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Botched ruling: The Electoral Commission's decision to allow "An Independence From Europe — UK Independence Now" to appear on ballot papers at the top of the list of candidates probably cost Nigel Farage's UKIP two MPs (credit: Getty Images)

Anyone who cares about the hardware of democracy should be concerned that in the European Parliamentary election on May 22, 2014, almost a quarter of a million people voted for an unknown political party called "An Independence from Europe", which did not even exist until March 26, 2014. This new name, with the slogan "UK Independence Now" alongside it, appeared on ballot papers in every region, earning this fledgling political party tens of thousands of votes all over the country — and this happened with the full approval of the Electoral Commission.

It was the brainchild of Mike Nattrass, the former West Midlands UKIP MEP, who had a falling out with the party when he was not selected to run for re-election in 2014. Nattrass registered his new party in May 2012 under the name "4 a Referendum" more than 12 months before he was deselected, so he might have had an inkling of what was coming.

In late 2013, "4 a Referendum Party" morphed into "A Referendum Party" and then an application was made on February 24, 2014, to change the name to "An Independence Party". The following day, the Electoral Commission rejected this name on the grounds that it was "too close to UK Independence Party". The "party description fails on confusion with a registered party" read a note that appears on the paperwork, signed by a Commission official (name redacted). A further application was made on March 21, 2014, to register: "An Independence from Europe". This time the Commission allowed it, giving its approval in less than a week, on March 26. Apparently, the insertion of the words "from Europe" satisfied its previous concerns about "confusion". 

What is clear to everyone but the Electoral Commission is that this new party name and slogan were deliberately placed on the ballot paper to confuse voters. It was a blatant example of "passing off" one party for another. The fact that the Commission realised there was potential for confusion if it allowed the name "An Independence Party" makes it all the more troubling that it allowed the subsequent application simply because the words "from Europe" had been added.

Parties are listed on the ballot paper in alphabetical order. Cunningly, Nattrass had registered a name that would appear at the top of the ballot paper and added the slogan "UK Independence Now", knowing that the real UKIP would appear at the bottom. In many polling stations, and most notably on postal ballots, the ballot paper was folded, putting UKIP behind a fold and Nattrass's new name on top of what was a lengthy sheet. It was a direct appeal to the core of UKIP's support and there is no doubt that it confused voters on a large scale.

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TEA party
December 1st, 2014
5:12 PM
Interestingly the Electoral Commission has required TEA Party (a registered political party) to change its name because it thinks that TEA (in capitals) actually stands for Taxed Enough Already whereas using the letters only a voter might think it was something to do with a non-alcoholic beverage. No, really! The officers of TEA Party have agreed (under duress) to change the name to Tea Party. Really - I kid you not!

Harryonthehill
October 31st, 2014
6:10 PM
Whilst I am inclined towards UKIP the trouble is they still have too many daft policies such as denying the need for some renewable forms of energy where appropriate and using forms that are likely to be economic in the next 30 to 40 years and the retention of The Welsh Assembly which many people in Wales do not want. Why not ask our MPs to vote on issues that only affect Wales? Hence I plan to vote to vote for Mike Nattrass' party in the hope that they will bring some sense to the debate.

duncanpt
October 29th, 2014
5:10 PM
What would be very telling is if "An Independence from Europe" had now vanished without trace, not long after the EP elections.

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