Friday, 5 May 2017

Should we have stricter control on electoral spending?

As we await the results pf the local elections it is well worth considering the democratic deficit that still allows some candidates to spend huge amounts of money compared with their rivals

According to the  Guardian
 The Conservatives’ candidate to become West Midlands mayor has defended spending up to £1m on the campaign, dwarfing his opponents’ spending power.
Andy Street, the former John Lewis boss who quit to run for the role, said targeting voters before spending rules began could be justified because the role was vital to 2.5 million people in Birmingham and the surrounding area.
The comments come ahead of a tightly fought race and a string of mayoral contests to be held on Thursday. Many council elections are also happening that day.

There is a strict spending limit of about £130,000 during the final five weeks leading up to the 4 May election but there is no cap on spending before that, and most of Street’s material was distributed during January, February and March.
Siôn Simon, Street’s Labour opponent, said the rules on spending on mayoral elections should be tightened. 
“You can’t blame Andy for sticking to the rules but it does beg the question whether the rules are right. I think the rules are wrong. In general elections, the regulated period starts much earlier. No rules at all, a complete free for all, until six weeks before polling day – I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it.”

Labour’s campaign spending is thought to be between £100,000 and £200,000. It has focused on social media campaigning and phone banks, where volunteers call up voters to ask for their support. The Lib Dem candidate has spent about £50,000.
Although  the rules are stricter for other elections it still is the case that Parties can spend money on electoral campaigns as candidates nurse a seat .
Often it is disguised as a Newspaper but still manage to give prominence to a candidate.
Election spending Rules are there for a reason but all Parties and some Independents run close to the wind  when it comes to how much they spend in the period between elections.
But the case in the West Midlands shows we need tighter control.Perhaps we need the equivalent of an Ombudsman  who can exert some control over the abuse  of spending in elections.

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