Changing the conduct of political Campaigning
Today, (Tuesday 29 October) after months of evidence gathering and consideration the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Electoral Conduct, chaired by Natascha Engel, Member of Parliament for North East Derbyshire and Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, published its recommendations.
The inquiry, which was set up to look at the management of elections, had a specific interest in examining charges of misconduct focusing on racism and discrimination. This focus was spurred on by a previous all-party group investigation in 2006 into anti-Semitism during election campaigns. At that time the Electoral Commission were asked to draw up a code of conduct but they were of the view that any code would not be enforceable.During its investigations the inquiry found many candidates afraid to give evidence for fear that they would become even more prominent targets. Those who did come forward spoke of intimidation and former Minister Parmjit Dhanda told how his children found a severed pig’s head at his home.
Such cases are extreme and rare but the inquiry found evidence of anonymous and ‘unauthorised’ leaflets smearing candidates going through letter boxes, especially in areas of racial tensions.
Following the launch of the report and its recommendations, Natascha Engel MP, who chaired the inquiry said,
“Electoral campaigning in the UK is in general a positive process but that doesn’t mean there is no work to be done in stamping out race hate from electoral politics. There remains a job to do for Government, Parliament, the Electoral and Equalities Commissions, particularly the Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR) and for the political parties themselves in stamping out race hate from electoral politics.
This inquiry is unique. It is the first time parliamentarians have systemically analysed electoral life with a view to eliminating racism and discrimination from it. We achieved cross-party consensus on issues of vital importance to our democracy. We now need to focus on maintaining the pressure on electoral and equalities institutions to play their part. The recommendations we have made will, if implemented, benefit not just minority communities but our entire system of national politics and Britain is now in a position to set a global example.”
Natascha Engel has also sponsored an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling on the Government, the Electoral Commission, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the police to respond fully to the recommendations of the inquiry.
Note to Editors
The full report can be found at
1) For the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to bring together all registered political parties and agree a way forward. If all parties are willing, we can start what must be a cultural shift in campaigning. The EHRC have told us that they are going to discuss this at their next board meeting. We are delighted with their positive response and look forward to hearing the results.
2) When the Equalities and Human Rights Commission were the Commission for Racial Equality, they used to go out and talk to small groups and political parties, they collected leaflets and registered problems. They monitored and acted. They trained local authorities to recognise problems and taught them how to deal with them. This doesn’t happen anymore and we want a return to this better way of working.
3) We want political parties to identify a named person in every political party that activists and members of the public can easily contact to register a complaint. We want clear timetables for dealing with complaints, publishing the results and having sanctions where necessary. At the moment it is hard enough to register a complaint let alone see what happens to it.
4) The law as it stands is not effective enough in preventing racial and discriminatory behaviour in elections. This is particularly true of small organisations and individuals who campaign against people. We want the Electoral Commission to take a lead and investigate the extent of the problem and put forward proposals to deal with this. We want this done outside the political storm of the Lobbying Bill so that we can make proper time to consider this carefully.
Finally, we really want the Electoral Commission to be more active in championing decent behaviour in election campaigns. They are currently working to the letter of the law but not to the spirit in which they were established – and that was to improve the way we run our elections in Britain.
Early Day Motion 632
That this House notes the publication of a report by the All-Party Parliamentary into Electoral Conduct; welcomes the cross-party nature of the report and the engagement of such a wide range of political parties in the process; further welcomes the recommendations of that report, including the call for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Electoral Commission to enhance their activities in facing down racism and discrimination during elections; and calls on the Government, the Electoral Commission, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the police to respond fully to the recommendations of the inquiry.
Link to EDM 632 http://www.parliament.uk/edm/print/2013-14/632