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Campaigners warn Overseas Electors Bill risks rush of ‘dark money’ into British politics

CAMPAIGNERS cautioned today against new legislation going through Parliament that will abolish the limit on how long British people can live abroad while still being eligible to vote and fund political parties.

The Overseas Electors Bill risks a rush of “dark money” into British politics, the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) warned today.

The government-backed Bill, which is still being debated in the Commons, could “flood our politics with unregulated cash” and “spur an arms race” in political spending, the group said.

And there could be “unintended consequences in paving the way for unscrupulous actors to influence our politics,” it warned.
 
ERS chief executive Darren Hughes said the government must carefully consider the risks of allowing unfettered donations from abroad and that a pause was needed before “opening the floodgates further.”
 
He said: “The UK’s campaign finance rules have not been updated since 2000. Since then we have seen mounting evidence that our elections are potentially exposed to interference.

“To tackle the ‘wild west’ we need a comprehensive review of our outdated, loophole-ridden electoral laws.
 
“Businesses donating to parties must generate revenue here, so it seems fair that individuals wishing to funnel in funds from abroad should be able to prove a consistent connection to the UK.”
 
Mr Hughes said clear, consistent principles for the funding of British parties in the modern age was needed, adding that Parliament and parties “should not be available to the highest bidders around the world.”

The society is working alongside FairVote and Labour MP Stephen Kinnock on Electoral Campaigning Transparency and is calling for a comprehensive update to Britain’s “wild west” party funding and campaigning rules.

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