A Model for Party Finance Supervision? The First Decade of the UK’s Election Commission
Navraj Singh Ghaleigh
University of Edinburgh - School of Law
May 28, 2010
THE FUNDING OF POLITICAL PARTIES, K.D. Ewing, Joo-Cheong Tham, J. Rowbottom, eds., Oxford: Hart, 2011
U. of Edinburgh School of Law Working Paper No. 2010/19
The present paper addresses the role of the UK’s Electoral Commission as regards party funding monitoring and enforcement during the historical phenomenon of New Labour. If plotted against the two axes of non-unitary/unitary and independent/affiliated, the UK’s Electoral Commission would be located firmly in the top right quadrant - it is a designedly unitary body with a series of mechanisms that preserve its independence from other institutional actors. This would suggest that the Commission, benefiting from a ‘last mover’s advantage’ and substantially immune from inter-institutional pressures, expert and well-informed, would be an exemplar in comparative terms. The experience of recent years suggests something different, or at least that there are other parts of the party finance system that require attention. Since 2005 party funding scandals have emerged with troubling regularity. Of the scandals discussed, all involve the then-governing Labour Party. It should not be inferred from this case selection that only that party was so implicated - serious funding questions arose in respect of all the major parties in this period - but those discussed herein were certainly the most damaging to the body politic, not least because they concerned the governing regime. A focus on the Electoral Commission facilitates comparisons with similar institutions in other jurisdictions, a task that the literature has yet to fully engage with. Further, given the central role the Commission occupies in the many dimensions of the UK’s party political finance, it gives an indication of the health of the broader system.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26
Keywords: Electoral law, political parties, party funding, UK, Electoral Commission, New Labourworking papers series
Date posted: May 29, 2010
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