By Ian Lucas MP
David Cameron describes Michael Gove as “mendacious” in his autobiography. My Oxford dictionary defines that as “lying”.
The reason this matters is that Michael Gove is now Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office. In the UK, the Cabinet Office is the Government Department charged with elections and electoral reform. Earlier this summer, it published a consultation paper on necessary changes to elections in the UK.
The independent Electoral Commission and Information Commissioner have both made clear, repeatedly, the current unsafe and outdated state of laws and rules relating to our elections.
I am a member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee which saw and highlighted the failings relating to our law on elections and referendums on issues such as overseas donations, data sharing, political advertising and disinformation in two Reports which were welcomed worldwide, if rather less so by our own Government.
During the inquiry we uncovered evidence with the help of whistleblowers and journalists which was unknown before the 2017 General Election.
Evidence pointed to Dominic Cummings
The evidence led us to a Canadian data business called AIQ and Michael Gove’s former special adviser, Dominic Cummings.
Cummings frustrated the inquiry by refusing to give evidence to it even though the Electoral Commission has published evidence quoting him as the basis of electoral offences committed by Vote Leave, now accepted as offences by Vote Leave.
Michael Gove was the co-Convenor of Vote Leave’s Campaign Committee in the 2016 Referendum. He has admitted publicly that he knew of the payments to AIQ which led to the commission of electoral offences in 2016.
The Prime Minister and Government are now frustrating the continuing work of the DCMS Select Committee by refusing to direct their adviser Cummings, to give relevant evidence to the Committee.
On 5 August, I wrote to Gove asking him two very simple questions about his knowledge of the payments:
When did Michael Gove know about the payments?
Who told Michael Gove about the payments?
I received a short, and very odd, reply some weeks later on House of Commons, not Ministerial, notepaper.
Gove stated that he has ‘nothing to add now’ having answered my questions ‘accurately’ in a previous Sky News interview.
Michael Gove must come clean on electoral offences
I consider that he is breaching the Ministerial Code by allowing his private interests to influence his public duties on electoral issues.
It is in the public interest for Gove, now in charge of electoral matters, to come clean on what he knew about facts giving rise to electoral offences in 2016.
It is, it seems, in Gove’s private interests to conceal those facts.
He is even denying personal responsibility for issues under his Department’s control to avoid questions about what he knows about Vote Leave’s 2016 electoral offences.
Now we know that a former Prime Minister and colleague of Michael Gove says he is “mendacious”.
We are in the run-up to a General Election. We know from independent sources that our electoral law needs change.
We know that the man in charge of these issues in Government has knowledge of the facts giving rise to electoral offences by Vote Leave.
But he will not tell us what he knows and he will not make the changes needed.
Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings avoiding scrutiny over Vote Leave
Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings are all determined not to answer questions about their role in Vote Leave and are going to extraordinary lengths to avoid any scrutiny.
Johnson refuses to let Cummings give evidence
First, Boris Johnson, who appointed Dominic Cummings to be his adviser in Number 10 after he was found to be in contempt of Parliament, has refused a further request from the House of Commons Select Committee for Cummings to give evidence about Vote Leave to clear up his role.
Gove’s job description changed to avoid responsibility for Vote Leave offences
Second, Michael Gove, now Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office, has denied that he has oversight of electoral law and data protection, contradicting his own job description on the Cabinet Office website. He is so desperate to avoid questions on his role in Vote Leave that he even then changed his own job description as Secretary of State in response to my questioning of him in the Commons’ chamber last week.
Cummings running away from damning electoral commission findings
Thirdly, Dominic Cummings, whose own words are quoted by the Electoral Commission as the basis of the electoral offences committed by Vote Leave in 2016, has been running away from answering questions from the DCMS Select Committee about his role in the offences for over a year now.
These three are now driving the Government whose conflict with the law has been at the heart of national debate for the past week. What is it about Vote Leave and each of their roles that they are so determined to hide?
Parliament now needs to step in urgently and demand answers to the questions the DCMS want to ask.
If Dominic Cummings will not answer, Michael Gove must. If Gove continues to run away, then the Prime Minister must tell us what he knew and when.
Then, Parliament must make the changes in the law set out and requested by independent bodies such as the Information Commissioner and the Electoral Commission.
If we are to restore trust in our institutions, we need to start by curing the defects in electoral law which we have identified already and use the time before a general election so to do.