How ‘dark money’ is undermining democracy in Britain (as it already has done in the United States)

In today’s “Observer” newspaper, there is a news item about how unregulated political expenditure – especially online using social media – seriously influenced the outcome of last summer’s EU referendum and threatens to undermine the fairness of future elections in the UK.

The piece opens:

“An urgent review of “weak and helpless” electoral laws is being demanded by a group of leading academics who say that uncontrolled “dark money” poses a threat to the fundamental principles of British democracy.

A working group set up by the London School of Economics warns that new technology has disrupted British politics to such an extent that current laws are unable to ensure a free and fair election or control the influence of money in politics.

Damian Tambini, director of the media policy project at the LSE, who heads the group made up of leading experts in the field, said that new forms of online campaigning had not only changed the ways that political parties target voters but, crucially, had also altered the ability of big money interests to manipulate political debate.”

We should be grateful to Damian Tambini – whom I know and respect – and his fellow academics for their research on this topic and the policy brief that they have published. We urgently need new legislation and a wider remit and stronger powers for the Electoral Commission.


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