Monitoring misleading claims during electoral and referendum campaigns

Background: Both referendum campaigns were cause for concern. The ‘Remain’ campaign failed to make any positive  case for the EU and it’s doom-laden scenarios, while not unfounded, backfired. The lack of a positive case enabled the  ‘Remain’ campaign to be labelled ‘project fear’ and easily dismissed by people who have suffered under successive UK government policies. The label ‘project fear’ led some people to feel a vote for ‘Leave’ would punish the Government, the Conservatives, and the whole ‘Westminster Bubble’.

On the other side, politicians involved in the ‘Leave’ campaign made some seriously misleading claims, some of which were retracted soon after the referendum result. The most notorious claim was the £350 million for the NHS, the NHS logo was also illegally used on leaflets sent to postal voters. Some people believed this and put red (Labour-like) posters with the claim in their windows. Among other false claims were the UK having to join the EU army (the UK has a veto) and Turkey joining the EU (far off then and further off now). Disparate claims about how much money the UK would save took no account of money the UK gets back in grants - for example those paid to farmers, researchers, or NGOs. If, as Professor Michael Dougan argues, the ‘Leave’ campaign was “criminally irresponsible” - see, then there is a basis for bringing a case.

There is now a crowdfunder at set up “to prosecute dishonest politicians and bring integrity back into British politics”. Whether or not the case succeeds, the publicity will add to pressure for the Electoral Commission to be mandated (in the same way as the Advertising Standards Authority) to monitor and correct misleading claims made during future referendum and election campaigns before the polling day, and to discredit those who make them. (The ASA received at least 374 complaints about EU referendum campaign material but were powerless to act.) There is also a petition to ‘Restore truthful politics and create an independent office to monitor political campaigns’ at: By 25.8.2016 it had 165,891 supporters and is to be delivered to all UK party leaders.

Tell your MP why this is important - for example:
• A well and accurately informed public is essential for a valid and effective democracy.
• The public ceases to have access to accurate information if false claims can be made with impunity.
• Voter autonomy and the validity of the resulting vote is infringed if there is no independent verification of claims made during election and referendum campaigns.

Ask your MP - for example:
• Do you support mandating the Electoral Commission with powers to monitor and correct false or misleading claims in future election and referendum campaigns?
MPs will not answer emails unless you include your full postal address.
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The House of Commons

It is important that letters/e-mails are individualised in terms of wording and content priorities. Include questions on what your MP is going to do reduce their options for reiterating party opinion.

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