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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Is Putin haunting our democracy?

Following the revelations of Russian interference in the US Presidential election I was a bit startled today to see in the Independent a former Minister allege that there is “clear evidence” that Russia interfered directly in UK elections.

They say that Rhondda MP, Chris Bryant has told Parliament some of the top-level decisions affecting security in Britain have been “compromised by Russian infiltration”. The former Europe minister’s comments came after it emerged that political parties in the UK have approached the security agencies for help following a cyber attack during the 2015 British general election:

“There is now clear evidence of Russian direct, corrupt involvement in elections in France, in Germany, in the United States of America, and I would argue also in this country,” said Mr Bryant.

“Many believe that some of the highest level decisions affecting security in the United Kingdom, in Germany, in France and in the United States of America are now compromised by Russian infiltration.”

The head of the UK’s new National Cyber Security Centre, Ciaran Martin, said that “informal” talks had been held with the parties and a programme to protect their sensitive online information will be put in place in the near future.

There had been persistent and rising reports of the Kremlin’s interference in the West’s political system using cyber attacks, including the hacking of the Democratic Party emails as part of an alleged campaign by Vladimir Putin’s government to help Donald Trump win the US presidential elections.

There are also fears that coming elections in Holland, France and Germany, with right-wing populist parties which have varying degrees of Russian support, may be vulnerable.

Emmanuel Macron, the favourite to become the next French president, has also accused Russia and its state-owned media of using hacking and fake news to interfere with the French presidential race.

These claims of interference have been rejected by the Kremlin.

There has been much talk about how social media and on-line tools have transformed the way that political parties campaign. However, if these allegatoins are correct the biggest influence of new technology on elections is much more insidious and a threat to the democratic process itself.
I have been looking at the past Council elections information over the years. I note that Labour and Conservatives stand in far more sets than we do. Are we having a campaign to recruit more candidates in the non contested ares?
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