Banksy has recalled a limited-edition print that he planned to send to those voting against the Conservative party in the UK election, having been warned that the artwork could “invalidate the election result”.
The British street artist announced the U-turn on his website late last night – just days after he first revealed he would be offering the print to registered voters in the Bristol North West, Bristol West, North Somerset, Thornbury, Kingswood and Filton constituencies who vote against the Conservative party on 8 June.
A “lawyer’s note” at the end of Banksy’s original announcement stated that the print was intended as campaign material that offers no monetary incentive to vote a certain way. But the artist said he had since been told by the Electoral Commission that it would have negative implications on the result.
“I have been warned by the Electoral Commission that the free print offer will invalidate the election result,” he said on his website.
“So I regret to announce this ill-conceived and legally dubious promotion has now been cancelled.”
The print Banksy planned to give away was based on his Girl with a Balloon artwork, but what was previously a red heart-shaped balloon had been replaced with a Union Jack flag pattern.
The elusive artist announced last week that he would be sending it out to non-Tory voters in six specific constituencies – five of which have Tory sitting members.
All voters needed to do was send in a photo of their marked ballot paper as proof that they voted against the Tory party and, in turn, the complimentary print would’ve been mailed out to them.
The Electoral Commission discourages the taking of photos inside polling stations, even though it is not specifically prohibited by law, to protect the secrecy of votes. It is also illegal to reveal how someone else has voted.
Critics on the artist’s Instagram account raised this, and said that his move could be considered illegal and would end up “counterproductive if votes cast are disqualified” – a prediction that was confirmed by the Electoral Commission’s warning.
Conservative prime minister Theresa May called the snap election ahead of the start of Brexit negotiations – which are expected to begin 11 days after polling. The winning party will oversee the UK’s departure from the European Union, a process expected to take in the region of three years.
Currently, Labour has been the only political party to specifically mention the architecture, design and art industries in its election manifesto and claims it will give the sectors a voice at the Brexit negotiating table.
“Unlike the Tories, we will make sure the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is represented on the Brexit cabinet committee – so that our creative industries have a voice in government on the crucial decisions that will affect the Brexit negotiations,” it says.
Banksy, who is known for his politically charged works, recently opened an “all-inclusive vandals resort” in Bethlehem, five metres from the wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian West Bank.
He also created a mural in the English town of Dover, showing a worker chipping a star away from the European Union flag.
Previous works by the artist have included the temporary “bemusement park” of Dismaland in Somserset, the remains of which the artist eventually transferred to Calais.