So, today I spoke to the Electoral Commission. In my last post, I made a bunch of assumptions based on reading their website about what was legal and what wasn’t. Today I checked all that with them, and was pretty much right, thankfully.
The Commission offices all have their phone numbers online, and connect you straight to people who can answer your questions. I highly recommend giving them a call if you’re considering this yourself.
So, what did we find out? (By the way - don’t take this as solid legal advice, it’s just my own interpretation, not guaranteed fact)
There aren’t many rules around actually standing. First of all, it’s perfectly legal to announce that you intend to, as I have. You don’t have to have anything “official” in place first.
The regulated campaigning period doesn’t start until mid-December, so until then, you can do what you like. After that, things become a little more regulated financially, but more of that later.
As for registering as a candidate, or as a party, that all comes a lot later. The deadlines will be a few weeks before the election itself, so the official signing of things can be put off for a good while yet. Parties can be registered until a little while before the actual candidate nomination deadline, so we’ve got plenty of time to decide if this gets branded with a party name or not.
There was a bit more around finances, but again this only takes effect during the regulated period. There is a period starting in mid-December called the “Long Campaign”, which changes to the “Short Campaign” nearer the actual election date. Each period has different spending limits, but I’m not worrying about that too much yet.
You need to report all spending on the campaign to the Commission, but it’s just a matter of keeping simple books of expenditure. No rocket science here, and in my case I’m going to have it all open anyway. Again, this doesn’t take effect until the start of the Long Campaign, but I’ll probably start now anyway.
Incidentally, if you start campaigning early, but don’t officially register until later, the need to keep the books applies retroactively, so just get ahead and make sure you keep track from the beginning.
This was the interesting bit.
You can raise money to spend during your campaign any way you like, but you must disclose who your donors are. For independent candidates, all donations over £50 must be disclosed - the figure for parties is higher, I think.
The interesting part is that all donors must be on the electoral roll, and you have to verify this. This makes crowdfunding interesting. Apparently some people have tried it, but found it very hard to get the right information to check that their donors are legal. I’m hoping to start a conversation with crowdfunding organisations now to try to get this sorted out so I can do things that way.
To summarise, so far, the legalities around standing for election are pretty minimal. Just a bit of bookkeeping, and making sure your money comes from the right places. Should be even easier with the kind of radically transparent approach I’ll be taking.
On to the next step!