Thursday, March 16, 2017

Election Expenses

As I first wrote on  2nd June last year, all parties should obey the law on election expenses and should co-operate fully with the authorities if they are investigating any suggestions to the contrary.

All the major national parties have had problems with election spending, accounting, or other election practices.

In October 2016 Labour was fined £20,000 for undeclared election spending in the 2015 general election. At that time this was a record fine by the Electoral Commission. Among many things Labour had failed to declare was the so-called "Ed Stone."

In December 2016 the Lib/Dems were also fined £20,000 for undeclared election spending.

Currently UKIP are the subject of an Electoral Commission investigation to "ascertain whether the party accepted impermissible donations from the European political party the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE) and its affiliated foundation the Initiative for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE)." There may also be an investigation into the paperwork they filed during the Stoke Central by-election.

And now the Conservative party has been fined £70,000 for misreporting election spending

This is just not good enough. As I have previously written, it is not acceptable that any major party should fail to comply with the rules.

As and when the legal process is finished - in the Conservative case we are not there yet because a file has been passed to the CPS, and the UKIP investigations are ongoing - it is the responsibility for any party which is found to have acted incorrectly to review their procedures and the action of individuals to ensure that this does not happen again, which may include the need for disciplinary action against those responsible. Obviously due process should be followed before any such action to ensure it is fair and just, not a search for scapegoats.

It is also important that the rules should be clear and transparent. Since it appears that all the major national parties have got it badly wrong, there may be a case for an independent review of the spending rules to check that they are clear, fair, reasonable, as simple as possible, transparent and worded in such a way. that whether they have been kept is a matter of objective fact capable of only a single interpretation.

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