Lee Rigby voting slip row sparks changes to poll rules

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The elections watchdog has agreed to introduce new rules over the descriptions political parties can use after a review of its decision to allow an extremist group to adopt a slogan featuring murdered soldier Lee Rigby.

The Electoral Commission again apologised to the family of the murdered fusilier for allowing Britain First to put “Remember Lee Rigby” on voting slips in this month’s European elections, and said it was tightening up its system of checks to “ensure a similar mistake is never repeated”.

Although the slogan cannot be used in future elections, it can still feature on ballot papers at the European elections in Wales on May 22, which take place on the first anniversary of Fusilier Rigby’s death.

The 25-year-old father-of-one was killed near Woolwich Barracks in south-east London.

Electoral Commission chairwoman Jenny Watson apologised personally to members of Fusilier Rigby’s family in “difficult and emotional calls”.

The report of the independent review into the decision said: “It should be noted that each call confirmed that the use of Fusilier Rigby’s name had caused deep offence and distress.”

Britain First applied to use seven slogans in the elections and four were rejected, but the remaining three, including the one relating to Fusilier Rigby, were approved by the watchdog.

The watchdog’s director of party and election finance Peter Horne, who resigned last week, “remembered thinking that it was distasteful but not sufficient to cause offence”, the investigation said.

Although the review found the staff involved acted largely within the commission’s processes, they failed to consider any need to protect public safety, morals or the rights and reputations of others.

Elizabeth Butler, who carried out the investigation, said the watchdog must introduce checks when personal names are used in party names or descriptions to ensure the individual or their family has consented.