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6 March 2019

Momentum fined £16,700 for breaches of electoral law

The Corbynite pressure group has been reprimanded over an inaccurate spending return and failure to report donations on time.

By Eleni Courea

The Electoral Commission has fined Momentum £16,700 for failing to comply with political finance laws during the 2017 election campaign and in its other activities as a membership organisation.

The bulk of the fine, £12,150, was levied for submitting an inaccurate spending return in September 2017. It is the largest penalty ever imposed on a non-party campaigner for this reason.

The commission said it began its investigation of Momentum in November 2016 after it had delivered the inaccurate report, and expanded it after discovering evidence of further breaches.

Momentum was fined a further £2,700 for omitting £23,000 from a post-poll donation report, and a total of £500 for not providing the right documents and invoices in its submissions. It was also fined £1,350 for being late to report two donations from the Transport Salaried Staffs Association. Donations must be reported within 30 days of acceptance.  

Momentum’s national coordinator Laura Parker hit back at the ruling, saying that “the level of detail required under the law was often comic”. She said that, in one instance, the commission queried the purchase of a pizza, asking how much of it was eaten by staff and how much by volunteers.

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Parker said that the laws in question “are deliberately designed to leave big money unregulated while throttling volunteer-led, campaigning organisations with burdensome regulation which in some cases is almost impossible to follow”. She argued that, for a volunteer-led group, compliance with these complex rules was “a heruclean task”.

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The commission’s director of regulations Louise Edwards said that “Momentum is unlike most non-party campaigners in that political campaigning is its full-time work, so it is particularly disappointing that they have failed to meet the law’s requirements.”

Momentum was formed after Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership campaign in 2015. This is the first time the group has been investigated by the commission.