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Dowden: Claims of Russian interference in General Election ‘gravely concerning’

30 Jun 2024 3 minute read
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden . Photo Yui Mok/PA Wire

Alleged Russian interference in the General Election campaign is “gravely concerning”, Oliver Dowden has said.

The Deputy Prime Minister responded to Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) claims that it had been monitoring five co-ordinated Facebook pages spouting Kremlin talking points, with some expressing support for Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party.

In a statement carried by The Sunday Times, Mr Dowden said: “These revelations reveal the real risk our democracy faces in this uncertain world.

“Malign foreign actors, promoting British political parties, policies and views that fit their agenda is just another example of the challenges in the increasingly volatile cyberspace of the 21st century and is gravely concerning to see during an election campaign.”

Location data

According to ABC, the pages appeared to have little in common but were linked through an examination of the location data attached to the pages’ administrators, the tracking of paid ads, and an analysis of the pages’ similar or shared content.

The network of pages has a combined 190,000 followers, each featuring criticism of several UK political parties, including the Conservatives and Labour, the ABC says.

The broadcaster also reportedly found most of the administrators for each page are based in Nigeria, which is a significant connection as previous online Russian propaganda networks were found to have been operating from Africa.

The Sunday Times reports Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden has written to Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, and Sir Tim Barrow, the national security adviser, asking for the claims to be investigated.

It comes as both the Tories and Labour have criticised Mr Farage for failing to show leadership in tackling allegations of racism within Reform UK.

Campaigners for Mr Farage’s party Reform UK in the Clacton seat in Essex he hopes to win were recorded by an undercover journalist from Channel 4 making racist comments, including about the Prime Minister, who is of Indian descent.

The footage showed Reform campaigner Andrew Parker using a racist term about Rishi Sunak and suggesting migrants should be used as “target practice”.

Another canvasser described the Pride flag as “degenerate” and suggested members of the LGBT community are paedophiles.

Reform UK has written to the Electoral Commission, claiming that Mr Parker, an actor, was a “plant” in the Channel 4 news item.

‘Set-up’

Mr Farage said the Clacton expose was “a political set-up of astonishing proportions”, highlighting Mr Parker’s background as an actor.

He added he was “not going to apologise” as what had happened was a “set-up, a deliberate attempt to smear us”.

Meanwhile, Reform has confirmed it has dropped support for candidates Leslie Lilley in Southend East and Rochford, Edward Oakenfull in Derbyshire Dales, and Robert Lomas in Barnsley North.

On BBC Question Time, Mr Farage was challenged about the three’s comments and said, “In most cases, they’ve been disowned.”

The three will still appear as Reform candidates on the ballot paper because nominations for the July 4 poll have closed.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
22 days ago

I seem to remember Fat Shanks turned MI5 off for the duration of his time in No 10…

Has it been turned back on yet ?

Dowden as a law maker is much more concerning, personally…

Last edited 22 days ago by Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
22 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Someone commented on smoke coming out of No 10’s chimney which reminded me of Matt Hancock’s sister’s shredding business in Wrecsam, perhaps wise to keep an eye on their waste paper basket…

cablestreet
cablestreet
22 days ago

Putin looking after his mate Nigel?

Paul ap Gareth
Paul ap Gareth
22 days ago

Only now is he worried about Russian interference. The Intelligence and Security Committee report, which Johnson surprised before the 2019 election, shows that the Tories were not interested in that problem. Specifically they said that the security services did not investigate electoral interference because it was too political. And Conservative government had not required them to investigate because they didn’t want to know. Preferring to say publicly they had seen “no evidence” of interference to justify not looking.

Comservatives turned a blind eye to protect the Brexit referendum.

Erisian
Erisian
22 days ago

Of course the Tories had had no interest in discovering if Russia had tried to influence the Brexit debate – why would the Russians possibly want to destabilize the UK or the EU??!!

Amazing how they sudenly wake up now.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
22 days ago

The only Political party that have had a lot of money from Russians are the Tories who trecherous Traitors

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
22 days ago

Sting…Russians: he hopes they love their children too…Putin doesn’t,..The Tories don’t either…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
22 days ago

Sunak’s complete and utter BS, he is losing his mind as well as his job and gaining a reputation as a completely untrustworthy, amoral, ineffectual yet ‘proud’ man…

Last edited 22 days ago by Mab Meirion
Mawkernewek
Mawkernewek
22 days ago

If the Russian government was serious about changing the results of our election I would think they’d do something more significant than setting up a few Facebook groups.

Mawkernewek
Mawkernewek
22 days ago

If Facebook really is all powerful with elections surely Nick Clegg will be able to deliver for his former LibDems.

Dewi
Dewi
19 days ago

The state that has more political influence in Parliament is Israel having bought many Labour and Tory MPs through direct payments -no wonder the establishment of both parties have failed to criticise the Gaza genocide and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank.

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
18 days ago

If I remember correctly, Russian emigrés have been very generous to the Blue Team over the last decade.

You’re a hypocrite, Dowden!

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