UK Politics

Bez's party fined by Electoral Commission for non-compliance

Mark Berry, AKA Bez
Image caption Bez stood on an anti-fracking ticket in Salford and Eccles

A party founded by ex-pop star Mark "Bez" Berry has been fined £1,800 for not complying with electoral rules.

The We Are The Reality Party fought three seats at the 2015 general election, with Bez gaining 703 votes in Salford and Eccles.

But the Electoral Commission said it failed to submit spending records and Bez - who is also party treasurer - ignored demands to pay an earlier fine.

The treasurer of a party formed by late union boss Bob Crow was also fined.

Bez, a former Celebrity Big Brother winner who found chart fame as a maraca-shaking dancer with the Happy Mondays in the 1990s, was in trouble with the Electoral Commission before he had even officially launched his party in January last year.

'Substantial resources'

He was forced to change its name after the watchdog ruled it sounded too similar to another group, The Realists' Party.

The rechristened We Are The Reality Party, which campaigned against fracking and austerity, is now under fire for failing to submit a campaign expenditure report and other paperwork required by law, including quarterly donations and loans reports.

In a statement, the Electoral Commission acknowledged Bez's party was "relatively small and does not have substantial resources".

But it added: "Despite the Commission's ongoing efforts to engage with the party it continues to fail to meet its statutory requirements. The level of the fine reflects this."

In a separate move, the treasurer of No2EU Yes to Democracy, Mary Bryce, has been fined £3,750 for non-compliance.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Bob Crow founded the No2EU to fight the 2009 European elections

The now defunct party was set up by Bob Crow's RMT union, with backing from the Communist Party of Britain among others, to fight the 2009 European elections on an anti-EU, pro-workers rights platform.

It de-registered in 2010 when activists drifted away but was brought back for the 2014 European elections, when it fielded 46 candidates, including Mr Crow, who died of a heart attack two months before polling day.

The party was wound up again in October 2014 - but its treasurer failed to deliver a spending report for the 2014 election, despite appearing to "spend a substantial sum" and delivered donations and loans reports late, the Electoral Commission said.

'Legal responsibility'

The commission said it had chosen to fine the treasurer rather than the party because of the lack of co-operation specifically by the treasurer.

An initial fine of £3,000 has been increased to £3,750 and will go up to £4,500 if the fine is not paid by 31 March, it added.

Louise Edwards, Head of Regulatory Compliance and Casework at the Electoral Commission, said: "Transparency around party spending does not become less important because a party ceases to be registered.

"It remains the treasurer's legal responsibility to ensure all required reports have been delivered to the Commission.

"Despite our efforts, NO2EU's spending almost two years ago at the European Parliament Elections still remains unknown as a result of this lack of co-operation."

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