Wednesday 13 November 2019 4:34 am

DEBATE: Is it worrying that the report on Russian interference has not yet been published?

Liz Jarvis is a writer and editor, and a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate.
John Oxley
John Oxley is a Conservative commentator

Should we be concerned that the government’s report into Russian interference has not yet been released?

Liz Jarvis, a writer and a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in Southampton Itchen, says YES.

In just over four weeks, voters will go to the polls without knowing whether or not they can trust the Conservatives on the issue of alleged Russian interference into the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The decision by Downing Street to suppress the publication of this report until after this election is extremely concerning, and frankly sets off very loud alarm bells. No wonder Hillary Clinton described the reluctance to release it as “damaging, inexplicable, and shaming”. The public has the right to know what is in the report, and the fact that it isn’t being released until after the election implies that the government has something to hide.

Voters need to know that our democracy is being properly respected, and the government has a duty to be transparent. If it can’t reassure us that the allegations of Russian interference into British politics over what has proven to be the most divisive public vote in our country’s history are unfounded, then serious questions must be answered before 12 December.

John Oxley, a Conservative commentator, says NO.

There is no denying that the delay looks bad. With the stories that abound about Russian attempts to subvert elections across the world, alongside the Tories’ history of wealthy Russian donors, it is easy to speculate that this report contains some smoking gun that the Prime Minister wants to bury.

But the reality is probably more mundane. Reports like this take time to clear, and getting it wrong can have serious consequences. Secret sources risk their lives to provide information to the intelligence services. Hasty release can expose them and discourage those who might help in future.

Moreover, governments are often sluggish, especially when they have other things concerning them like trying to deliver Brexit. It is safer to assume malaise rather than malfeasance.

On issues of national security, it is better to be sober than suspicious. Hillary Clinton should know — after all, whatever the Russians did in the US in 2016, it was the untimely reporting of an unfinished FBI investigation which likely cost her the presidency.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.