Conservative Party threatens to abolish 'unaccountable' electoral commission

30 August 2020, 16:42 | Updated: 1 September 2020, 9:19

The Conservative Party is calling for major changes to the Electoral Commission. Picture: PA Images

By Ewan Quayle

The Electoral Commission needs a major overhaul or risks being abolished, the Conservative Party has said.

The Tories have called for the elections watchdog to be more "targeted and focused" in a submission to a parliamentary review.

The role of the commission and whether it should be given more powers is being examined by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The party also claims the commission is unaccountable and has little outside challenge or scrutiny.

Tory MP and Conservative Party co-chairwoman Amanda Milling said: "The current set up of the Electoral Commission is simply not fit for purpose.

"Rather than lobbying for more powers the commission should be focusing on getting its house in order.

"This review is the perfect opportunity for the Electoral Commission to right its wrongs and become more accountable."

In its submission, the party stated: "It has conflicts of interest. It provides (often unclear) advice to political campaigners, yet wants to prosecute breaches of its own unclear rulebook."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and pro-Brexit colleagues expressed dismay over Electoral Commission investigations into Vote Leave. Picture: PA Images

The Conservatives, who like other political parties have been fined by the commission in the past, have called for the body to have a clearer definition of its remit and goals.

It also called for investigations of electoral fraud to be a matter for the police and said it should not have the power to prosecute people or political parties.

The submission stated: "The Electoral Commission has neither the capacity nor the competence to act as a prosecutor.

"There are too many conflicts of interest, and would end up 'marking its own homework'."

The Commission has had a number of rows with the Conservative Party in recent years, including during the 2019 general election campaign when the body warned party staff over misleadingly rebranding its press office twitter account as a fact-checking service.

A number of pro-Brexit Conservative MPs have also stated their dismay with the Commission after its investigations into campaigns during the EU Referendum, which ended in a £61,000 fine for Vote Leave and a £20,000 fine for Brexit activist Darren Grimes, who later successfully won an appeal to have it overturned.