Momentum is ‘breaking Electoral Commission rules on poll spending’ by targeting the youth vote

  • The Jeremy Corbyn-supporting group claims it has identified a loophole
  • The commission says that any attempt to influence voters would break law
  • The organisation Momentum incurred the biggest-ever election fine in 2017 

Momentum could fall foul of electoral rules on spending by targeting the youth vote, it emerged yesterday.

The Jeremy Corbyn-supporting group claims it has identified a loophole in Electoral Commission rules allowing it unlimited spending.

But the commission says the rules are clear, and any attempt to influence voters would break the law.

Momentum incurred the biggest-ever election fine in 2017 for failing to provide enough information about its spending.

The Jeremy Corbyn-supporting group claims it has identified a loophole in Electoral Commission rules allowing it unlimited spending

In an email to supporters on Thursday, it said it had realised something ‘huge’ – that there was ‘no limit’ on spending to get young people to vote. 

It said: ‘£100k was the target for our social media ad blitz. Why? That’s how much ‘regulated spend’ we have left for social media ads according to electoral rules.

‘But we’ve realised something huge. Although our ad spend promoting Labour is capped – there is no limit on how much we can spend targeting hard-to-reach young people and making sure they vote.

The grassroots organisation was set up to support Mr Corbyn (left) and campaigns for Labour

‘This is a game changer – and with no cap we’re aiming sky high. Nearly 2.4 million young people live in marginals. If we can raise £300k in the next six days we can reach every single one of them.’

But strict Electoral Commission rules state that non-party campaigners can run a campaign with the intention of ‘encouraging people to vote, but not for anyone in particular’. They add: ‘The primary intention of your campaign may not be to influence voters.’

Any campaign would be subject to spending rules if ‘it can be reasonably regarded as intended to influence voters to vote for or against a political party or category of candidates’, the rules state.

Lawyer Robert Dougans of Preiskel & Co said: ‘Momentum would be in clear breach of the law if they failed to register this activity in their spending returns’

The grassroots organisation was set up to support Mr Corbyn and campaigns for Labour. The email clearly states that the party is attempting to mobilise a particular group of voters in certain constituencies.

Lawyer Robert Dougans of Preiskel & Co said: ‘Momentum would be in clear breach of the law if they failed to register this activity in their spending returns.

‘The Electoral Commission should step in urgently to ensure that Momentum include all such activity in their returns and that their upper limit is not broken.’

A Momentum spokesman said: ‘The regulations are clear on this – an activity only counts as regulated if someone would reasonably think the activity could influence who they decide to vote for. Simply encouraging people to take up their democratic right to vote does not pass that test.’

It came as another Corbyn-backing group, Rize Up, faced legal action after trying to induce young people to vote. The group, run by former Momentum official Mohammed Afridi, was accused of inducing votes in return for alcohol branded with its logo.

The Campaign for Ballot Integrity, led by former Labour MP John Woodcock, sent a legal letter to the group, questioning its use of the tactic. Rize Up did not respond to requests for comment.

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