Monday, January 28, 2008

Election funding: a martyr in his own mind

So, Andrew Moore has been forced by the Electoral Finance Act to pull his website which encouraged people to vote against the government, saying that he couldn't afford lawyers fees or the fine if he was prosecuted. Of course, there was another option available to him: he could have complied with the law. The requirements for doing so were not onerous - adding a statement setting out his name and address - and would have historically been required if he had published his advertisement in any other medium. But apparently, that was too much for him, so instead he has chosen to play the martyr and silence himself instead.

This is not something anyone should have any sympathy for. The requirement that electoral advertisements (and his website undoubtedly fell into that category) bear the name and address of those responsible for them is longstanding, and goes all the way back to the 1956 version of the law. The Electoral Finance Act simply updated it and ensured that the law kept pace with technology. Political discussion and advertising have moved online - the various party blogs and websites are proof of that - and the law should follow. An advertisement is an advertisement, and it should be regulated as such, regardless of what medium it is published in. Otherwise we are simply opening ourselves up to a situation in which parties can spend unlimited amounts of dirty money online in an effort to buy elections - something which would be deeply corrosive of our democracy.