Communists urge action on Electoral Commission bias

A number of MPs have already responded to the Communist Party letter (below), some more positively than others. But what most of them say is that they would be more likely to take up this issue if the complaint comes from a constituent.  This is the cue for Communist Party members, allies and friends. Email your MP, MSP or MS and urge them to protest against the Electoral Commission’s anti-democratic discrimination against a party that has contested elections in Britain at every level for the past 100 years. 

Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths wrote the following letters to all MPs, MSPs and MSs.

“I am writing to inform you of a grossly unfair decision by the Electoral Commission which blatantly discriminates against and disadvantages the Communist Party of Britain in the forthcoming elections on May 6.

On the evening of Friday, March 19, our party’s Treasurer received an email from the Commission cancelling our entitlement to use the descriptions “Communist Party”, “Welsh Communist Party” and “Scottish Communist Party” on the ballot papers. We are now restricted to just four of our previously registered descriptions, all with “Britain” or “British” in the name.

The crucial factor in the Electoral Commission’s final decision was “whether a voter would be likely to accurately identify the party from the descriptions alone, in the context of use on a ballot paper”. In other words, would a voter be sure that the party described on the ballot paper as “Communist Party”, “Welsh Communist Party” or “Scottish Communist Party” – is the Communist Party of Britain.

Yet these three cancelled descriptions were registered in 1999 and have been used extensively by our party since then in local, national, Westminster and European elections. At the last three National Assembly of Wales elections, for example, “Welsh Communist Party” was the name we used in our campaign literature and party election broadcasts as well as on the ballot paper.

Although two other parties are registered with the Commission with the word “Communist” in their name, they have not run more than a handful of candidates in comparison with our hundreds, none in Scotland or Wales, none as the “Communist Party” and none in competition with our candidates. Why were those registrations allowed by the Electoral Commission in 2000 and 2007 if they are liable to cause confusion with the earlier registration of our party?

Nor will either of these parties be standing in Scotland, Wales, London and the other localities which we will be contesting on May 6, because they have neither the organisation nor the capacity to do so.

The Election Commission’s decision is the equivalent – on a much smaller scale – of telling the Labour Party that it may no longer use its registered descriptions “Welsh Labour” or “Welsh Labour Party” and “Scottish Labour” or “Scottish Labour Party” because voters may confuse those names with Arthur Scargill’s registered Socialist Labour Party.

First mooted in December 2020 and challenged by us early in January 2021, the Electoral Commission’s “final decision” in our case has arrived too late for us to register any alternatives in time for the May 6 elections.

While we can continue to campaign with our traditional Scottish and Welsh identities in our election literature and Welsh election broadcasts, these can no longer be properly expressed as such on the ballot paper.

Thanks to devolved legislation, we are permitted to add the words “Welsh” or “Cymru” on the ballot paper to one of our surviving four names – but that would only render them nonsensical, e.g. we would be describing ourselves the “Welsh Communist Party of Britain”, or “Plaid Gomiwnyddol Prydain Cymru”. By cancelling our description as “The Communist Party”, the Electoral Commission has rendered this Order null and void. 

In effect, we are now prevented from expressing our party’s strong and autonomous Welsh and Scottish identities on the ballot paper. 

Finally, it would appear that the Communist Party is one of the few if not the only party to be treated by the Electoral Commission in this way. Dozens of major and minor parties have registered permutations of their main name and other descriptions with and without the inclusion of Britain/British, Wales/Welsh and Scotland/Scottish. We had merely done the same.

The far-right “Populist Party”, which was registered in 2015 and has only ever run one parliamentary candidate, is permitted to use six additional names on the ballot paper including the “Scottish Populist Party” and the “English Populist Party”. It can, if it wishes, take advantage of Welsh legislation to record itself on the ballot paper as the “Welsh Populist Party”.

The new and conservative “Vanguard Party” (2020) has also been permitted to register itself as the “Welsh Vanguard Party” and the “Scottish Vanguard Party”, along with 10 other ballot paper descriptions. 

I am therefore appealing to you to raise this matter in parliament, with ministers and with the Electoral Commission and express concern at the unfair and unjustified treatment of our party. Your support in this matter would be greatly appreciated.”

Challenge News Desk

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