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Sat, 15 August 2020

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Gordon Brown demands probe into funding of Nigel Farage's Brexit Party

Gordon Brown demands probe into funding of Nigel Farage's Brexit Party
2 min read

Gordon Brown has called on Britain's electoral watchdog to investigate whether the newly-formed Brexit Party has left itself open to "dirty" donations.

The former Prime Minister has written to the Electoral Commission demanding that the watchdog examines whether the website used by Nigel Farage's new outfit opens the door to "underhand campaign finance".

The Guardian reports that the Labour heavyweight will use a speech in Glasgow on Monday to take direct aim at Mr Farage, whose party is ahead in the polls as this week's European elections loom.

The Brexit Party's website allows anybody to hand over donations of between £5 and £500 with just a PayPal account, rather than requiring detailed personal information from those giving money.

Under electoral law, only donations above £500 have to be declared to the Commission.

Mr Brown is expected to warn: "Nigel Farage says this election is about democracy.

"Democracy is fatally undermined if unexplained, unreported and thus undeclared and perhaps under the counter and underhand campaign finance – from whom and from where we do not know – is being used to influence the very elections that are at the heart of our democratic system."

He will add: "Now Mr Farage heads a new Brexit Party, which is making questionable claims about the true source of its funding at a time when the Electoral Commission has warned of the dangers of multiple, small, anonymous donations being a cover for dirty money."

That warning was echoed by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who said: "Some at the NCA [National Crime Agency] and at the Electoral Commission have to wake up. We’re facing a real threat to our democracy."

But a Brexit Party spokesperson said: "Rigorous checks are carried out on all donations over the declarable threshold to ensure that they are admissible in accordance with electoral law."

In a statement, the Electoral Commission said: “The Brexit Party, like all registered political parties, has to comply with laws that require any donation it accepts of over £500 to be from a permissible source.

"It is also subject to rules for reporting donations, loans, campaign spending and end-of-year accounts.

“These rules are in place to ensure fairness and transparency of all political party finance.

"As part of our active oversight and regulation of these rules, we talk regularly to parties, including the Brexit Party, about ensuring they have robust systems in place so that they comply with the law.

"If we see evidence to suggest the rules have been broken, we will consider it in line with our enforcement policy."

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