political campaigning & charities - an update

By Kevin Russell | 9 December 2014

Image by cpenteado on Flickr, used under creative commons

We have previously commented on charities’ need to take care in campaigning in accordance with their charitable objects in the run up to the General Election, next May.

 

Our July 2014 blog goes into further detail on the specific legal responsibilities that charities need to be mindful of, from 19 September 2014, under Transparency of Lobbying, Non Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014.

 

More recently, the Electoral Commission have been making changes to their published Guidance on political campaigning. They have summarised the changes in this Table (but have overwritten their online Guidance for these changes).

 

If your charity has previously referred to an earlier version of the Guidance, you may wish to check whether the latest changes affect your charity’s plans or actions.

 

Most of the changes relate to the conduct of hustings. Charities, acting within the restrictions of charity law should not be associated with hustings (or other political activity) designed to promote or oppose particular parties or categories of candidate and so it seems that hustings arranged by them are unlikely to be regulated. Nevertheless, the key changes to the Guidance are:

  • That in deciding whether your campaign activity meets the purpose test, the relevant factors should be considered as a whole [Overview of regulated non-party campaigning p 6].
  • That hustings that would not reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or oppose particular parties or categories of candidate are not regulated [Overview of regulated non-party campaigning p 14].
  • In the material on non-selective hustings, the phrase that “you have impartial reasons for not inviting certain candidates or parties” has been given more prominence [UK Parliamentary general election 2015: Hustings p 5].
  • On campaigning, the Commission has toughened up the wording by adding “For example, your activity could be advocating support for a policy that is so closely and publicly associated with a party or parties or with a category of candidates that it is reasonable to regard your activity as intended to influence voters to vote for or against political parties or candidates [Charities and campaigning p 10.

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Posted by Kevin Russell

Our Legal Eagle guru and Stewardship's Technical Director, Kevin constantly has his finger on the pulse of all things tax and charity law-related. His briefing papers for charities, churches and individuals are an invaluable resource on everything from VAT to Gift Aid. 

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