A senior opposition MP condemned electoral reforms planned by the UK government for failing to tackle the influence of anonymous political donations.
The Election Bill has been criticized by MPs and activists for proposing to make photo ID mandatory at polling stations and give ministers greater control over the election watchdog .
Stewart Hosie, the Scottish National Party shadow cabinet minister, said voter identification was not necessary and the measures had failed to address the electoral system’s vulnerability to so-called ‘money black “.
“Half the audience believe there is inadequate regulation of political party spending and only 14% believe there is transparency around this, ”Hosie said during a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday.
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“Threats to equity”
Hidden money refers to money given to political parties, campaigns or politicians, the sources of which are not disclosed for the purpose of influencing the democratic process. Nearly 19,000 people have signed a petition on the openDemocracy website calling on the government to increase transparency and regulation of black money donor groups.
Former Election Commissioner David Howarth, writing for openDemocracy earlier this month, called the government’s voter identification plan a “trap” designed to distract from other proposals in the bill that are “Serious threats to the fairness of all future elections in Britain”.
Howarth called the proposed changes to the Election Commission “appalling” and said they could result in the election regulator favoring the ruling party.
He also criticized measures that would give the government the power to choose groups labeled as third-party campaign groups, which could “allow it to ban organizations it opposes” such as unions or protest groups such as than Black Lives Matter.
Third-party campaign groups are categorized as individuals or organizations that campaign in the run-up to elections but do not present themselves as political parties or candidates. Many of these groups do not disclose the source of their funding.
Earlier this year, openDemocracy revealed that several pro-Tory third-party campaign groups spent more than £ 700,000 ahead of the 2019 general election without declaring a single donation, only to disappear months later.
A report by the government’s independent ethics body released in July found loopholes in electoral law could allow secret groups to act as “a channel for foreign money to influence UK elections “.
The Committee on Standards in Public Life has warned that “no transparency” is required when these groups, known in the legal sense as’unincorporated associations‘, donate to individual MPs. He added that the people who fund them “don’t have to be authorized donors.”
openDemocracy revealed in July that UK political parties had reported donations worth £ 12.9million through unincorporated associations over the past five years. Of that, £ 4.1million has been declared since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019, with the majority (£ 2.6million) going to his party.
Responding to Hosie’s assertions during Thursday’s debate, Michael Ellis, a cabinet minister, said the government seeks to “protect the electoral system … by increasing confidence in the system.”