Democracy needs you: Cross-party group seeks evidence for how to update Britain’s ‘wild west’ campaign rules

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 10th June 2019

Last month saw a landmark in the push to overhaul Britain’s dangerously out-dated political campaigns laws.

MPs from across the political divide stepped up efforts to update Britain’s analogue-age election rules, by launching the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Electoral Campaign Transparency.

The group is chaired by Stephen Kinnock MP and supported by campaign groups FairVote UK and the Electoral Reform Society – with a clear focus on making sure future elections and free and fair.

Next Monday the APPG will launch its inquiry into Britain’s electoral campaign rules, taking evidence from experts and civil society (including the ERS) to feed into a Green Paper, advising the government on how to better safeguard and strengthen our democracy.

[bctt tweet=”Our electoral rules have not been updated for nearly twenty years leaving the door wide open to online manipulation letting dodgy money and ‘dark data’ into our politics.” username=”electoralreform”]

In the past 18 months we’ve seen fines dished out to several campaign groups and Cambridge Analytica for rule-breaking during the EU referendum, fines which one funder (Arron Banks) deemed ‘the cost of doing business’. It is now imperative we look at how to safeguard our elections for the future.

The government recently published its response to the consultation on ‘Protecting the Debate’, pledging some changes – including digital ‘imprints’ stating who has paid for online political ads – but the devil is in the detail, and with a Conservative leadership contest underway, any reforms are under threat.

That means we have to keep the pressure up while also ensuring we have the best information available. The group’s inquiry will focus on where the law stands with regards to the Electoral Commission’s three themes:

  • Transparency (digital and traditional)
  • Deterrence (How we can ensure the Electoral Commission has the level of armoury needed to deter and, if necessary, penalise adequately)
  • Monitoring (How do we ensure there is a process/mechanism to review whether digital campaigning laws are up-to-date and can be reformed immediately when needed)

As noted in its core remit: “The new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Electoral Campaigning Transparency will look forward, not backward, with a relentless focus on making future referenda and elections fair and legal. This issue is bigger and broader than Brexit.”

There is a wealth of information about where the gaps in the law are. It’s time to act on those lessons and protect our democracy for future generations.

The cross-party group has now formally opened a written evidence submission period for the APPG on Electoral Campaigning Transparency. It will be open until 25 July 2019 at 5pm.

[bctt tweet=”Don’t miss this chance to feed into our democratic process and finally rein in the ‘wild west’ in online campaigning.  ” username=”electoralreform”]

If you have knowledge of campaign law or would simply like to contribute your views on the issue, you can do so here.

Read the ERS’ recent report on Britain’s out-dated campaign rules

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