'Commission's choice of Leave campaign is a political decision', says left-wing exit group
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), one of three EU exit organisations that applied for recognition from the Electoral Commission to be the official Leave campaign, today accused the Commission of "bowing to political pressure" in giving the Tory-dominated Vote Leave group official designation status.
TUSC had submitted what the BBC called a 'surprise bid' to be the designated Leave campaign in June's EU referendum (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35941945) against the Tory and UKIP dominated exit campaigns, Vote Leave and Grassroots Out - but said it was "not surprised" that the Electoral Commission has gone along with the government's preference for a safe, pro-establishment Leave campaign.
Dave Nellist, a former backbench colleague of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is now the chair of TUSC, said:
"All the opinion polls are showing what we have experienced on the ground - that what working class Labour voters do will be critical in deciding the outcome of the EU referendum.
"For that reason the government, and the majority of the capitalist establishment in Britain who desperately want a Remain vote, are determined that the voice of Leave should be dominated by pro-market, pro-austerity politicians who will argue their case within the same economic and political framework as the equally big business-dominated 'Britain Stronger in Europe' Remain campaign.
"TUSC, on the other hand, would have offered a completely different standpoint and in providing an anti-austerity, anti-racist and socialist alternative to the EU in the traditions of Bob Crow and Tony Benn would have been particularly attractive to Labour voters.
"So it is not a surprise to us that the Electoral Commission has bowed to political pressure and chosen the opponents that the establishment want to fight and not the ones who could have given them a proper contest".
Regarding the legal position Clive Heemskerk, TUSC's national election agent, said:
"This was a blatantly political decision in support of the Remain campaign that does reputational damage to the Electoral Commission, which was supposedly established to be an impartial regulator of electoral procedures.
"The Electoral Commission had the option to not chose a designated campaign for Leave at all but instead decided positively to give political authority and substantial public resources to what is effectively a wing of the Tory party.
"It is not clear to us how the Commission came to its decision in the light of its statutory duty to ensure that the campaign chosen 'adequately represents' those campaigning for Leave, as TUSC representatives were not interviewed during the designation decision process.
"There are also questions here about due process with regard to the rules on permissible donors in referendum campaigns. In particular we would like to see evidence that the Electoral Commission made a proper audit of the business backers of Vote Leave, given how some of them have featured in the Panama Papers controversy.
"The TUSC national steering committee is meeting next week and we will consider our position then".
1. TUSC was co-founded in 2010 by the late Bob Crow, the RMT transport workers' union leader who was well known for his opposition to the EU as an agency of anti-worker and pro-austerity policies. Along with the RMT it involves leading trade unionists from the PCS civil servants union, the National Union of Teachers, the Fire Brigades Union, and the Prison Officers Association, together with the Socialist Party, the SWP, and independent socialists.
For information and video clips about TUSC see: www.tusc.org.uk
For interviews and any other information requests, please email: [email protected] or call Clive Heemskerk, the TUSC National Election Agent on 020-8988-8773.
2. The legislation governing the EU referendum gave the Electoral Commission the power to designate one 'official' campaign on either side of the referendum question which are eligible for public funding, Freepost communications, the use of rooms free of charge, and referendum broadcasts.
But the Electoral Commission was not legally obliged to choose an official campaign if none of the applicants for lead campaign status could be held to 'adequately represent' the range of those who will support a particular outcome.