|Alma mater||Cardiff University|
|Member of||Trade Remedies Authority|
Claire Bassett is CEO of Britain’s post-Brexit trade defence agency, the Trade Remedies Authority, which is based in Reading and was created to protect British industry from unfair trading practices after the UK leaves the EU.
Fining the Conservatives
During Claire Bassett's three year stint as CEO of the Electoral Commission, the regulator contended with the growth of online campaigning, investigated pro-Brexit campaigns for breaking electoral law and fined the Conservatives for busting spending limits in the 2015 General Election. Under her watch, the Electoral Commission warned that British democracy “may be under threat” and called for a raft of new legislation to clarify who is paying for online political campaign material, set new restrictions on who can give to political causes, and substantially increase the level of fines against campaigns that break the law.
The Commission came under scrutiny for the way it dealt with claims of overspending during the 2016 EU Referendum. Following several lengthy investigations, it concluded in the summer of 2018 – almost two years after the vote – that both Leave.EU and Vote Leave had broken electoral law.
The Commission issued fines and reported individuals to the police for further investigation, but Bassett had already said that the maximum £20,000 fine available to her organisation, set by Parliament, meant the penalties imposed were seen by campaigns as a “cost of doing business”.
Both pro-Brexit campaigns accused the Commission of bias and politicising what until recently had been an important but largely obscure organisation. Leave.EU’s Arron Banks described it as a “Blairite swamp creation”.
Call for her to resign
On 10 May 2017, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that no criminal charges would be brought against more than 20 Conservative MPs over the national party’s failure to accurately declare campaign spending on a battlebus tour at the 2015 General Election. One of the MPs under investigation, Conservative Karl McCartney, who was seeking re-election for Lincoln at the UK/2017 General Election said the Electoral Commission’s Chief Executive, Claire Bassett, and her senior management team should resign. If they don’t, Tory MPs after the election will urge the government “to abolish this incompetent organisation”, he said in a statement.
On 16 May 2017, Claire Bassett used a letter to The Guardian to emphasise that her organisation’s role was “to ensure transparency on where money is being spent to influence voting, rather than to stop campaigning. Indeed, the health of our democracy relies on the ability for candidates, parties and non-party campaigners to engage with voters in ways that voters find accessible.”
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