Darren Grimes has won his appeal against a £20,000 fine imposed by the Electoral Commission. Grimes, the 25-year-old who ran the BeLeave campaign group, was accused by the watchdog of breaching expenditure rules during the EU referendum. Following proceedings which saw Grimes crowdfund his legal campaign, Judge Marc Dight has ruled that the fine be withdrawn. The Guardian reports:
‘Dight agreed with Grimes’ counsel that the campaigner had not intended to mislead and had been confused by the Electoral Commission’s registration form. He further concluded that the commission had failed to satisfy itself beyond reasonable doubt that BeLeave was not a genuine unincorporated association, and therefore was not able to conclude an offence had been committed.
‘The judge made no comment on Grimes’ allegations of abuse of process by the commission. However he did observe that even had the offence been committed, it would not have warranted the maximum possible fine of £20,000 that the commission chose to impose.’
The Election Commission has not ruled out an appeal.
Grimes has repeatedly accused the Commission of ‘bias’ in this case. I’ll leave it to others to give their thoughts on that and more generally what some Leavers see as victimisation of their side by a vengeful ‘establishment’.
Instead, I’d say that while I disagree with Grimes on Brexit — and many other things — and I believe the Leave campaign(s) have led us into the greatest national humiliation since Suez, nevertheless, I am glad for Grimes given how scary and lonely this process must have felt, and also given the viciousness to which he has been subjected by some of my fellow Remainers.
Social media is a snake pit but the venom spat at him has been relentless and often gleefully sadistic. Remainers wanting to see him imprisoned was even the subject of a sneery piece from the Independent. Even more troubling are the litany of tweets he has been sent taunting him about being sent to prison and — there is no seemly way to put this — raped in the showers. Scores of them, all of the ‘don’t drop the soap’ genre. It’s not just that such rhetoric has gone unchallenged; it’s the fact that those using it consider themselves the enlightened, liberal wing of British politics.
No matter now, I suppose. Grimes has a promising future in front of him in right-wing think-tankery and perhaps even Parliament. I wonder, though, about the future of political debate in our country, which has been so debased that it’s left a dripping wet Remoaning centrist like me feeling sorry for the Geordie Jacob Rees-Mogg.