Commission’s independence, starting the process known as ‘ping pong’. If Lords continue to vote to amend this aspect of the Elections Bill until parliament is prorogued, the entire Elections Bill would fall. Parliament could be prorogued as soon as 28th April and will be no later than 4th May.”

Remainer peers like Lord Adonis and other Labour and Lib Dem Lords joined with crossbenchers to attempt to stop reform.

However, Tory Brexiteer MP Peter Bone warned peers “they are playing with fire.”

He said: “This just goes to prove that the unelected Lords is full of Rejoiners who will stop at nothing.

“If they carry on like this there will be growing calls for reform of the House of Lords.”

He added: “The Electoral Commission behaved in a biassed way after the referendum. It pursued Brexiteers and none of them were guilty.

“That is why reform is necessary to ensure that it acts fairly.”

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