The former director of research at Cambridge Analytica, the data-mining firm notoriously suspended by Facebook for harvesting details of up to 87 million Facebook accounts without their consent, has told Andrew Marr that the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU should be re-contested. Wylie’s suggestion comes after it was highlighted that Vote Leave – the official Leave campaign – had employed the services of AggregateIQ (AIQ), a company which Wylie claims to have founded in order to support Cambridge Analytica. AIQ was also suspended from Facebook on Saturday for improperly receiving users’ data, charges which AIQ denies. Wylie argued that Vote Leave’s connections to alleged misconduct by AIQ meant that it was not guaranteed that the result in 2016 was made fairly and legally:
AM: If the [Digital, Culture Media and Sport] select committee says ‘Chris Wylie is right… these connections are proved’, what follows from that? Are you really suggesting the referendum should be re-run somehow? We should forget 2016 and do it all over again?
CW: …I’m saying this as somebody who supported Leave. I’m saying this as a eurosceptic myself, but this is a fundamental change to the constitutional settlement of Britain, the foundational law of Britain. And what I’m saying is that if we can’t go back from Brexit, if this is a one-time decision, we need absolute clarity that the decision made by the British people was made fairly, and compliant with the law. And so, if that means that we have to go back to the British people and ask for a clarification, I think that British people should have a say and make sure that what we’re doing is with the consent of the people. That’s what I’m saying. I want a democratic mandate for Brexit.
Angela Rayner – ‘I’ve been a little frustrated’ over action on anti-Semitism
The Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has told Marr of her exasperation over the pace of dealing with anti-Semitism within the Labour party. Angela Rayner made reference to the internal inquiry into anti-Semitism made by the Shadow Attorney General Shami Charkabarti, which concluded back in June 2016. She lamented that the recommendations made by Chakrabati had not been implemented in full and that there remained much more work to be done:
AM: Your party’s faced a lot of problems over anti-Semitism, and this was something that you yourself warned about last autumn when you said ‘No more jam tomorrow, I want some hard actions to be taken about this’. Have you seen hard actions, and are you satisfied with what is going on?
AR: Well, Jeremy’s been quite clear, there’s no place for anti-Semitism in our party. But I’ve been a little frustrated that we haven’t moved forward on the Chakrabarti report as fast as I would’ve liked to have seen. But Jennie Formby, our new general secretary, has made it our number one priority, and we need to make sure that the full Chakrabarti report is implemented and that we have an absolute zero tolerance because Andrew, it can’t be right when people see on social media – and it’s not just in the Labour Party, but across the board – anti-Semitic rhetoric and they see no action taken or that action is far too slow. We’ve got to make sure procedures not only protect those [where] allegations are made, but enforce people’s right to live in a country where they’re free from racism or anti-Semitism.
When asked about reports that the Bristol MP Thangam Debbonnaire had been hounded out of a constituency meeting by activists who were angry about her protests against anti-Semitism, Rayner replied ‘Thangam’s a fantastic MP. She shouldn’t be hounded out of any meeting. We have debates in the Labour Party, that is quite fine, she is absolutely right to be able to protest and Jeremy has made that clear as well’. However, she stopped short of giving an answer on the question of whether Bristol West Labour party should be suspended over this incident.
Victoria Atkins – Knife crime is not down to falling police numbers
The Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins has spoken to Niall Paterson about the rise in knife crime that has blighted Britain’s cities, with London particularly in focus after the homicide rate for February and March this year was found to have surpassed that of New York. Atkins was keen to rebut claims that government cuts to police numbers were not the underlying factor for this, and announced that tomorrow the Home Secretary would be unveiling a new strategy to deal with the increase in crime:
— Sunday with Paterson (@RidgeOnSunday) April 8, 2018
NP: What’s going wrong here? It’s fair to say that over the past decade he have seen crime coming down, but certain forms of violent crime… in the year ending September 2017 in England and Wales – knife crime up by 21%, gun crime up by 20%, possession of an article with a blade or a point up by 35%. This is happening on your watch. You must shoulder some of the responsibility.
VA: …There are a whole host of factors. We have heard from the Met commissioner about the impact on social media with some of the videos that wind gangs up to retaliate very quickly. We want to stop the assumption among some young people that it is normal to carry a knife, which is why we’ve had the Knife Free campaign… and the Serious Violence strategy tomorrow will show the impact of drugs on violence as well. We know that’s having a huge impact. So we’ve got to have an all encompassing solution to this.
NP: Its strange that you don’t mention, for example, policing numbers. Front line roles down by 14% between 2014 and 2017. You’re telling me that there’s absolutely no correlation between that and the increase in serious violence?
VA: We have to look at the evidence and a great deal of thought has gone into this and we review it constantly. But, we know that in 2008, when there was a similar spike in knife crime, there were many, many more officers on the beat then than there are now, so, it’s not as simple as just talking about police numbers.
When confronted again with the knife crime figures, Atkins said ‘We want to make it clear that we have to, as a society, take responsibility… we want to stop those young people from making that terrible decision to pick up a knife in the first place because if they pick that knife up it can have terrible consequences for other people, but of course themselves as well if they do very bad harm with it’.
Andrew Adonis – The BBC created Nigel Farage
The former Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission and vocal campaigner to reverse Brexit has become well known for his frequent and somewhat controversial outbursts on social media. During an interview with Paterson, Lord Adonis was confronted with a recent tweet in which he had claimed that it was ‘important to understand that Brexit & Farage are largely the creation of the BBC’:
— Sunday with Paterson (@RidgeOnSunday) April 8, 2018
NP: The BBC created Nigel Farage? Come on.
AA: The BBC gave Farage a platform he would otherwise not have had. 32 appearances on BBC Question Time, which is their flagship news and current affairs programme. 32!
NP: So what are they doing wrong at the moment then? Because that tweet suggested that they created Brexit. The BBC.
AA: …Of course there’s lots of other things going on as well, but they largely did because of the huge platform that they gave to Farage and to the whole Brexit case.
NP: Given that more people voted to leave the European Union than to remain within it, doesn’t that suggest that the BBC were right to have a plurality of voices?
AA: I’m not, of course, objecting to a plurality of voices. I’m objecting to the huge prominence that they gave to Nigel Farage and his party over many years.
Elsewhere in the interview, Adonis noted that he had taken the BBC to Ofcom for what he regarded as a breach of their impartiality and added that ‘where I am critical… particularly [of] the BBC at the moment, is they seem to be regarding it as a done deal that we are leaving the European Union’. Instead, Adonis made clear that he expected to see another ‘big public debate’ at the end of 2019 whether in Parliament or via referendum, and stated that ‘What we cannot have next time as we had last time is the BBC treating Nigel Farage as the voice of the country’.
Tony Blair – Northern Ireland deal is still possible
And finally, former Prime Minister Tony Blair has given an interview to the BBC’s Northern Ireland editor Mark Devonport to mark 20 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Blair told Devonport that he still believed that a return to power sharing in Northern Ireland was possible despite the breakdown at Stormont which has endured since January last year. He also had some supportive words for his successor at No 10:
MD: How much responsibility do you put on the current government for the situation we’re in? Theresa May, David Cameron – have they taken their eye off the ball too much?
TB: … I think they need to realise that this requires full focus of government at certain points in time, and for example, with this impasse at the moment, I can’t believe it’s not possible to find a way round it. It’s very similar to the types of issues we used to deal with, and you’ve just got to keep working at them until you find a way through. Now, it’s not easy, and the whole issues around Brexit obviously complicate things for a variety of reasons, but nonetheless it’s still worth doing.
MD: Do you think that the fact that Theresa May is relying on the DUP makes it harder for her to be the kind of independent broker that you were?…
TB: I’m think she can do it, because to be fair to her I’m sure she wants to keep the Good Friday Agreement and she wants to make sure it works satisfactorily… It’s constant work, that’s all I’m saying.
When asked if Brexit would lead to a return to violence, Blair replied ‘Not of itself, it won’t’, but added that ‘it’s got the potential to cause tension. Now, that shouldn’t ever justify or end up in violence, but it will give a different complexion to the nationalist aspirations’. When asked if Jeremy Corbyn was capable of seeing the Irish situation from both sides of the divide, Blair simply answered ‘Let’s see.’