On Monday the Electoral Commission turned 20!
Celebrations at the independent regulator were likely subdued, however, after an autumn that has seen senior Conservatives ramp up attacks on the Commission with threats to bring it under political control and even abolish it.
The Electoral Commission was established in 2000 to bring much needed transparency and accountability to the UK’s broken and unregulated political donations environment.
Who remembers the 1990s? When every week seemed to bring a new scandal around party financing.
You don’t even need time travel to see what an unregulated electoral environment looks like. Just check across the Atlantic, where electoral regulation is weak and politics is awash with unaccountable money and untransparent lobbying. It’s part of the reason why special interest groups – like the gun lobby – can do so well despite holding minority positions.
The Electoral Commission is respected around the world and does a good job with the little resources and power it has.
But the world has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. The internet has reintroduced the bad old days of hidden money and dodgy campaigning. The Electoral Commission wasn’t designed to deal with this. How could it have been?
Let’s make it a great birthday and give it the powers it needs to protect us for the next 20 years and beyond.
Our report – Defending our Democracy in the Digital Age – outlined the twenty ways to do just that, from increasing fines to giving the Commission prosecutorial capabilities.
In the UK the pensions regulator is allowed to prosecute but the regulator charged with protecting our democracy isn’t… Does that seem right to you?