Jonathan Eida | Opinion
Campaign finance violation rules and electoral regulations are here for a reason. They are here to ensure political transparency and to increase fairness during the elections. Ever since the 2016 US Presidential election, there have been increased calls for campaign transparency, specifically in light of foreign interface. Members of the Left have been very insistent that more needs to be done to conduct elections in their ideal format. However, it would be very nice if some Left-wing groups would adhere to the current legislation in place.
Momentum, the radical Left-wing grassroots group which brought about the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, has been caught in a scandal regarding violations of electoral law and causing others to follow suit, causing citizens to unwittingly break the law.
The revelation was brought to light by an organisation called Wolves of Westminster, who provided in great detail evidence of the plan and also the application of the scheme.
Momentum asked activists to print and distribute election leaflets with an invalid imprint. This action is in violation of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, section 143. Under this section, it is required that the leaflets contain the printer’s and the promotor’s details. These leaflets contained the promotor’s but not the printer’s.
Wolves also provided screenshots of an official Momentum chat called “Let’s go NHS”, which showed that members had printed and distributed the leaflets.
Now, relating back to why rules such as these are in place. As trivial as these rules may seem, leaving the details of the printer off the leaflet is a major problem. Without the name of the printer, leaflets are open to containing false information and now cannot be traced back to the source that paid for them. How can governmental institutions hold those who spread false information to account if their details are not around? We are so worried about fake news being spread online, but when it comes to fake news being spread on paper, we are not concerned? That seems very strange to me!
It would also be very hard to claim on Momentum’s part that this came about through complete negligence. Momentum, being the highly influence group that they are, must surely be familiar with the electoral rules and regulations. It would even be very odd if they did not have a whole legal team in place to ensure practices such as those described don’t happen. I would suggest a full review be put in order to see where things went wrong. Whether it turns out to be caused through negligence or something more sinister, it would be wise on Momentum’s part to hold those who caused this farce to account.
It is also interesting to note how odd it is that Momentum did not print out the leaflets themselves and then send them to activists for distribution (as is normally done). Presumably, it was done to avoid spending regulations, which is cheeky but also unfair on the activists who had to dish out their own cash to print the leaflets, even though ultimately that choice came down to the activists themselves.
From the side of the activists, they are not to blame. Momentum are a very large pressure group and it is expected that any requests from them to the activists are all legally sound. It is at least grossly negligent for an organisation to advocate activities without the requests being verified. Just in terms of an organisation as a whole, Momentum have created a disconnect for the leadership and are earning a reputation within the membership for being untrustworthy.
All in all, Momentum have a lot to think about. They seem to me to have major problems legally, but they also have issues with how carelessly they treat their base. I hope those responsible for commanding the breaches in electoral law will be held to account. I don’t see how democracy can operate without these standards being upheld and people who break the law being held responsible.