Saturday, June 10, 2006

LibDems Accused of Breaking Electoral Law by Paying Canvassers

Last Sunday an official LibDem email, put out by London LibDems exhorted party members to help out in the Bromley by election. Nothing wrong in that, you might think, but at the end of the email the Party offered to reward LibDem Youth & Student members by giving them "a tenner" and paying for their travel. Now my knowledge of electoral law is by no means encyclopedic, but I do know that it is strictly illegal to pay canvassers in any shape or form.

From: Pete Dollimore <pete.dollimore...>Reply-To: Pete Dollimore < pete.dollimore...>To: ld-londonactivists-l@LISTS.LIBDEMS.ORG.UKSubject: [LONDON-LDS] Latest News from Bromley Date: Sun, 4 Jun 2006 13:10:38 +0100--- Latest News from Bromley ---
Come and Help! ---The pile of tabloid newspapers has started to go down, but there's no danger of them running out soon!

LDYS members please note - if you coming for a full day, we can help with student travel costs (bring ticket with you), a tenner to help youthrough the day and overnight accommodation if needed. Just give the office a call and offer to do a day's work! If you're prepared to make the committment (sic), then the party will help make sure you're not out of pocket.

I am quite prepared to accept that all these keen young LibDem students may be photocopying, but if any of them are out on the doorstep and talking to voters and at the same time receving their £10, they are probably committing an offence, as are those who hand over the money. Hat-tip to Yellow Peril. Note: I have only quoted the relevant paragraph of the email. I have the full email.

24 comments:

Betty said...

I heard the Tories were planning to spend £100,000? Sounds a rather expensive "In Touch". The words "pot", "kettle" and "black" spring to mind.

Iain Dale said...

Betty, first of all the spending limit set by electoral law for by elections is £100,000. And you say "you heard". Really. Source? From whom?

The paying of canvassers in a by election is illegal. Spending £100,000 on the campaign isn't.

james said...

The particular wording of it is slightly ambiguous, but I would be likely to take the part of "...a tenner to help youthrough the day..." as referring to things like refreshments (bottled water, Coke (the drinkable type, though you never know), that sort of thing) and lunch and dinner.

It doesn't sound particularly fiendish from where I'm standing.

Let's face it- who'd bother to canvas on the face of a £10 bribe? Somehow, I can't see hordes of LDers converging from all over the country for that.

Anonymous said...

well they won't be bribing canvassers for long, will they? they're gonna have to hand back £2 million that they got from the fraudster bloke.

once they've had to disgorge that, they'll barely be able to fund ol' Mingers beta blockers..

well done, Iain; looks like you've got the rascals bang to rights. anyone got the DPP's number?

Chris Palmer said...

Sweets first, now money. What next?

Peerages... Oh no, wait, that's Labour!

Tim said...

They have done this for so many elections- I can't see why they wouldn't have been put straight by now. This happened at the General election, and places like Hartlepool, Leicester etc etc.

I doubt it is anything illegal to be honest- just a way to stop their skint student members being seriously out of pocket.

Margaret on the Guillotine said...

just a way to stop their skint student members being seriously out of pocket.
Hmph - as a skint student who went off to Leicester South to work for the Tories in 2004, I ended up being charged for sarnies, drinks and the like in the local Con Club itself, never mind getting cash to eat out elsewhere.

Maybe that's why I was the only helper I could see under the age of 40... hmm....

Peter Black said...

It is not illegal to pay leafleters of course.

Jock Coats said...

And what we casually refer to as "canvassing" is, certainly within election periods, really what other parties would (quite properly) call "voter id" which is not as I understand it illegal to pay for (else how do others fund their phone banks?).

Besides, I suspect if you tried to argue that a subsistence allowance, effectively from one member or group of members of an association to another for out of pocket expenses, was "pay or remuneration" you might find yourself in need of more protection than Salman Rushdie once all those fat cats and their expenses accounts get hammered by the tax man!

And the effect on volunteering would be disastrous if everyone had to account for out of pocket expenses as paid employment.

Anonymous said...

Jock misses the point - it is the Lib Dems who describe this as "work" - nobody else. At best it displays a pretty casual attitude to the law, at worst it is an attempt to drive a coach and horses through a provision originally established by the Liberals themselves to protect us from bought elections.

Anonymous said...

of course, by the time the Lab/Lib/Tory axis have finished chumming up against the taxpayer, and getting state-funding for political parties and so on, the canvassers will have to be paid maternity leave and BUPA...

Jock Coats said...

Is the phrase "voluntary work" an oxymoron then? Best tell that to all those Third Wayers that want to devolve so much of public service provision to such people and organisations.

The one thing I would like to see, however, is a tightening up of this particular mailing list. That's twice now what i would probably if it were Oxford's mailing list assume to be "Chatham House rules natter amongst friends and colleagues" has filtered through into criticism from opposing parties' bloggers.

Martin Hoscik said...

Given the size of Eric Forth’s majority at the last General Election one wonders why either Labour or the LibDems are bothering to even contest the seat…

Anonymous said...

Presumably for the same reason that the Conservative party put up candidates in Thursday's byelections in Durham and Hartlepools and came in a magnificent 4th and 5th places .

Martin Hoscik said...

Anonymous - regardless of which part it is, I've always considered it a waste of members time and money to campaign in seats you clearly have no chance of winning and in a by-election such as this I think my point is even more valid.

Eric Forth's 13,000 majority means Bob Neill will win and probably by several miles.

Labour, the LibDems and everyone else obviously have the right to stand but who are they serving by doing so?

Certainly not their members whose money is going to be wasted producing leaflets (and paying students for their travel costs apparently) which won't have serious impact on the outcome.

Anonymous said...

For once, I detect lots of nonsense in one thread...paying people a tenner to get to Bromley and buy a sandwich is really trivial stuff.

Of course Labour and the LibDems should contest Bromley- together they got 45 % of the vote!....and you should contest everywhere where you will probably hold on to the deposit.

...and what is this complacency that Neill is home and dry....

Susanne said...

So the Tories don't have poor students then. Or is it just that Tories don't have hearts?

Everyday Tories are having a pop at the Lib dems for one thing or another. Give it a rest - If that's all you have to complain about panic must be setting in.

Having read the whole email you would have seen my name at the bottom of it as well.

Chris Palmer said...

"Everyday Tories are having a pop at the Lib dems for one thing or another. Give it a rest - If that's all you have to complain about panic must be setting in." - Susanne

Impossible. Lib Dems have so many cretinous ideas that need exposing, especially the ones on crime and prison. Plus it's too enjoyable!

Martin Hoscik said...

Anonymous asked "what is this complacency that Neill is home and dry"

Much as I respect Bob and indeed all the Tory AMs I've met I'm not a Conservative member or voter so I don't think I can be accused of "complacency" which generally infers a level of personal involvement or bias.

Anonymous said...

What a classic Susanne Lamido's comment is. I care nothing for the Tories or Lib dems - you are welcome to each other, but the rank hypocrisy of Lib Dems who wrote the book on dirty, dishonest and unethical campaigning just makes me laugh. they can dish it out but they can't take it.

Neil Craig said...

If nobody stood in seats where another party had a 13,000 majority should the Lib Dems have stood in Dunfermline where Labour had a nearly 12,000 majority?

In any case does this not demonstrate yet again how a corrupt FPTP electoral system effectively disenfranchises most people not in marginals.

Cllr David Morton said...

This is a load of cobblers and you know it! You are just trying to wind Lib Dems up and you have suceeded.

PoliticalHack said...

The law makes specific reference to persuading people to vote for a particular candidate.

Voter ID works to scripts which aim to identify how an elector votes, not if they will vote for Joanne Bloggs.

Martin Hoscik said...

Neil Craig - you raise a fair point although to further develop my point there's an important difference in that Labour (well Blair) are increasingly unpopular and so other parties had a chance to seize on that unpopularity.

In Bromley the majority is held by a party who are increasing in popularity (assuming we accept recent polls) so the same chance doesn't apply.