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Third party election campaigning to be examined by MPs

19 July 2021

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee will hear from electoral regulation experts and civil society and third-party organisers about how the Election watchdog, the Electoral Commission, should regulate third party campaigning in the 21st century.


Election campaigning has changed radically in recent years as the rise of digital advertising has enabled ever-more non-political-party campaigners, from interest groups to orchestrated and opaque campaigners, to reportedly influence votes.

Purpose of the session

Lord Hodgson, the author of a 2016 review on third party campaigning, will appear alongside openDemocracy’s Peter Geoghegan and Dr Jess Garland of the Electoral Reform Society on the first panel of the session that will discuss how the new environment can be effectively regulated. Lord Hodgson’s review warned authorities ‘to be vigilant to emerging trends’ in campaigning methods and sought to improve transparency without discouraging participation from wider civil society. None of his recommendations were ever implemented. Since then concerns over undue or malign influence have increased.

Representatives of four civil society and third-party campaign groups will make up the second panel who will be asked to assess the quality and effectiveness of the Electoral Commission’s role in advising non-party organisations of election rules. MPs on the Committee are also likely to ask how regulation in its current form is impacting their activities.

This session is taking place against the backdrop of  the Government’s recently introduced Elections Bill, which contains proposals seeking to address some of the issues regarding transparency and fairness, notably by requiring digital imprints in online election materials, banning campaign spending from abroad and reducing registration thresholds for non-party campaigners.

This session is the latest in the Committee’s Work of the Electoral Commission Inquiry.


Tuesday 20 July

At 9.30am

  • Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research, Electoral Reform Society;
  • Peter Geoghegan, Investigations Editor, openDemocracy;
  • Lord Hodgson, author of Third Party Election Campaigning Review (2016).

At 10.30am

  • Dave Timms, Head of Political Affairs, Friends of the Earth;
  • Chloe Hardy, Director of Policy and Communications, Sheila McKechnie Foundation;
  • Dr Rowan Popplewell, Policy Manager - Civil Space, Bond;
  • Chris Weavers, National Official Campaigns, Policy and Communications (Acting), NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union.

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright