Ballots for the election of the leader of the UK Conservative Party have the following statement:

It is an offence to vote more than once. Any member who attempts to do so will have their membership of the Party withdrawn.

"Offence" in this context makes it sound like it would be a criminal act. I understand it would be against the rules of the party but is it a criminal offence too? If so, which law is being broken?

If it is a law, does it apply to other organisation's internal elections? Is it a crime to vote more than once for my local boating club president?

  • You can steal money from your company, but unless the company decided to take legal action, you committed an offense that is punishable by the company's rules, not the law. Similarly, a political party can punish its members by rules but law.
    – r13
    Sep 3, 2022 at 22:12
  • 1
    The Conservative Party's rules are online. Their code of conduct refers to some actions as a "disciplinary offence". This means it is something you can be disciplined for by the party, but does not imply it is illegal.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 4, 2022 at 11:56
  • @StuartF That would make a great answer, showing that they use the word "offence" outside of its usual meaning of a criminal offence.
    – billpg
    Sep 4, 2022 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


No - there is no law that explicitly forbids voting twice in the leadership election of a political party. I've seen some suggestions that it could potentially be prosecuted under section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006, which defines an offence of fraud by false representation when an individual:

  1. makes a false representation
  2. dishonestly
  3. knowing that the representation was or might be untrue or misleading
  4. with intent to make a gain for himself or another, to cause loss to another or to expose another to risk of loss.

I think (though I'm not a lawyer) that such a prosecution would be a bit of a stretch, and I don't know of any precedent which would confirm if voting twice in a private contest would extend to being guilty of this offence.

Schedule 6 of the party's constitution, however, makes it clear that one of the rules of the party is as follows:

No person may cast more than one vote in any ballot in any election for any post within the Party, including any Association or Recognised Organisation.

Given that the threat attached to the ballot stating that voting twice would result in membership being withdrawn - i.e. not a criminal consequence - I think we can say fairly safely that 'offence' in this case referred to this internal party rule.

It's maybe worth pointing out that this sentence which was included on the ballot is not new for this contest - it was present on the party leadership ballots in 2019, as well as the leadership ballots for the Scottish branch of the party in early 2020.

  • Item 2 seems superfluous. Is it really possible to "make a false representation honestly, knowing that the representation was or might be untrue or misleading?"
    – Andrew Ray
    Oct 20, 2022 at 13:03
  • @AndrewRay sounds daft I know, but as far as I know the legal test for this offence first asks what the individual's knowledge was (point 3) and then asks whether their conduct was honest or dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people (point 2). Would probably be a good question for law.se though if you're so inclined.
    – CDJB
    Oct 20, 2022 at 13:09
  • Daft indeed, as the law so often is.
    – Andrew Ray
    Oct 20, 2022 at 13:10

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