Non-party DIY anti-Tory campaigning: a full guide to doing it legally
Anyone is allowed to publish and distribute non-party election campaign material, including:
- flyers, leaflets etc, or
- paid Facebook advertising.
As a grass-roots DIY election campaigner, there is just one law that you need to follow – the ‘election imprint’.
No need to register (unless you’re a big spender)
You or your group do not need to register with anyone as a campaigner to deliver flyers or run a social media account.
You only have to register with the Electoral Commission (elections watchdog) if you are going to spend:
- more than £20,000 in England
- more than £10,000 in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
If not, you are considered a “minor campaigner” and you are allowed to accept donations from anybody. [See more from Electoral Commission…]
Legal limits per constituency
You or your group can spend up to £9,750 campaigning against the Tories in a single General Election constituency. Whether you are unregistered or registered, you must not spend more than this in one constituency. [See more from Electoral Commission including definitions…]
The one requirement: the “election imprint”
All anti-Tory flyers, and paid Facebook ads, are defined as “election material” and regulated by the Electoral Commission. So, there is one point of law that you must always follow.
Election law requires every leaflet “that can reasonably be regarded as intended to influence voters to vote for or against a political party or a category of candidates” to carry an “imprint”. This applies at all times. Here is an example of an imprint on a party leaflet:
While the “Printed by” name will be the name of the print firm, the “Promoted by” name must be a person’s name.
If you order from a printer and pay for a box of leaflets you are the promoter of those leaflets, even if you didn’t design them.
This means that you have to print your name on every flyer together with a postal address through which you can be contacted. This is the law.
If you don’t feel ready to print your own name on thousands of anti-Tory flyers, that’s very understandable. But do you maybe have a colleague, friend, relative etc who might be willing to act as promoter instead?
- This just means their name and payment details would go on your order at the printers instead of yours.
- The promoter doesn’t have to be personally involved in distributing the flyers once they’ve been printed.
The many alternative options to publishing your home address
The promoter’s address you print on the flyers does not have to be anyone’s home address!
The intention is, to quote the Electoral Commission, “to ensure that there is transparency about who is campaigning… There is no requirement for an imprint address to be a home address, as long as it is somewhere the person can be contacted.”
So, it could be an office address… but there are other choices too.
What other addresses do you have where you “can be contacted”? There is no legal definition in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 of an “address”…
- So it doesn’t need to be somewhere you normally receive post.
- Clearly, it does need to be somewhere you can genuinely be traced through, in the unlikely event of the Electoral Commission investigating your flyers.
- This means somewhere the people answering an enquiry at the address you’ve given know you and have your details, or can look you up.
- Don’t give the address of somewhere where they’ve never heard of you!
Here are some ideas…
- A PO Box you own or access [see confirmation this is legal]
- Your university, college or school address
- Address of a community centre you’re involved with
- Address of a trade union office you’re involved with
- Address of a club you belong to (obviously not if that’s someone else’s home address!)
- Address of a campaign group you’re involved with (ditto)
If you’re putting a group’s address, you should omit the name of the group, unless you’re acting on behalf of the group with its full agreement. Just give the street address where an official enquiry could (in theory) be made about you.
Don’t have a suitable address? Do you have a relative, friend or colleague that can help you with a non-residential address at which you can be contacted?
On all printed material, don’t forget to include the name and address of your printing firm too.
Old laws in our social media age: Imprinting on social media
The relevant election laws were written before the birth of modern social media such as Facebook or Twitter.
However, the Electoral Commission do regulate social media expenditure. On social media imprinting, they use very different language to their stern “musts” regarding imprinting all printed material. They state that “as good practice” you “should” make an imprint available on social media posts where practicable.
This is most important for paid ads, as the Electoral Commission is mostly concerned with monitoring and regulating expenditure. If you are running a Facebook page publishing paid anti-Tory ads, you can first:
- place your imprint at the bottom of the “long” version of your page’s description on the About page, or
- provide a link through to a website where your imprint is available somewhere,
You don’t need a “Printed by…” entry on social media. Just complete “Promoted by…” the same way as above.
Electoral Commission links
Want to check out the election laws and official guidance directly for yourself? We’ve given you enough information to get started with, but if you’re looking for more info or detail, here are the most relevant briefings directly from the Electoral Commission:
Key briefing for DIY campaigners
- The Electoral Commission, Factsheet for non-party campaigners: Election material and imprints – Great Britain
Other relevant briefings for DIY campaigners
- The Electoral Commission, Overview of regulated non-party campaigning
- The Electoral Commission, Joint campaigning for non-party campaigners – if you’re “working together with other non-party campaigners as part of a common plan or joint campaign”
Attention any potential big spenders or super-fundraisers:
- Extra resources for potentially big-spending anti-Tory campaigners who might hit the £9,750 constituency spending limit, or the £20,000/£10,000 national registration thresholds.
This webpage is a good-faith guide to legal issues, but is not written by a lawyer and does not represent not formal legal advice.
The Electoral Commission run an advice line on 0333 103 1928.
#StopTheTories Channel obeys election law and provides information for others on how to do so. We are NOT suggesting that anyone distributes any printed election materials without a correct legal imprint. We do not condone, and will not defend any criminal or civil consequences of, any reader of this website using the site’s resources in any act of breaking electoral law.