Public Outcry Over Government’s Decision to Withhold Russia Interference Report

This week a wide range of political actors have decried the UK Government’s decision to withhold a report pertaining to Russian interference in British politics. The report, carried out by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), was finalised on 17 October, but is yet to be released. Understandably, public outcry has ensued, and the government has been accused of withholding information that is pertinent to the current election campaign. The Minister of State, Christopher Pincher MP, has insisted that “it is not unusual for a review of ISC reports to take some time” and that a delay is necessary in order for Boris Johnson to carefully study the committee’s findings. Dominic Grieve, chairman of the ISC, has contested this, stating that the normal timescale for releasing such a report is 10 days, meaning the report should have been made public by 27 October. However, the report has yet to see the light of day, and since Parliament has already been dissolved for the upcoming general election on 12th December, it is unlikely that it will be made public before mid-December.

The decision to withhold the report has drawn many high profile critics, including former presidential candidate and First Lady, Hillary Clinton, who described the move as “inexplicable and shameful” during an interview on BBC Radio 4. Clinton added that the British electorate “deserves” to see the report before the election on 12 December, a view echoed by Dominic Grieve, who is pushing for the publication of the report, which he believes is “pertinent to the election”. Although Mr. Pincher has ascribed the delay to a need to “consider” the content, Emily Thornberry MP, Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman for the Labour Party, has said that the move is “clearly politically motivated”. Mrs. Thornberry went on to speculate that the report may have been withheld as it could have revealed potentially damaging links between Boris Johnson and a suspected Russian spy, as well as brought up other questions that could prove problematic for the Conservative Party. Mr. Pincher has also defended the delay by arguing that rushing the process of releasing the report risks undermining national security. This is despite the report having already obtained formal security clearance and according to Dominic Grieve, this is just one of a number of “bogus” excuses made by the Conservative Party.

The decision to withhold the report is inexcusable and remains unexplained. The Conservative Party have doubled down on two arguments, the first being that delaying such reports is due procedure and the second being that releasing the report could compromise national security; facts do not back up either argument. This leaves the British electorate in a position where they can merely speculate as to the content of the report and means that they will be going to the polling booths on 12th December without vital information. Parallels could be drawn from the 1972 U.S election, an election where the Nixon administration managed to suppress the Watergate investigation and gain re-election. Just as the U..electorate were unaware of the illegal actions perpetrated by their government during their re-election campaign, the British electorate are also going in blind. Despite Nixon’s re-election he was, of course, infamously impeached in 1974. Regardless of who wins this election, the Conservative Party should also be held accountable for their actions, and should the report find them to have acted illegally, they must face severe repercussions.

The Conservative’s decision to delay the publication of the report is an anti-democratic move that has been rightfully criticised. Lawmakers, political actors and the British electorate must continue to exert pressure upon the government in order to force the publication of the report.

Luke Entwistle