Election Expenses

Last December, the Times reported that the Conservative Party is well on track to raise £50 million in a year. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that in the very same month the Conservatives dramatically raised the expenditure limit for national parties in general elections from around £19.5 million to around £36 million. Is it not the truth of all these huge increases in election expense limits that the Conservative Party is feeling desperate? It lacks support, but it has money. It thinks that it needs to spend the £15 million believed to have been given by Frank Hester, the £5 million from Mohamed Mansour and all of the money from billionaire tax exiles whom it has just allowed to donate, and with as little scrutiny as possible, even if they have not lived here for several decades?

Level Playing Fields?

This is all about desperate spending to seek re-election, and not about the democratic principle of a level playing field in politics, which was established in law during Gladstone’s time. This principle was also agreed by all the parties in the legislation governing party expenditure in 2000. More recently, it has been supported by the words of the noble Lord, Lord True, in our debates on the Elections Act. However, action speaks louder than words, as they say, and it seems a very long time since the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton, became Prime Minister, and pledged to “take the big money out of politics”.

It is also clear that those who can make great profits from doing business with the current Government feel able to afford exceptionally large donations to the party in office. The increases proposed are enormous. They are being made very suddenly in close proximity to the elections. This is despite the convention, and the advice of the Electoral Commission, that, if significant changes are to be made to electoral law, they should be made at least six months in advance of any election.

The Electoral Commission confirmed that the Government have not provided evidence of the need for such huge and disproportionate increases in election expense limits. It says that, for there to be increases in election expense limits, there should be evidence that parties and candidates are being constrained in their ability to reach voters by the current expense limits.

“We did not see any evidence of this”.

The Electoral Commission 

I beg to move the amendment in my name because we must regret what the Government are doing as, once again, they abuse their power and bend the election rules quite grotesquely in their favour.

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