The final point of order in the final minutes of the last parliament was a plea from me for vigilance against election theft. At the time i thought it would the last words I would ever utter as an MP. The prospects were dire with opinion polls threatening certain defeat for MPs in Welsh Labour marginal seats. On the 27th April 2017 I said:-
- Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab)
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to raise a matter that strikes right at the heart of the integrity of our democratic system. It is based on the final report of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, as well as two articles in The House magazine, one by a Conservative Member and one by a Labour Member, all of which sound notes of alarm that our electoral system is the most vulnerable it has been since 1880. There is powerful evidence of foreign Governments interfering in the elections in America and possibly here. There is also overwhelming evidence of money being paid in huge amounts, entirely invisible to the system, by the use of methods including algorithms, botnets and artificial intelligence in a manner understood by nobody except those who participate in it. We should be vigilant in this election, because the Electoral Commission does not have the tools to deal with interference of this kind, and we are trying to run a modern election with the tools of the 19th century.
- Mr Speaker
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He has registered a strong and deeply felt concern, and it is now on the record. It is not, however, a matter for me, and I do not say that flippantly. Algorithms are certainly not a matter for the Chair, and I am sure that colleagues will be greatly reassured to hear me say that. The wider issues are ones for us all.
A always the Speaker was kind but the threat to our electoral systems have yet to be fully recognised. Since April the journalist Carol Cadwalladr has produced a mountain of evidence that all my fears were justified. It is now virtually certain from the Mueller inquiry that Russian interference happened in the US election. Here there has been no probe into the problem. The PACAC Select Committee are dodging their duty to attack this scandal. The Electoral Commission confess that they have no mechanisms for detecting Cyber interference even when it's on a massive scale.
In Newport West in this year's election we had a worrying innovation in the employment by the Conservatives of a call centre to canvass voters. Their local campaigns in Newport had virtually collapsed. This is the subject of a continuing police investigation. The law may have been broken. Questions are raised on when alleged market research is party propaganda, can canvassers be legally paid and truthfulness of messages that purport to be from independent sources. Time will tell.
What we do not know and have no way of finding out is how much was spent on invisible propaganda through Facebook, e-mails etc using detailed personal information gleaned through Artificial Intelligence. Votes can now now be bought by those with bottomless pockets. No further General Elections should take place until we know the truth and have mechanisms that expose vote buying. We should also be guarded in our respect for the Brexit Referendum. The campaign gave a choice between Operation Fear and Operation Lies. I said so in the campaign that the result would be determined by which lies the voters found most plausible. When it comes to leaving the EU, that vote will be three years. Its validity will be destroyed.
Second well informed thoughts are always superior to first ill-informed thoughts.