Podcast Editor Isabella Sheekey on the recently released Russia report and the implications its contents hold for the current British government.
The publication of the long-awaited Russia report has once again led to divisions based on what side of the Brexit battle line you find yourself. Those in the “Leave” camp have claimed victory on the basis that no evidence was found of Russian interference in the EU Referendum in 2016. Those in the “Remain” camp have claimed it a damning report that exposes the British government as criminally negligent in their response to Russian meddling.
Nigel Farage tweeted on the morning of the report’s publication that “apologies are now required” for the alleged lies of Russian involvement in the 2016 Referendum and with Leave.EU. The government reflected this response, albeit in a slightly more diplomatic way, stating “we have seen no evidence of successful interference in the EU Referendum”.
Years of lies and smears from Remain politicians and much of our media.
There is no evidence of Russian involvement with https://t.co/mfzcCr9wJQ or me in the referendum.
It was all a hoax — apologies are now required.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) July 21, 2020
However, one read of the 50-page report and you are able to see the flaws in both these claims. The damning nature of the report is not the result of what is explained; it is the result of what cannot be explained.
The report states that the government “had not seen or sought evidence of successful interference in UK democratic process”, implying there was a failure to assess the true extent of Russian interference. The avoidance described in the report creates a picture of a government that is being willfully ignorant – the sort of ignorance that is attributed to children when they hide under their bedsheets as a form of protection from the big bad scary monster. If you cannot see it, then it does not exist. And although one could be forgiven in mistaking the current Prime Minister for a child, he most certainly is not.
Boris Johnson’s refusal to publish the Russia report before the 2019 election is another example of the government’s flawed response. The report, in fact, criticises the British government for putting its short-term interests above the need to expose Russia’s threat.
The British political climate ever since the EU referendum has been one of a partisan society. Brexit changed the way British politics and news was ingested by the public. The national conversation changed; and whatever the news story being reported that day, it was reported in terms of how it would affect the Prime Minister in “Getting Brexit Done”. And once again, this is demonstrated in the public’s response to the Russia report.
The UK government has become so consumed with Brexit that even a violation of our democratic process has been ignored. Despite reason to suspect Russian interference in British democracy and the well-reported, increasing threat that Russia poses, its response has been embarrassing at best and criminally negligent at worst.
The publication of the Russia report has once again split opinions based on what side of the Brexit battle lines you fall on. However, in this particular battle, it is not foreign powers willing to see British democracy be corrupted that we have to watch out for. It is our own government.