Thursday, 18 March 2010

How Unite can spend secret millions promoting the Labour Party

Mark Pack has an interesting post on the Election Law Channel on Lib Dem Voice. In it he discusses the law surrounding what must and what need not be declared in election expenses.

But one thing jumped out at me:

Unions such as Unite can spend potentially millions of pounds promoting the Labour Party and Labour candidates to their members without having to declare a penny.

The official Electoral Commission guidance states:

There are rules on how much can be spent by people who are not candidates, but who spend money at an election. These people are called ‘third parties’.

In our view, you will not be affected by these rules if:

  • you have invited all the candidates in the constituency to attend – even if not all of them actually turn up, or
  • your hustings is only open to members of your organisation

So Unite can organise an event to which they only invite Labour candidates to meet Unite members. They can, presumably, ply them with free food and drink (the rules on treating presumably do not apply). All the while the Labour candidate can be selling themselves without the inconvenience of having any other candidates around.

And none of this need be declared on the election expenses of the Labour candidate or on the official 'third party' returns filed by Unite.

Surely this is a matter that needs correcting urgently.

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