This article was first published on Dazed Digital (June 2017), to view my full profile visit: http://www.dazeddigital.com/user/harrietkean
It was all too good to be true: Banksy has been forced to retract his promise to give free prints to people who vote against the Tories near his hometown of Bristol. Voters were asked to send in a photograph of their ballot paper to prove that they voted for anyone but the Conservatives, but – following a police investigation and after “a number of complaints ” – the artist has now withdrawn his offer.
The limited edition print, which featured his iconic stencil ‘girl with a red balloon’, was going to be released on June 9. The re-worked print replaced the red heart with a Union Jack motif. Banksy posted on his official website: “Simply send in a photo of your ballot paper from polling day showing you voted against the Conservative incumbent and this complimentary gift will be mailed to you.”
The message was followed by a lawyer’s note, which read: “This print is a souvenir piece of campaign material, it is in no way meant to influence the choices of the electorate, has no monetary value, is for amusement purposes only and is strictly not for resale. Terms and conditions to follow, postage not included”.
Unfortunately, citing the Representation of People Act 1983, the Police asserted on Monday that it would be a criminal offence for “any voter to accept or agree to accept a gift or similar in return for voting or refraining from voting.” They then warned that “any person participating in an offer to receive a gift is at risk of being prosecuted”.
Banksy has since replaced the original statement with a new post titled ‘Product Recall’. In it, the anonymous artist clarifies that the Electoral Commission have warned him that the free print “would invalidate the election result”. He adds that the “ill-conceived and legally dubious promotion” has now been “cancelled.”
The Electoral Commission warns that bribery – or “where someone directly or indirectly gives any money or procures any office to or for any voter, in order to induce any voter to vote or not to vote” – is an electoral offence.
Crimestoppers has also issued a warning on its official website, asking voters to be vigilant about electoral fraud. The statement reads: “It’s illegal to offer money or gifts to voters, directly or indirectly, to get someone to vote a certain way, or not to vote at all.”