New measures to protect integrity of UK elections

Protecting the integrity of UK elections is the focus of a package of new measures which the government hopes will crack down on intimidation, influence and disinformation.

Candidates, political parties and non-party campaigners will be required to brand or ‘imprint’ their digital election materials, so the public is clear who is targeting them. This is a crucial step for helping prevent misleading political advertising online.

People who intimidate candidates or campaigners in the run up to an election will be banned from running for public office for five years.

Following recommendations from the public, political parties and independent electoral bodies, the government has committed to: legislate to introduce a new electoral offence of intimidating a candidate or campaigner during the run up to an election, either in person or online; legislate to clarify the electoral offence of undue influence of a voter; commit to implementing a digital imprint regime; and launch a consultation on electoral integrity.

The government has also committed to strengthening the current provisions which protect UK politics from foreign influence. While there is no evidence that Britain’s elections or referendums have been compromised by foreign interference, it is right that the government safeguards against future risks.

The government will take views of interested groups like the Parliamentary Parties Panel and the Electoral Commission to better understand the problems which government could seek to address in the consultation, and to see what scope there is for broad cross-party agreement. The consultation may consider recommendations for increasing transparency on digital political advertising, including by third parties; closing loopholes on foreign spending in elections; preventing shell companies from sidestepping the current rules on political finance and on action to tackle foreign lobbying.

Minister for the Constitution, Kevin Foster, said: “There is no evidence that British elections or referendums have been compromised. One of Britain’s most valuable safeguards is the use of pencil and paper to vote. But we need to review and refresh our analogue laws for a digital age, and ensure there are robust safeguards against hostile states, foreign lobbyists and shadowy third parties.”

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