Purpose test: Campaigning on an issue

Campaigns that mention political parties or candidates

In almost all cases, an activity will meet the purpose test if it:

  • explicitly promotes political parties or candidates who support your campaign’s aims
  • implicitly promotes some parties or candidates over others, for example by setting out or comparing the merits of the positions of political parties or candidates on a policy

Campaigns that do not mention political parties or candidates

If your campaign does not mention candidates, parties, or elections, then your spending is less likely to be regulated. This is because on the balance of the factors - in particular ‘call to action to voters’ and ‘tone’ – your activity is less likely to meet the purpose test.

In order for an activity to meet the test, the voter needs to know which way they are being persuaded to vote.

However, your campaign might identify a political party, parties, or group of candidates implicitly, without naming them. This could happen if a policy or issue is so closely and publicly associated with a party, parties or category of candidates that it is effectively a shorthand for them in your campaign.

In this case, your campaign will meet the purpose test if, after assessing all the factors, it is reasonable to regard your campaign activity on the policy as intended to influence voters to vote for or against those political parties or candidates.

Specific policies may be more likely than more general issues to be closely associated with parties or candidates.

Example: ‘Social care’ and the ‘dementia tax’ at the 2017 UK Parliamentary general election

Example: ‘Social care’ and the ‘dementia tax’ at the 2017 UK Parliamentary general election

‘Social care’ was a prominent issue at the time, but most prominent parties had a range of policies and positions on it. The general issue was not closely and publicly associated with any party or category of candidates. A campaign on social care would have been unlikely to meet the purpose test unless it specifically mentioned parties or candidates.

The ‘dementia tax’ was a particular clear and prominent policy of the Conservative and Unionist Party at the election, announced as part of their manifesto during the campaign. It was closely and publicly associated with them. A campaign against the dementia tax would have been much more likely to meet the purpose test on the balance of the factors – particularly because the very phrase ‘dementia tax’ is one that was coined and used by the Conservatives’ opponents in that election campaign.
 

Case studies from recent elections

Our case studies give examples of issues-based campaigns from recent elections and explain whether or not they met the purpose test:

Non-party campaigner case studies from recent elections

Last updated: 23 September 2019