An urgent review of “weak and helpless” electoral laws is being demanded by a group of leading academics who say that uncontrolled “dark money” poses a threat to the fundamental principles of British democracy. A working group set up by the London School of Economics warns that new technology has disrupted British politics to such an extent that current laws are unable to ensure a free and fair election or control the influence of money in politics. Damian Tambini, director of the media policy project at the LSE, who heads the group made up of leading experts in the field, said that new forms of online campaigning had not only changed the ways that political parties target voters but, crucially, had also altered the ability of big money interests to manipulate political debate. “There is a real danger we are heading down the US route where whoever spends the most money is most likely to win. That’s why we’ve always controlled spending in this country. But these controls are no longer working.”
Its policy brief published on Saturday concludes that current laws can no longer ensure the fundamental principle of a “level playing field”, or guard against foreign influence, and that parliament urgently needs to review UK electoral law.
It comes as questions continue to be asked about spending during the referendum campaign. In an interview published in Sunday’s Observer New Review, Arron Banks, the founder of the Leave.eu campaign, says: “We were just cleverer than the regulators and the politicians. Of course we were.”