Labour\’s plans to stop the Conservatives pouring millions of pounds into key marginal seats have been dealt a serious blow by the Electoral Commission.
In a leaked document seen by the Guardian, the commission\’s chief executive, Peter Wardle, reveals it has "strong reservations" about proposals to reform party funding put forward by the justice secretary, Jack Straw.
In June, Straw announced measures designed to put a stop to the tactic of pouring huge sums of money into closely contested seats outside of an election period, the loophole exploited most famously by Tory deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft, who has allocated £2m for 50 Conservative candidates in marginal seats, leaving Labour MPs to complain they have been outgunned. At the 2005 election, the Tory party gained 33 seats, many of them recipients of money from a £1.5m fund that Ashcroft established.
There\’s two issues here.
The first is simple free speech. Yes, political advertising and leafletting is free speech and thus should not be limited.
The second is that limitations upon political spending are an Incumbency Protection Act.
Now I belong to a political party (UKIP for those who don\’t know) and am hoping to stand for them. A political party which never has the money to do these sorts of things. So it might be assumed that I would be in favour of limitations upon election spending….not so. Basic natural rights like free speech are a great deal more important than party political manouvering.