Tag Archives: electoral commission

Imprints on online political ads?

Do you remember Bingo graphic that Grant Shapps tweeted last month, which not only went viral but attracted a lot of parodies?

At the time nobody commented on the fact that the ad did not have an imprint. Party activists all know that any printed political literature must have a ‘Published, promoted and printed …’ imprint on it, and not having one can be a criminal offence during election time. And yet there is no such requirement for online ads.

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Would-be Labour candidate attacks Unite’s “autocratic monopoly” and role in Lewisham and Haringey selections

Last night a would-be Labour Parliamentary candidate, who contested the Hornsey & Wood Green selection, hit out on Twitter at the “autocratic monopoly” produced by Unite’s influence on selections. Mandy Richards singled out selections in Hornsey & Wood Green and Lewisham, arguing that they have not been getting the media attention they deserve and that Unite’s influence is blocking a “progressive Labour agenda”.

Twitter - Mandy4PPC_2015- complaint about Unite

Twitter - Mandy4PPC_2015- Unite autrocratic monopoly

In Hornsey & Wood Green the selection was won by …

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Don’t pay for free voter registration, warns elections watchdog

Ballot boxThe Electoral Commission, the UK elections watchdog, is urging people not to use a paid-for service to register to vote.

The independent elections watchdog has contacted ‘UK Electoral Roll’ after it was alerted to the company offering a £30-a-time ‘assisted service’ to complete customers’ electoral roll registrations.

The company also uses a £1.53 a minute premium rate number to take customer questions.

Alex Robertson, Director of Communications, said:

This service is clearly ripping people off. It is very simple to register to vote and we want to make sure no one

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Electoral Commission advises SNP to change Independence Referendum question

The Electoral Commission has published its advice on both the question for next year’s referendum on whether Scotland should leave the UK and spending limits. Both sides of the debate have been quick to accept the recommendations, which means that most of the issues on process should now be resolved.

This means that Scots will be asked next Autumn to answer:

Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No

This is different from the SNP Government’s proposed question:

Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?

And also from the rather cumbersome question drawn up by a panel set up by the parties who …

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Paul Tyler writes: What would Keynes do?

Amidst all the sound and fury (from the Conservative benches), about the delay in implementing boundary changes, agreed by a substantial majority in the Lords last Monday evening, one important argument seems to have got lost.

When Labour left office in May 2010, we were given to understand that the electoral register was some 92% complete.  Parliament decided in the discussions on the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill that this was a sufficiently robust basis for the redrawing of constituencies along strict arithmetic lines.

Subsequently, research by the Electoral Commission established that it was nothing like as complete.  Nationally, the figure …

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Individual electoral registration: Northern Ireland shows that the annual canvass must be kept

Electoral Commission logoOne of the key disputes over how individual electoral registration should be introduced in England, Scotland and Wales is whether having people join and leave the register regularly through the year, alongside better use of other information about people moving (e.g. prompting people who take out a new TV license to register), would mean that the once-a-year check on all addresses – the ‘annual canvass’ – can be dropped.

The Electoral Commission has just published the results of its research into how individual electoral registration has

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BBC: ‘Political parties’ donations fall by almost £1m’

Here’s the BBC News report:

Donations to political parties fell by almost £1m during the second quarter of this year, official figures show. The Electoral Commission said £7,873,478 in funding had been reported – down £992,312 on the first three months of the year. The Conservatives received £3,785,579, Labour £2,964,471 and the Liberal Democrats £717,797.

The Lib Dem figure of £718k is the party’s lowest second quarter fundraising performance since 2006 (when it was less than half this year’s total, at £334k). This graph from the Electoral Commission which compiles the figures shows the disparity between the parties’ financial muscle, …

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Government publishes implementation plan for individual electoral registration

Cabinet Office logoThis week the Cabinet Office has published its detailed implementation plan for the introduction of individual electoral registration in England, Scotland and Wales. (Northern Ireland already uses it.)

Individual electoral registration has long been pushed for by the Electoral Commission and supported by all three of the main political parties. However, getting the details right is important as this is one of those issues where the administrative details can completely wreck the policy if got wrong.

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Overnight counting, electoral fraud and the running of elections: a bounty of Electoral Commission reports

The last few days have been busy ones for the Electoral Commission, with most of the headlines caught by their report into when election counts should take place (overnight or the next day):

The Electoral Commission has recommended general election counts should continue to be held overnight.

Before the 2010 election, a number of councils made plans to count votes the day after polling day.

But a campaign by MPs and others resulted in a change of the law requiring counts to start within four hours of the close of polls…

Chair of the Electoral Commission Jenny Watson said: “We are rightly proud

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Police called in over electoral fraud allegations in Tower Hamlets

The Evening Standard reports:

Scotland Yard was today asked by the elections watchdog to investigate “unprecedented” evidence of voter fraud ahead of next week’s polling for London Mayor.

The Electoral Commission passed evidence to police after six Labour councillors in Tower Hamlets wrote to warn of “serious abuses of the electoral register”. It follows growing concerns of cheating in the east London borough, involving the creation of bogus voters at a series of addresses.

An investigation by the Evening Standard this year found instances of eight names registered in one room to vote. It is claimed that a man locked up in

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Electoral Commission points finger at media on people’s concerns over electoral fraud

Commenting on the newly published review into allegations of electoral malpractice in the 2011 elections, the Electoral Commission had this to say:

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Electoral Commission warns government over refusal to provide election freepost to Police Commissioner candidates

In the run-up to the first London Mayor election in 2000 there was a fierce stand-off between the House of Lords and the then Labour government over whether there would be a ‘freepost election address’ for the contest. This service, used for elections such as to the House of Commons and the European Parliament, provides for the free delivery of one leaflet from each candidate to each voter, providing a basic minimum level of communication to the public about the contest.

During the stand-off, the late Conrad Russell led an effective rebellion invoking rarely used Lords procedures. I remember talking to two senior peers, one Tory and one Lib Dem, as he walked down the corridor in the distance. “That’s the man the government is scared of,” one said to the other, and rightly so as the dispute threatened to derail the whole contest.

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Only limited success for data-matching trials to improve electoral register

The Electoral Commission reports:

Data matching may have the potential to improve electoral registers in Great Britain, but more work needs to be done, the Electoral Commission has advised the UK Government.

The Commission, the independent elections watchdog, has evaluated pilot schemes by 22 local authorities in England and Scotland, supported by the Cabinet Office. The authorities compared their electoral registers with other sources of information, such as the Department of Work and Pensions database, and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency driver database as part of the work in preparation for the introduction of individual electoral registration (IER).

The aim was to see if data from these sources was useful for checking the accuracy of the registers and for identifying people missing from the registers who may be eligible to vote.

“The results from the first pilot scheme were inconclusive for a variety of reasons,” says Electoral Commission Director of Electoral Administration, Andrew Scallan. “However, we believe data matching may have the potential to supplement activity by electoral registration officials and help in the implementation of IER. Further, well-constructed trials are necessary so that we can properly evaluate the potential.”

One reason for cautious optimism that further trials will have more success is that the Royal Mail’s change of address database ended up not being tested in the first round of trials. Using the Royal Mail to provide leaflets to people about the need to register when they notify it of changed addresses has had success in the past, so a trial of data matching using these records would have a promising pedigree.

Data Matching Pilot Evaluation

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Should Police Commissioner candidates get election addresses?

The Electoral Commission’s Peter Wardle last week gave a speech to local government Chief Executives, during which he made this point about election addresses:

The constituencies in the PCC elections are big, with over a million voters in some cases. There’s currently no provision for candidates to have Freepost facilities to deliver their election addresses to voters. Nor is there a provision for any sort of booklet for voters that would include candidates’ election addresses. Alongside the PCC elections, of course, there may well be elections for Mayors in the larger English cities. And candidates for Mayor will, on current plans, be able to pay

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LibLink: Chris Rennard – Integrity in ensuring that people can vote

Over on epolitix, Lord (Chris) Rennard has a piece calling for changes to the electoral registration system to place the burden on individuals rather than households following the news that at least 6 million people are unregistered:

All parties and the Electoral Commission are agreed in principle that the electoral registration system should change to put the responsibility on individuals rather than households.

But the Commission report shows that our existing system is not as good as we thought and there are clearly dangers in making any changes. The biggest dangers to the integrity of the process would be to suggest that

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Michael Brown arrested in Dominican Republic

The Guardian reports:

The Liberal Democrats’ biggest donor, who has been on the run for three years after being convicted of a multimillion pound theft, has been arrested by police in the Dominican Republic, the Guardian can disclose…

A City of London police spokesman confirmed Brown’s arrest. “We are pleased to hear that Michael Brown has been detained by authorities in the Dominican Republic, and are currently establishing contact with them to find out further details about his arrest.

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Electoral registration: the group that gets overlooked

People who live in private rented accommodation rarely catch the attention of politicians or political journalists. It’s odd, because so many people working for MPs or media outlets, particularly in London, spend a good number of years in shared private rented accommodation and normally the problem is that politicians place too much attention on people they are immediately familiar with rather than too little.

The neglect of the private renter is seen most often when the housing market is discussed, where it is frequently not only taken as a given that home ownership is what it is all about but also very little attention is given to making the private rented sector work better. You can fight through a bulging email folder of press releases from politicians wanting to make mortgages easier, cheaper, safer and more numerous before you find one that talks about tackling any of the issues renters face.

This week has seen the neglect in another form, with the Electoral Commission’s report into electoral registration. The headline picture is fairly straightforward. The evidence, “indicate a decline in the  quality of the registers in the early 2000s with a subsequent stabilisation, but not recovery, from 2006″. Registration rates also vary greatly by age: “The lowest percentage of completeness is recorded for the 17–18 and 19–24 age groups (55% and 56% complete respectively). In contrast, 94% of the 65+ age group were registered”.

However, differences in registration based on class or ethnicity – often talked about – are not only relatively small (little difference based on class, less than 10 percentage points difference based on ethnicity) but they are dwarfed by the property dimension:

Completeness ranged from 89% among those who own their property outright and 87% among those with a mortgage, to 56% among those who rent from a private landlord. In relation to accuracy, the rate of ineligible entries at privately rented properties was four times that found at owner occupied addresses.

For the slump in electoral registration which went alongside the slump in turnout at the turn of the century to have since stabilised as turnout has recovered somewhat is an okay, rather than good, trend. To make it a good trend requires that private renting problem to be fixed.

It is one of the reasons why – done right – I think individual electoral registration is a good thing, as it will then be clearer to people in shared private rented accommodation what needs doing to get on the register and remove the situation I’ve often encountered out on the doorsteps of just one name registered at such addresses – an absent landlord.

Yet its also one of the major issues with electoral registration that gets talked about the least. Let’s hope the latest evidence helps to change that.

Great Britain’s Electoral Registers 2011

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When should election counts be held?

The Electoral Commission has a new consultation paper out, returning to an old issue: when should election counts be held?

As the paper says:

The key issue is that many Returning Officers have considered that increasingly complex election counts would be better conducted the morning after the close of poll when staff are fresh and less likely to make mistakes, while governments, political parties and candidates have often pressed for counts in major elections to take place immediately after the close of polls. This has led to controversies in the public domain ahead of major elections.

Posted in Election law | 7 Comments

Electoral Commission calls for local Council Tax referendums to be postponed

The Electoral Commission has called on Parliament to modify the Localism Bill to delay the proposed start date for local referendums on Council Tax levels, neighbourhood development plans and local authority structures (e.g. elected Mayors) from Spring 2012 to Spring 2013.

It’s forthright message, headlined (in capital letters no less): “IMPORTANT RECOMMENDATION TO PARLIAMENT” is that with the legislation not yet passed by Parliament, there will simply not be enough time between it being passed and the proposed first possible local referendum date for the contests to be properly run. Instead, it says implementation should be delayed by a year in order to provide a sufficient gap between legislation and implementation.

This sort of warning by the Electoral Commission has become a regular feature of autumnal politics as governments of different political complexions have pushed through legislation ahead of the following spring. However, in this case their views are being expressed in a particularly strident manner.

That is no doubt due to the fact that the creation of local referendums raises far more issues of administrative organisation than the changes introduced by previous rounds of legislation. In theory, for example, some lucky voters could get to vote in five different referendums on the same day in the spring, with those different referendums taking place across differing organisational boundaries.

Localism Bill: Electoral Commission briefing for Lords Third Reading

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How were the Scottish elections run?

The Electoral Commission’s report into May’s Scottish elections is now out and broadly paints a positive picture of how the elections were administered.

As is often the case in such reports, it is the apparently obvious recommendations that highlight how something, somewhere took a rather unfortunate turn. In the case of this report, one such recommendation is tucked way unobtrusively in the middle of p.8:

Following any boundary reviews ROs and EROs must make thorough checks with the relevant Boundary Commission to ensure they are able to precisely identify the exact boundaries that are set out in legislation.

Indeed.

(700 people in Glasgow were sent poll cards telling them to vote in the wrong place.)

On the big issue in many people’s minds ahead of the elections, the report rightly brings good news. The 2007 Scottish elections were marked by controversy over the much higher proportion of rejected ballot papers than for previous Scottish Parliament elections.

This time, aided in part by the use of different ballot paperwork, the rejection rates fell right back down to levels last seen in 1999.

Looking to the future, the paper echoes the Electoral Commission report on the AV referendum when it comes to following up invalid postal votes and also promises a discussion paper on the thorny issue of when elections should be counted.

Scottish Parliament Elections Report – Electoral Commission

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Electoral administration lessons from the AV referendum: the Electoral Commission’s view

Last week, the Electoral Commission published its report into the administration of the May’s AV referendum. Despite the high political temperatures during the campaign, the administration got little criticism at the time and so the report rightly reflects that. However, amongst the details are some important pointers to issues that are likely to come up at future elections.

10pm cut-off for voting

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Mark Williams MP writes: We can achieve an accurate and complete electoral register

The Government’s planned introduction of Individual Voter Registration was to be the subject of a special ‘opposition day’ debate in the House of Commons this week. Labour MPs are getting extremely excitable about the changes, shrouding what are really partisan fears in a cloak of concern about democracy. In the event, their debate was cancelled because of other urgent business, but the issue certainly isn’t going away.

For all of their recent hollering, legislation to introduce Individual Electoral Registration was actually passed by Labour in 2009. They accepted then that the present system of household registration is inadequate and inaccurate. It leads to entries being left on the register when they shouldn’t be there, and it disconnects most voters from the process by relying on a single ‘head of household’. It also undermines the compulsory nature of registration. Some Electoral Registration Officers say it is difficult to establish who is responsible for registering people in any given property, unless it is a single person household.

Individual registration should ensure everyone has to engage with the process, and return their own form. Since all parties recognise that this is a long overdue step in reducing electoral fraud, and the perception of it, it is a pity the Opposition are now making such hysterical statements about getting on with the job.

However, there are defects with the Government’s proposals. Their initial ‘white paper’ on reform suggested that electoral registration should in future be voluntary. There would remain an obligation on households – presumably with the same defects as now – to return a “Household Enquiry Form” asking who was there, but it would then be optional for each individual to register. Electoral Registration Officers would have no “stick” with which to encourage potential electors to put themselves on the electoral roll. his would have led to a less complete register, and the independent Electoral Commission said so in its response to the consultation.

Nick Clegg is clearly listening on this point, and has already said in the House of Commons that he is minded to change the proposals to reflect these concerns. The Parliamentary Policy Committee I co-chair has made a detailed submission to the consultation, highlighting the proposed ‘opt-out’ as a key flaw in the draft legislation. It looks like Liberal Democrat pressure may now succeed in getting it dropped. We would like to see a new legal obligation follow for individuals themselves to return their form, so everyone gets on to the electoral roll in future.

Electoral registration is about far more than the right to vote. It affects the functionality of the jury system, and the principle that people are tried by their peers. If only a select group chose to register (it might be disproportionately the white middle classes), you might find suspects tried not by their peers but by those whose economic and social position is generally considerably more advantageous.

Beyond the state, referencing agencies use the electoral roll as the basis for offering credit, without which many of the most vulnerable, low income households might not be able to spread the cost of the more expensive items – furniture, washing machines, and so on – that everyone has to buy at some point.

Removal of the “opt-out” is not the only safeguard we want to see put into the legislation on IER. To prevent any largescale drop off in the number of people who are registered, we want to see a full annual canvass carried out in 2014. There could and should be more opportunties for ‘hard-to-reach’ groups to be registered, as they encounter the state in other aspects of their lives, whether through schools and colleges or through the benefits system. There is clearly room for considerable improvement in registering service voters too, espeically since it is obviously easy to know who and where they are. And the Government also needs to look again at whether the first register based entirely on individual registration – due after the 2015 election – is the right one on which to predicate the next boundary review.

I am confident that a great many of these safeguards can and will be built into the new system. Labour MPs are simply wrong to say that there is some nefarious ploy at play here, and that the Liberal Party – responsible for extending the franchise in the first place – would conspire to exclude the poorest voters from the register. That would clearly be unacceptable, and no Liberal Democrat will stand by while it happens.

When we do secure changes to the legislation, it won’t be thanks to partisan rantings on the part of Labour MPs. They resisted the principled case for individual registration for a full six years after the Electoral Commission first recommended it in 2003, and now they want to slow it down even further. All because they seem to believe that Labour voters just won’t register. But with a compulsory system, and new avenues of access to the electoral roll, there is no reason to suppose we shouldn’t be able to ensure everyone keeps their vote.

Either way, if any political party approaches this issue with a view simply to protecting its own interests, rather than the broader democratic interest, ministers are unlikely to listen. Our Committee is meeting Mark Harper, the Minister ‘under’ Nick Clegg with responsibility for Political and Constitutional Reform, to discuss the Government’s white paper next week. Let us know if there is anything you’d like us to raise with him.

Together, we can achieve what Labour failed to put in place: an electoral register which is both accurate and complete. Doing that doesn’t require delay, it requires innovation and action, and there’s no reason not to start now.

Mark Williams is Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Political and Constitutional Reform Parliamentary Policy Committee, and MP for Ceredigion

Submission to Individual Electoral Registration (IER) Consultation From

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What’s the point of switching to individual electoral registration?

As some background to the current debates, I thought it useful to revive and update an old post of my on the subject as there has been relatively little coverage of the reasons why it has been supported by all parties (including Labour, who even talked up their achievement in introducing the first legislation for individual electoral registration before 2010, in their last general election manifesto).

The current electoral registration system is based on one registration form being delivered to each household, with the head of the household completing the form on behalf of everyone there and sending it back (“household …

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Individual electoral registration: consultation response

Here’s the response I’ve sent to the Electoral Registration Transformation Programme ([email protected]) in response to the consultation on the draft legislation for individual electoral registration, which closes on 14 October. For the background on the benefits of individual electoral registration, see What’s the point of switching to individual electoral registration?

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft legislation which has been published to implement individual electoral registration in Great Britain. The publication of a full draft for public consultation is a very welcome improvement on the way …

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Performance standards for Returning Officers consultation opens

The Electoral Commission is currently consulting on its performance standards for Returning Officers in Great Britain. Here’s my response (with the full consultation document embedded below).

Dear Ross Clayton,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft Returning Officer performance standards.

As you rightly identify (p.6), one of the key principles for each election should be participation: “it should be straightforward for people to participate in our elections, whether campaigning or voting”.

However, the campaigning aspect of this is only partially followed up in the standards themselves. Performance Standard 2c covers some aspects of this, and the inclusion of informal nomination checking is particularly welcome. However, it misses out the timely provision of electoral register and absent voter data to candidates and agents. A common problem at the moment, for example, is for the final additions to the absent voter list before polling day to be provided to agents only several days later, which then leaves very little time for agents and candidates to make use of such data. Prompt provision of electoral register data and absent voter data is essential for the principle of straightforward participation to be meaningful. This could be met by adding a requirement to have target response times for dealing with requests for such data and recording the proportion of requests which were met within the target time.

In addition, the people aspect of the participation principle is not followed through in Performance Standard 2a, Polling Station set-up. This, rightly, requires Returning Officers to consider accessibility issues when choosing polling station locations. However, it does not require Returning Officers to consider the impact on turnout of the distances people have to travel to vote. There is growing evidence that the further people have to travel to vote, the lower turnout is (particularly outside of general elections); for example see http://www.libdemvoice.org/what-do-the-academics-say-more-polling-stations-can-raise-turnout-25200.html.

Performance Standard 2a would therefore better meet the underlying principles for the standards if it required Returning Officers to review turnout data and consider whether to make any changes to polling station numbers and locations.

Finally, on a slightly different point and given that 100% checking of postal voting identifiers is sometimes a cause of controversy, I would like to add my support to your proposed inclusion of this in the performance standards.

Yours,

Mark Pack
Former member, Electoral Commission Political Parties Panel and co-author, “The General Election Agents’ Manual”

Electoral Commission: Consultation on Performance Standards for Returning Officers

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Michael Brown and the Lib Dems: the bits the Telegraph missed out

Today’s Telegraph splashes with the story, Revealed: secret new life of fugitive Lib Dem donor, devoting its first three pages to the tale of Michael Brown’s new life on the run in a Caribbean hideout.

Michael Brown, as our readers will not need reminding, donated £2.4m to the party just before the 2005 general election. His subsequent arrest and conviction on several counts of fraud have been an embarrassment to the Lib Dems ever since.

The Telegraph’s story is, shock horror, a little partial, though. Take this paragraph: ‘The Liberal Democrats have steadfastly resisted all attempts to force them to repay …

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Chris Huhne cleared over election expense claims

As Mark Pack reported over on his blog, for the second time allegations over Chris Huhne’s election expenses that were strongly backed by Paul Staines and Harry Cole have collapsed after the Electoral Commission investigated them:

The review concluded that one item had been under-reported by £10.15 (sic) but that otherwise the expenditure in the short and long campaign had been properly recorded and declared.

Regularly readers may recall how stridently both of them attacked people who disagreed with their claims over Huhne’s election expenses (such as in this thread, which includes Paul Staines daring anyone to bet that Chris …

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Opinion: Why Wrexham Labour Party should be ashamed: The curious case of Aled Roberts

It’s estimated that well over 30% of the Welsh population speak Welsh as their first language – that is growing year on year. Hundreds of thousands more across the world speak it – even in a distant corner of Argentina – the valleys of a Patagonia. My partner from Rhosllanerchrugog and her family speak Welsh. They are fiercely proud of their heritage and would be absolutely disgusted with the treatment of Aled Roberts AM. It appears that they don’t speak Welsh at the Electoral Commission!

Now let me declare an interest, I don’t know Aled Roberts, I know his mum …

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Electoral Commission apologises for misleading Welsh candidate

WalesOnline reports:

THE Electoral Commission expressed its “regret” yesterday as it admitted providing the wrong information to one of the Liberal Democrat AMs disqualified from office …

Mr Roberts said he was given incorrect information by the Electoral Commission, whose official guidance for candidates said he could not stand if, at the time of the nomination, he held an office which was mentioned in the National Assembly for Wales (Disqualification) Order 2006.

The Order that the Electoral Commission referred to was not the most up-to-date, and did not include the Valuation Tribunal for Wales as one of the bodies. That was added

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Lib Dems outperform Labour on private donations, notes the FT

Good to see a bit of media recognition today which overtly acknowledges our now consistent out-performing of Labour on private fundraising efforts. The Financial Times reports:

Private and company donations to Labour have plummeted to a 10th of their pre-election average in the first six months of Ed Miliband’s leadership, according to research by the Financial Times.

Many former donors have turned their backs on the opposition party, leaving it increasingly reliant on unions, which provide the bulk of its private income.

Labour’s corporate and individual donations of £248,577 for the half-year to March were dwarfed even by those to the Liberal

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