Since 5 a.m. on Friday 24th I’ve been following the steady increase of signatures on UK Government and Parliament Petition 131215 – EU Referendum Rules triggering a 2nd EU Referendum – with considerable interest. There are now 3.5 million signatories, an unprecedented number. However, I noticed something strange when I took a look on Sunday morning.
There is an option to view the signatures on a choropleth map, taking me back to my Year Nine geography days. On Saturday, the map looked fairly similar to how it does now, with the spread of dark and light constituencies vaguely correlating to Thursday’s results.
On the morning of Sunday 26th, however, the map looked markedly different. Every section was the palest shade of yellow, with the exception of Cities of London and Westminster, which was the darkest red. London, unsurprisingly, has been home to the majority of the petition’s signatories – on Sunday morning there were 12,000 in Chelsea and Fulham, 13,000 in Ealing Central and Acton, 16,000 in Hampstead and Kilburn, and so on. Cities of London and Westminster, meanwhile had 44,000 signatures, 26,000 more than the second highest area. Odd, to say the least.
The petition website also provides more detailed statistics in a format that is almost unreadable. This breaks down the number of signatures per constituency, and also per country. I took this information, had a fiddle with it and created a spreadsheet, which you can peruse at your leisure. There were some anomalous results thrown up, mostly in the information about countries.
One strange result emerged from the Vatican City. The microstate, with a population of 800, had accrued over 40,000 signatures. That works out at 50 signatures per head. Strange. Similarly, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, an inhospitable British Overseas Territory with no permanent population, were responsible for almost 3,500 signatures.
Also noteworthy were the numbers emanating from the Korean peninsula. South Korea remained indifferent, with only 154 of their number calling for a second referendum. Their northern neighbours, meanwhile, were up in arms about Nigel Farage’s success, with 25,000 North Koreans adding their name to the list of disgruntled Remainers.
By three p.m., action had been taken. Votes appear to have been struck off, or possibly reassigned. I won’t go into the details of how the numbers have changed, but they are available here.
I have written to the Petitions Committee, asking how they go about identifying fraudulent signatures, and how foreign nationals’ signatures are counted. Clearly some people feel strongly enough about the petition to try and unfairly alter the result. It’s very possible that some of the 3.5 million signatories may not be genuine, even after the action taken earlier today. But I question who is behind this fraud. Tens of thousands of votes coming out of the same counting area, or the Vatican or the British Antarctic Territory were unlikely to be missed. Is it possible that these fraudulent signatures, rather than an attempt to boost apparent support for a second EU referendum, were an attempt to undermine the petition’s legitimacy? Stranger things have happened.
Thoughts of Patrick Sarsfield. @PJSARS