The Tories have been at it again in the most recent election, flaunting rules and almost certainly breaking the law yet again in order to win more votes illegally. Leading QC condemns Tory election practice as under UK election Law it is illegal to do the following:
DIAL “T” FOR (MORE) TORY ELECTION FRAUD
Under UK election Law it is illegal to:
- Pay people to canvass for you (call on strangers and persuade them to vote for you). This law exists to prevent any unfair advantage a rich political party would have over a less well funded one (if you get my drift!)
- Use a national central office to canvass for individual constituencies. Again this protects the cap for per constituency spending, and ensures that central funds don’t create a huge local campaign which unfairly disadvantages the other parties.
- This second breach is exactly what the Tories were found guilty of in the 2015 elections. The Tories received the maximum possible fine for this – more than anyone has ever been fined before. One Tory MP has been charged with fraud and 20 different Tory MPs were investigated
The Conservative Party contracted a secretive call centre during the election campaign which may appears to have definitely broken data protection and election laws, an undercover reporter working for Channel 4 News found after securing work at ‘Blue Telecoms’, a firm in Neath, South Wales. In an area plagued by unemployment and low wages, the call centre hired up to a hundred people on zero-hours contracts.
For weeks, they contacted thousands of potential voters in marginal seats across the UK a very reasonable estimate would suggest that at least 14 000 voters could easily have been spoken to each week. The investigation has uncovered what appear to be unlawful practices at the centre, in calls made on behalf of the Conservative Party. It was found that:
- Paid canvassing on behalf of Conservative election candidates was taking place – illegal under election law.
- Political cold calling to private numbers who are on the national “no cold calls” database also occurred – illegal under the Data Protection Act.
- Misleading calls claiming to be doing ‘independent market research’ using a company name which does not actually exist, used to mislead undecided voters into voting for named Tory candidates.
The Conservative Party admitted it had commissioned Blue Telecoms to carry out ‘market research and direct marketing calls’ during the campaign, and insisted the activities were entirely legal – as they did shortly before Tory MP Craig Mackinlay was charged with electoral fraud in June of this year. A Conservative spokesman said: ‘Political parties of all colours pay for market research and direct marketing calls.’ Tellingly though, they admitted ‘All the scripts [were] supplied by the party for these calls….’
Anya Proops QC, a leading barrister in the field of data protection said that alleged activities – recorded on film by the C4 investigator were “obviously a problem under the privacy legislation.”
The head of Blue Telecoms, Sascha Lopez, a former failed Conservative candidate was unwilling to answer any questions, but had been caught on camera telling an employee to lie about where the call centre was. He had also offered £50 to any employee who snitched on colleagues who had mis-recorded the data collected.
Blatant Illegal Canvassing(?):
During the investigation, callers were also tasked with making direct calls ‘on behalf of Theresa
May and the Conservative Party’. Voters who identified themselves as ‘undecided’ were fed key Conservative Party messages. These included references to the Brexit negotiations, the danger of a hung Parliament and immigration. One so-called ‘survey’ stated: ‘
… It was reported in the Daily Mirror in September last year that Jeremy Corbyn is not concerned about the numbers of people coming to live in the UK and it was reported on Sky News this year that Theresa May has restated her pledge to reduce net Migration.
‘Just thinking about these reports in the media and the reports that you live in a marginal constituency that may determine who is prime minister…
Does that make you more likely to back Theresa May or more likely to vote for Jeremy Corbyn?’ Channel 4 News analysis shows that the vast majority of calls sampled were to numbers registered on the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). While genuine market research is permitted, marketing calls to TPS numbers on behalf of political parties are prohibited by EU regulations and the Data Protection Act, unless the person called has specifically given the organisation their consent.
Channel 4 News showed the content of these calls to Dr Darren Lilleker, Associate Professor of Political Communication at Bourne mouth University. ‘This is canvassing,’ he said. ‘It can’t be research. All the questions are loaded, a lot of them are quite rhetorical in that sense of guiding you towards one answer. It’s canvassing. It replicates the sorts of scripts I’ve seen used on doorsteps by parties for many years.’ Guidance from the Electoral Commission for candidates and agents says: ‘During the campaign, you must not pay canvassers.
Canvassing means trying to persuade an elector to vote for or against a particular candidate or party’ Barrister Anya Proops QC said paid canvassing “can have very, very serious consequences” At least ten key marginal seats were targeted by the call centre on election day – Caerphilly, Camarthen East, Ceredigion, Pontypridd, Torfaen, Newport West, Bridgend, Gower, Clywd South and Wrexham.
More than 80% of those sampled were to numbers that had registered on the Telephone Preference Service. On election day, callers were again instructed not to mention Blue Telecoms on the phone. Instead, they were told: ‘Just say you are in the Conservative Office, Cardiff, and don’t mention Blue Telecoms.’ The Neath call centre was visited by a senior Conservative Party official – Richard Minshull, the Director of the Welsh Conservatives. Unbelievably, Lopez told Channel 4 News:
‘I can advise we were engaged to conduct market research and polling for the Conservative party, and at no time were we engaged to conduct any form of marketing or canvassing by the party or its candidates.’
Sadly electoral fraud just seems to be a part of the Conservative Political landscape these days , and with very little but a £70k fine being threatened as a result they have nothing really to lose and everything to gain – not that they actually won anything to spite these apparently totally illegal practices. At The Word we believe that these practices must be investigated thoroughly and where knowing use of private data and canvassing techniques have occurred, senior Tories and their protégés must be prosecuted.
Video footage of this growing scandal