Chris Bryant says there is proof of ‘direct, corrupt involvement’ by Russia in UK elections
There is “clear evidence” that Russia interfered directly in UK elections, a Labour former minister has said.
Chris Bryant told Parliament some of the top-level decisions affecting security in Britain had also 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.
Attempted cyber attacks in the run-up to the May 2015 elections, with a rise in clandestine online activity by Russia across the UK at the time, have been reported by security sources.
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.
“Across the West we are on the alert and looking at defences in that sort of areas of the electoral process. This is obviously an area of concern,” said Mr. Martin.
Mr Bryant repeated these concerns as MPs considered new powers to tackle money laundering, which many have seen as a crackdown on corrupt money flowing into the UK from Russia and other countries.
Mr Bryant, who was Labour’s Minister of State for Europe between 2009 to 2010, went on to criticise both British and US policy towards Russia in recent years.
He said: “My personal perception was that both David Cameron and President Obama were very reluctant to show a strong arm to Russia, because they thought by pressing the reset button, that was Obama’s view, somehow or other you would manage to get major concessions out of Putin.
“I have to say, that has simply not proved to be an effective strategy.
“In every single regard, Putin has simply taken those moments as a sign of weakness and preceded to use force in greater degree.”