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Fears over UK Government ‘power grab’ of independent Electoral Commission

18 Jun 2021 2 minutes Read
Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

Campaigners have voiced fears that the UK Government is planning a “power grab” of the independent Electoral Commission.

Elections are devolved to Wales but the Electoral Commission, the independent agency that regulates party and election finance, is a pan-UK body.

There are now fears it could be brought under Westminster control with the Minister of State for the Constitution declaring that “some across the House have lost confidence in the work of the Commission” and announcing plans to reduce its independence.

The proposals suggested so far include:

  • For UK Government politicians to set the priorities of the Electoral Commission
  • Increasing the powers of the Speaker’s Committee, which has a government majority for the first time ever (despite the governing party getting a minority of the vote in 2019)
  • Banning the Electoral Commission from proposing criminal prosecutions – for example when parties have deliberately concealed the identity of a donor

Transparency International UK has warned the measures would make the Electoral Commission’s board, which includes representatives from political parties, “redundant, and de facto gives their role to the UK government, which has a commanding majority [of parliamentary seats]. It seems highly inappropriate given the need to ensure the EC is completely independent of government.”

‘Concering’

Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the Electoral Reform Society, said that the bid “looks like a thinly-veiled government power grab”.

“The government is, on the one hand, creating new rules for the Electoral Commission to enforce – while at the same time reducing its independence, extending political influence over what should be a neutral body.

“The Electoral Commission is the UK’s number one experts on Britain’s complex electoral law, so it is vital it retains the ability to raise alleged wrongdoing in the courts.

“When seats in parliament don’t match how the public votes, handing more power to the Speaker’s Committee, which has a one-party majority for the first time, is a deeply concerning move.

“We call for a full public consultation and debate on these changes, to ensure these proposals do not slip in under the radar.”

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Quornby
Quornby
3 months ago

Putin, Mugabe, Lukashenko, Kim Jong-Un, Johnson……… the list grows long. Don’t laugh at Johnson and theWestminster faux Democrats being on this list… we once laughed at Amin and then woke up to his tendencies.

Robert Williams
Robert Williams
3 months ago
Reply to  Quornby

A while ago I’d have thought Quornby’s comments exaggerated; now I’m not so sure. This is of course nakedly dictatorial behaviour. Fortunately there are almost certainly a large number of Conservative voters – such as those in Chesham and Amersham who won’t like this at all.

Mark
Mark
3 months ago

Why don’t the tories stop faffing around and just declare a dictatorship, at least then, the voting public might realise what these parasites are doing.

William Habib Steele
William Habib Steele
3 months ago

I’m tempted to say that a Parliament with proportional representation would help solve this problem. However, I think Wales should become independent and have its own parliament with proportional representation.

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