Cut the Electoral Corruption!

“Follow the money” has always been a good tip for an investigative journalist or politician.

 In recent weeks and months there have been plenty such trails to follow.  In reverse order:

  • “Arron Banks faces EU referendum finance investigation” (BBC 1/11/2017);
  • “Trump, Assange, Bannon, Farage … bound together in an unholy alliance” (Observer 30/10/2017);
  • “Who paid for the leave vote?” (Guardian 28/6/2017);
  • “Labour MP calls for probe into Tory use of voter data” (Guardian 27/5/2017);
  • “Watchdog can’t stop foreign interference in election” (BBC 17/5/2017);
  • “No Conservative election charges from 14 police force inquiries” (Guardian 10/5/2017);
  • “The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked” (Observer 7/5/2017);
  • “Tories could face election fraud cases across the country” (Times 16/3/2017);
  • “Tories ‘Telling Lies’ About How Crucial General Election Seats Were Won, Whistleblowers Say” (Huffington Post 9/3/2017);
  • “Election fraud inquiry rocks No 10” (Times 4/3/2017);
  • “Revealed: how US billionaire helped to back Brexit” (Observer 26/2/2017);
  • “DUP spent £282,000 on Brexit ad that did not run in Northern Ireland” (Guardian 24/2/2017).

And, in the midst of this barrage, came the thoroughly comprehensive report by Chris Bowers, published by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust in September 2017, with the title“Elections for Sale? Do current UK spending limits prevent parties buying elections?”

Just before Polling Day in June the Conservative Party issued a statement in response to the latest announcement of prosecutions:

There is a broad consensus that election law is fragmented, confused and unclear, with two different sets of legislation and poor guidance from the Electoral Commission. Conservatives are committed to strengthening electoral law.

I referred to this commitment when my Private Member’s Bill (PMB) received its Second Reading in the Lords on 27 October. I pointed out that

For the governing party … to do nothing about that situation in this Parliament would be extraordinarily irresponsible.

My Bill could provide a vehicle for some of the worst defects and distortions to be addressed.

The Minister responding (Lord Young of Cookham) spent some time emphasising the need for “consensus” and promised further discussions.

However, he also warned that

The legislative programme for this Session is already at full capacity and there is no scope for additional measures.

Of course, with this two-year Session and some Government assistance, that does not prevent a Private Member’s Bill from making progress.

Since then the Minister in the Cabinet Office responsible for these matters, Chris Skidmore MP, has told the Commons:

The Government are committed above all to ensuring that the laws governing our elections are clear and generate the greatest degree of confidence. [Hansard WH 282 – 30/10/2017]

So what happens next? I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues are meeting both the Electoral Commission and Ministers to seek to make progress.


* Lord Tyler is the Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Political and Constitutional Reform.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Parliament.


  • Katerina Porter 17th Nov '17 - 8:54am

    This is very important. After all Brexit might strengthen the lobbying power of multinationals in Britain with no brake in Brussels.

  • Stephen Booth 17th Nov '17 - 9:17am

    The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) highlighted by Ian Sanderson are a potential serious worry for the party. As they stand canvassers would need the written permission of electors to record voting intentions – a serious impediment to campaigning. The party at national level will need to pursue with others to get common sense interpretation and embodyment in UK law otherwise GDPR will be a tool that only those with very deep pockets will benefit, to the detriment of our democracy.

  • Katerina Porter 17th Nov '17 - 11:19am

    PS brake not available any more from Brussels

  • We could start by enforcing the laws we already have. At a local level I am concerned about the timing of by-elections to coincide with council newsletters and the lists of those calling for a by-election being in the public domain. There is a heavy bias in favour of the dominant party.

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