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George Galloway may have broken election law by failing to file expenses on time

Exclusive: The Workers’ Party candidate has repeatedly accused others of election irregularities over the Batley & Spen by-election

Seth Thévoz
11 August 2021, 1.30pm
George Galloway has repeatedly claimed the Batley & Spen by-election was not conducted fairly
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PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

George Galloway may have broken election law by failing to file his campaign expenses on time following last month’s Batley & Spen by-election.

The Workers’ Party candidate had repeatedly accused others of election irregularities, saying he had “multiple grounds” to get the by-election’s result overturned in court.

The legal deadline for declaring campaign expenses was Friday 6 August. But, as of lunchtime on Monday, Galloway had still not filed the papers, openDemocracy understands.

Kirklees Council confirmed that the other 15 candidates submitted their returns by the deadline on Friday. A spokesperson added: “On Monday 9 August 2021, the Acting Returning Officer received the returns and declarations as to election expenses for George Galloway.”

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Election law makes it an “illegal practice” if “a candidate or election agent fails to comply” in filing their return on time. But experts say that candidates or their agents can avoid prosecution by applying for relief from the High Court within seven days.

Galloway has repeatedly claimed the by-election was not conducted fairly. In July he claimed to have started legal action “to have the Batley and Spen by-election result annulled”, tweeting: “SEE YOU IN COURT”.

During his campaign, he also threatened to take legal action against the local council, after it removed his posters.

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The council said that text identifying who had paid for the poster, known as an imprint, was too small and was in breach of the rules. But Galloway claimed it was a “blatantly partisan move”, saying: “Gone is the notion of a free and fair election”.

He later condemned “the egregious and serious and election-altering antics of the banana republic that is the Kirklees Labour-controlled council” and pledged to challenge the result in court.

Galloway has yet to present evidence to support these claims, although he has since repeated them in an op-ed for the Putin regime-funded TV channel, RT. He also announced that he would “not be...the candidate in another by-election.”

Galloway did not respond to requests for an update on the various legal challenges he and his team promised last month. Nor did Galloway respond to repeated requests for comment.

But openDemocracy can find no trace of any legal challenge having been initiated over the election.

The Workers’ Party said that openDemocracy had “been misled” about the late filing of election returns. A spokesperson insisted: “Our returns were filed on time and this has been confirmed with the relevant officers at the Commission.”

But a spokesperson for the Electoral Commission confirmed that the regulator’s guidance makes it clear it is not involved in collecting returns within each constituency, and added that it was aware that one candidate’s return had been filed “later than the deadline”.

The Workers' Party did not respond to further questions.

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