Britain’s election regulator the Electoral Commission has decreed that the question set by Prime Minister David Cameron for the forthcoming EU referendum could be perceived as biased and should, as a result be changed.
The organisation, which is known to be less than hospitable to eurosceptic parties like the UK Indepdendence Party, has issued guidance today.
Jenny Watson, chair of the Electoral Commission, said: “Any referendum question must be as clear as possible so that voters understand the important choice they are being asked to make. We have tested the proposed question with voters and received views from potential campaigners, academics and plain language experts.
“Whilst voters understood the question in the bill some campaigners and members of the public feel the wording is not balanced and there was a perception of bias. The alternative question we have recommended addresses this. It is now for parliament to discuss our advice and decide which question wording should be used.”
The current EU referendum question is: “should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” But the Electoral Commission says it should be changed to add: “or leave the European Union?”
The news confirms the beliefs of referendum campaigners across the board that Mr Cameron was trying to “stitch up” the referendum.
The final decision will be made by Parliament.
Earlier this year, UKIP leader Nigel Farage called for the organisation to be scrapped.
He said: “It has allowed the electoral register to shrink at a time of rising population. It has sanctioned joke and spoiler parties, which only last year had a material impact on the outcome of the European Elections, costing UKIP at least two seats.”
The organisation presided over allowing the spoof FUKP party to stand against Mr Farage in South Thanet at the last election, as well as clearing the “An Independence from Europe” group to participate in the european elections in 2014, despite the similarities with UKIP. The latter party is believed to have cost UKIP an extra seat in the European Parliament, specifically keeping UKIP staffer Gawain Towler from becoming a UKIP MEP.