If breaking electoral law becomes a price worth paying, the foundations of our democracy are in peril

The Criminal Prosecution Service today announced it would charge three people, including former MP and current Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Craig Mackinlay, in relation to offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983 committed during the 2015 general election. 

Responding to the CPS’ decision, Unlock Democracy’s Director Alexandra Runswick said:

“The bar is set high for the Criminal Prosecution Service to take action, and it is concerning that there has been sufficient evidence of intentional misconduct by Craig Mackinlay, a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, his election agent, and a Conservative Party HQ campaign specialist. However, while three people have been charged both the CPS and the Electoral Commission concluded in March that there were plenty more cases where candidates, their agents, and CCHQ officials, submitted inaccurate spending returns[1] for which there have been paltry repercussions.

“The Conservatives have blamed ‘fragmented election law’[2] for these charge. Yet despite being in government for seven years they have failed to act on calls from the Electoral Commission for more powers, instead choosing to perpetuate the myth that there is widespread voter fraud and focussing their attention on voter ID instead. Whoever forms the next government must act upon the real issues in electoral law urgently.

“Electoral law needs an overhaul so that it is fit for purpose, and the Electoral Commission must be empowered to stop money from buying elections. Where the law has been broken, there must be significant consequences, otherwise, if breaking electoral law is seen as a price worth paying, then the very foundations of our democracy are in peril.”

ENDS

[1] The Electoral Commission's report on their investigation into the Conservative party;s campaign spending returns for the 2014 EU parliamentary election and 2015 general election:  http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/222935/Report-in-respect-of-the-Conservative-and-Unionist-Party.pdf

[2] The Conservative party's statement responding to the charges: https://twitter.com/Channel4News/status/870588768000061440

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