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Was Theresa May right to call out Russia’s attempts to influence Western politics?

This article was originally published on the City AM website.

YES – Denis MacShane, former minister for Europe and author of Brexit, No Exit: Why (in the End) Britain Won’t Leave Europe.

The Prime Minister’s attack on the Kremlin’s interference in the election and referendum processes in western democracies was extraordinary.

She used the most important platform – the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in the City, when a Prime Minister is expected to highlight key international policy concerns – to blast Russian interference via social media manipulation in our democracy.

This follows up the detailed reports in various news outlets about Russian involvement in the Brexit campaign.

Of course, the idea that 17m voters were swayed by Russia is wrong. But only 37 per cent of the total UK electorate voted for Brexit. In parliamentary elections, the kind of interference now being alleged against the Kremlin is enough to have the election declared invalid.

There is now a serious question mark over the Brexit vote and the money that won it. The Electoral Commission is investigating the Kremlin connection. Watch this space.

NO – Diane James, independent MEP.

Theresa May has decided to point the finger at Russian meddling in British elections and, presumably, the referendum.

“We know what you are doing,” she claims. Yet she has not provided any evidence of Kremlin interference, nor evidence that such actions on social media could even be effective.

As a Remainer, she has skin in the game, and she has to stop hiding behind the skirts of official secrecy and show us all the facts.

Decrying news that does not suit your point of view as “fake” has become all the rage, and is rather a schoolyard tactic when one is incapable of winning an argument by reason. And when one is really desperate – i.e. when the public shrug off all the doomsayers at the Bank of England and Treasury predictions – it has become fashionable to blame the Russians.

May has to face up to facts. Her side lost fair and square, and she should deal with getting us out of the EU and stop blaming the Reds under the Bed.

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