The Electoral Commission has written to a number of political blogs suggesting they may need to register as "non-party campaigners" ahead of the general election.
Guido Fawkes has reported how it, along with ConservativeHome, LabourList and LibDemVoice, was written to in line with what it described as the "Putinesque" Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
The letter, published by Guido Fawkes, explained that non-party campaigners are “individuals or organisations that campaign in the run-up to elections, but are not standing as political parties or candidates”.
If registered, the blogs would be regulated over “spending on certain activities that can reasonably be seen as intended to influence voters to vote for or against political parties or categories of candidates, including political parties or candidates who support or do not support particular policies or issues”.
The “certain activities” referred to include “publishing election material (such as leaflets, adverts and websites) to the public”.
The rules do not apply to “newspaper or periodical” content.
Guido Fawkes has described the provisions as “Putinesque” and told the Electoral Commission it will not be signing up.
The editor wrote:
Dear Electoral Commission,
Thanks, but we’re not registering with you and we’re not going to pay any attention to your rules.
Yours in freedom,
Editor Guido Fawkes’ Blog
The Electoral Commission letter said that any individual or organisation that spends more than £20,000 in England, or £10,000 in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, between 19 September 2014 and polling day “must register with us before their spending exceeds these amounts”.
It also said: “All costs (including staff costs) that relate to regulated campaign activity will count towards your spending limit.
“An organisation may incur spending on both regulated campaign activities and other activities that are not regulated. Part of your consideration to determine whether you need to register as a non-party campaigner may, for example, need to involve making an assessment of the proportion of a website dedicated to content that passes the purpose test and the cost of that part of the website.”
The "targeted spending" limit for England is £31,980, £3,540 in Scotland, £2,400 in Wales and £1,080 in Northern Ireland.
Guido reports ConservativeHome editor, Paul Goodman, as saying that he may have to “run some pieces by senior Labour MPs during the election campaign” in line with the new Lobbying Act.
LabourList’s Mark Ferguson is quoted as saying the law is “more worthy of a banana-Republic than a democracy” and that the site is working on its response.