Bates Wells Braithwaite's team is a top pick for clients due to it's industry knowledge and exceptionally impressive pragmatism"
Legal 500 2017
BWB’s Politics, Elections and Campaigning law team is ranked in the top tier for electoral law by Legal 500. Our multi-disciplinary team of expert lawyers brings together leading professionals from a range of fields, including election and referendum law, public and regulatory, charity, governance, dispute resolution, advertising, media and data protection law, in order to provide a holistic service for a wide range of clients involved in every aspect of the political process.
With a high degree of political intelligence and key contacts within the political field, the team is experienced in operating in a fast paced environment and under a high degree of media and public scrutiny. We have advised on some of the biggest political issues of our time, including advising Britain Stronger in Europe on their role as the designated lead campaigner on the ‘Remain’ side of the EU referendum debate; advising the largest non-party campaigners and the Green Party in the run-up to the 2015 General Election and the 2016 devolved national elections in Scotland and Wales; and advising one of the prospective Labour Party candidates in relation to the 2016 London Mayoral campaign.
We have extensive experience advising on new and developing forms of political campaigning, including digital campaigning and the innovative use of ‘big data’. We also advise on approaches to democratic and stakeholder engagement in the context of constitutional and governance arrangements, such as the use of election processes to appoint board members and other office holders.
We provide our clients with practical advice about how to meet their legal and regulatory obligations and offer effective solutions to address challenges they may face, including in relation to:
- Electoral and referendum campaigning legislation, at both local and national levels
- Rules on election expenses and campaign finance, as they apply to political parties, individual candidates and third parties.
- Company law issues, including the rules relating to political donations and political expenditure by companies.
- Campaign communications and materials, including reviewing their contents for potential electoral and advertising law issues and ensuring regulatory compliance
- Advertising and marketing expenditure restrictions
- Specific ‘purdah’ requirements that operate in pre-election periods and prior to referendums
- Rules regulating consultant lobbying
- Charity law issues, including rules applying to political activity by charities and the use, establishment and governance and dual charitable and non-charitable structures by campaigning organisations
- Data protection and opinion polling, including exit polling
- Employment issues, including volunteering and the secondment of staff during election and referendum campaigns
- Electoral fraud and other electoral offences
- The structuring and governance of political parties
- Trade union law
- Engagement with relevant regulators, including the Electoral Commission, the Advertising Standards Authority and the Charity Commission
- Governance and constitutional arrangements, including the election of office holders and related diversity issues
Our clients include
- Political parties
- Politicians, MPs, peers and central government
- Local authorities and councillors
- Individual donors
- Charities, social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations
- Online, offline, local, national and international non-party campaigning organisations
- Trade associations and membership organisations
- Trade unions
- Students' unions and the National Union of Students
- Regulatory bodies
Examples of work
Recent BWB work in the political and electoral arena includes:
- Advising Britain Stronger In Europe, the designated lead campaigning group on the ‘Remain’ side of the EU Referendum debate, and a range of other charitable and non-charitable campaigners on engagement with the EU referendum debate
- Appointment of Simon Steeden by the Cabinet Office to advise Lord Hodgson's team on the independent statutory review of non-party campaigning regulation following its amendment by the controversial “Lobbying Act”
- Advising the Green Party of England & Wales on governance and structure
- Acting for journalist Jon Ungoed-Thomas in the MPs expense claims case in 2009, which lead to the MPs expenses scandal
- Acting for 38 Degrees and Zac Goldsmith MP to draft an amended Recall Bill, to provide for constituents to vote for their MP to be recalled and for this to trigger a by-election
- Retention by the compliance officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority
- Advising in defamation actions by two former treasurers of one of the leading political parties
- Advising a prospective Labour Party candidate in relation to the 2016 London Mayoral campaign
- Advising online mass membership campaigning networks, including 38 Degrees and Avaaz
- Advising a number of companies, think tanks, students unions, charities and campaigning organisations on the rules governing participants in the 2015 General Election, and the 2016 Scottish, Welsh and London elections
- Advising think tanks and membership organisations in respect of the Register of Consultant Lobbyists
- Advising on Electoral Commission investigations into electoral law compliance, including in respect of spending returns and registration requirements
- Advising on possible judicial review of the Electoral Commission guidance relating to the "Lobbying Act"
- Advising on local government electoral rights