This week the Prime Minister Boris Johnson was accused of a cover-up after refusing to release a report into Russian political interference before the General Election.
Bob Seely, who until Parliament was dissolved today (Wednesday) had been Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, often blogged, spoke on social media and in the House on Russian issues.
Seely: “There is certainly no proof”
OnTheWight asked Bob whether he’d had any involvement in the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report on Russian interference in UK democracy. He replied,
“No. I am not on the committee.”
Given his extensive knowledge on Russia, we asked whether he thought it was likely that Russia had interfered in UK elections and if so, what steps could be taken to reduce or stop it.
“I don’t think it has done so successfully – there is certainly no proof. “
The Foreign Agents Act
He suggested that in order to reduce or stop future interference a Foreign Agents Act could be brought in,
“So that the acting on behalf of foreign governments – or are believed to be doing so – need to declare their activities.”
Should report be released?
Those following the subject may have heard Lord Evans of Weardale (who led MI5 until 2013) telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
“In principle, I think it should be released … If the Government have a reason why this should not be published before the election, then I think they should make it very clear what that reason is.”
Seely: “Generally better publishing”
OnTheWight asked Bob whether he agreed or disagreed with Lord Evan. He replied,
“In these issues, the Government is generally better publishing, not least because it will knock on the head some of the dafter conspiracy theories.”
Seely: Would welcome debate on interference
In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Bob said,
“I would certainly welcome a debate on covert and malign foreign interference —not only any attempts on our side but why Seumas Milne always seems to peddle the Kremlin’s line and the links between senior people around the leader of the Labour party and pro-Russian groups in Ukraine and elsewhere. There would be a lot of interesting debate there.
“My question to the Minister is a broader one. Does he agree that the best way to minimise the chances of malign and covert interference in our electoral system is through the introduction of a foreign agents registration Act?
“The US introduced one against covert Nazi influence in 1938 and the Australians produced a foreign influence transparency scheme just last year. I will be working with the Henry Jackson Society to produce a potential template Bill.
“Would the Minister be interested in discussing it with me should we both be re-elected in December?”
The extent of Bob’s research on Russian warfare can be found on the Academia Website.
He also pointed readers to an article of his published in the Sunday Times article on the subject a few months ago.