British artist Banksy withdraws free prints for anti-Tory voters after Election Commission warning

Street artist Banksy's election offer backfires.VIDEO: REUTERS
To get the print, voters were instructed to send in a photograph of their ballot papers from polling day showing they voted against the Conservative candidate.
To get the print, voters were instructed to send in a photograph of their ballot papers from polling day showing they voted against the Conservative candidate.PHOTO: BANKSY.CO.UK

Cult British artist Banksy, who recently offered a free limited print for those who vote against the Conservative party, has withdrawn his offer saying he had been warned by Britain's Election Commission.

On his website, Banksy earlier wrote that the "exclusive new Banksy print" - a revised version of his famous Balloon Girl work, but with a Union Jack design - would be released on June 9.

"This limited edition artwork on archival quality paper is completely free, but is only available to registered voters in the Bristol North West, Bristol West, North Somerset, Thornbury, Kingswood and Filton constituencies," said the notice.

To get the print, voters were instructed to send in a photograph of their ballot papers from polling day showing they voted against the Conservative candidate.

The "complimentary gift" would then be mailed to them.

Banksy's site originally included a lawyer's note in fine print that said the print was "a souvenir piece of campaign material" and was "in no way meant to influence the choices of the electorate".

The note added that the print "has no monetary value, is for amusement purposes only and is strictly not for resale".

However, British media has reported that the lawyer's note could do little to protect the controversial artist legally.

An Electoral Commission spokesman told the BBC that the commission advised voters against taking photos inside polling stations, as doing so "may be in breach of the law, whether intentionally or not".

BBC said it is a criminal offence to "induce a voter to display his ballot paper after he has marked it so as to make known to any person the name of the candidate for whom he has or has not voted", and that it is also illegal to show the paper's unique identification number.

After his print offer was widely reported, Banksy updated his website announcing a "product recall". He wrote that the Electoral Commission warned him that the free print offer would invalidate the election result.

"So I regret to announce this ill-conceived and legally dubious promotion has now been cancelled," he said.

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Banksy is known for his politically charged artwork and has kept his real identity a closely guarded secret.

Balloon Girl, a mural Banksy painted at an east London shop, was removed and sold for £37,200 (S$66,300) at Sotheby's in 2007.

His post on Instagram about the limited edition prints has been met with mixed reactions, with many pointing out that it is illegal, while others wondered if he was "having a laugh" as he did not provide his address.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BU4fuqmjYPX/?taken-by=banksy