Election Campaigning

Published on: 28 September 2023

With a General Election probably within sight, the issue of non-party campaigning may be relevant for some members.  “Non-party campaigning” is where an organisation campaigns for or against political parties or candidates, or on issues around elections, without standing candidates themselves.  A draft Code of Practice has recently been published, which sets out the laws that non-party campaigners must follow on campaign spending, donations, and reporting.  Some key points to be aware of are –

Expenditure levels:

  • The laws on spending and donations apply to non-party campaigners who spend more than £700 on regulated campaign activity.
  • Additionally, non-party campaigners intending to spend more than £10,000 on regulated campaign activity must notify the Electoral Commission, via an online form Login – The Electoral Commission.

Purpose:  There is a “purpose test” to help organisations consider whether they might be a non-party campaigner. The key factors are below, they should be considered collectively, rather than individually –

  • Does your campaign include a “call to action” to voters? Is your campaign asking people to vote for or against a particular political party, parties, or category of candidate at an upcoming election? Can it reasonably be seen as implicitly asking them to? Would someone think that your campaign is asking them to?
  • What is the tone of your campaign? Are you negative or positive towards:
    • A political party or parties,
    • A category of candidate, or
    • A policy closely and publicly associated with a party or category of the candidate?
  • Context: Are you campaigning on a policy that will make a voter think of a particular party or category of candidates? For example:
    • Does the policy clearly represent an area of difference between political parties that the voters you are targeting will likely be aware of?
    • Are the policy and political parties’ views on it prominent in public debate at the time that you design and launch your campaign?
    • Are you campaigning as a reaction to a policy or position of a political party?
  • Timing: Did your campaign start close to the date of an election? The closer the election is, the more likely it is that a reasonable person would think that your campaign is intended to influence people to vote for or against a political party, parties, or category of candidate.  If your campaign has been running for a long time prior to the election, it is less likely that a reasonable person would think it is aimed at the election.
  • How would a reasonable person see your activity? Would a reasonable person think your campaign is intended to influence people to vote for or against a political party, parties, or category of candidate at an upcoming election?

What? Activities that may be regulated –

  • Press conferences or other media events organised by the non-party campaigner.
  • Transport in connection with publicising the campaign.
  • Production or publication of campaign material that is made available to the public at large or any section of the public.
  • Canvassing and market research seeking views or information from members of the public.
  • Public rallies or other public events.

When?  Spending by non-party campaigners is regulated in the 365 days before a UK Parliamentary General Election and Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

More information:

Non-party campaigning: draft code of practice – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Charity campaigning in a general election year – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/non-party-campaigners-uk-parliamentary-general-elections
https://ico.org.uk/media/about-the-ico/consultations/2615563/guidance-on-political-campaigning-draft-framework-code-for-consultation.pdf

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