The use of public money to advertise the party political purposes of the Government is a continuing source of concern to Good Law Project. As you will remember we wrote to Government in connection with the worrying trend of publicly funded videos and social media content being used to advance Conservative Party messaging.
At the time we could not find a Government policy that guarded against that – and we sent a pre-action protocol letter. Government has now sent us its published guidance which you can see here.
We do not believe this goes far enough. Our constitution allocates to civil servants the job of policing what will be a fraught and contested line. As the recent Boardman Report on the Cabinet Office recognised (“A commonly-understood and consistently applied process should go some way towards empowering civil servants in such circumstances, reinforcing their ability to provide this challenge.”) only a clear demarcation empowers civil servants to do that job.
Though we still believe there is a problem, we no longer believe we can succeed in addressing it with litigation. In the circumstances we have written to Simon Case, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, urging him to issue clear and practical guidance.
We send this letter in a constructive spirit, in the hope he agrees it is appropriate to ensure civil servants are empowered to uphold this important democratic principle.
Obviously, we prefer not to raise money for litigation that (we later form the view) it is not prudent to pursue. And where possible, we seek to close a crowdfunding page before money is collected (as we did here for example). However, in practice, this is not always possible.
The surplus on this litigation – of something like £20,000 – will be hypothecated to other challenges seeking to protect the country against the misuse of public money and other public governance breaches.
We are very grateful for your continuing support.
It is only with your support that we can continue to hold Government to account. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so here.