Roy Greenslade reports on the Electoral Commission effectively bringing in backdoor (statutory; it is a government office) regulation of one part of the press: political blogs:
I don’t think we should overlook the revelation by Guido Fawkes that the Electoral Commission believes political blogs may need to register as “non-party campaigners” ahead of the general election.How bizarre. Guido’s alter ego, Paul Staines, was right to have rejected the “Putinesque” plan, as should other blogs contacted by the commission, such as ConservativeHome, LabourList and LibDemVoice.This is so last century, a heavy-handed and nonsensical response to the flowering of political debate in the digital world. Given that newspapers and magazines are exempt from such treatment, it is also unfair.He continued:
At the heart of the commission’s concern is spending. According to the commission’s “overview” document, “if you spend, or plan to spend, more than £20,000 in England, or £10,000 in any of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland on regulated campaign activity during a regulated period, you must register with us as a non-party campaigner”.
So newspapers, which spend far more than £20,000 in a minute let alone the months leading up to the election, can campaign for any party they like (and against any parties they don’t like).
But blogs, which have very small budgets, must watch out what they spend on so-called “regulated campaign activity”.
The term “regulated” seems wholly inappropriate in this instance too. One of the reasons that people have been drawn to read political blogs is that they are not straightforward party mouthpieces.
They are often as critical of the parties (and politicians) they are supposed to be supporting. Memo to commission: it means they are unregulated.
Guido quotes LabourList’s Mark Ferguson as saying: “Perhaps the government are finding this new-fangled internet thing very confusing” and calling the law “more worthy of a banana-republic than a democracy”. Quite.