A vote that could have changed Britain

Katie Ghose, former Chief Executive

Posted on the 22nd April 2013

A vote has just taken place that could have changed British Democracy forever.

And it didn’t take place in Westminster but over in Strasburg – as the European Court of Human Rights upheld the ban on paid political broadcast advertising in a knife edge 9-8 vote.

This ruling should be welcome news to all democrats. Lifting the ban would have irrevocably changed the political landscape in Britain, and not for the better.

The last Senate race in Pennsylvania cost more ($40 million) than our three main parties spent on the last General Election combined ($31 million). And it didn’t buy a higher quality of debate – just back to back attack ads.

We’ve been seriously concerned that lifting the ban would escalate the current ‘arms race’ on political spending and fuel the rise of the British SuperPAC – the interest groups that pour millions into political advertising independently of the US parties at and between elections.

The US experience shows the only people who would profit from TV attack ads are moneyed interest groups, TV networks and paid political consultants. The biggest loser would be democratic debate in Britain.

For a moment it looked like the UK was sleepwalking towards SuperPAC Politics. There is already a problem with big money in our politics, but lifting this ban would have made it look like small change.

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