Nick Clegg's groundbreaking telephone stunt last week - an automated cold call to 250,000 households in 50 constituencies following his speech to see if anyone knew who he was - looks likely to end up with the party being slammed by the Information Commissioner and put on a final warning. If they were to repeat it, they would actually face criminal sanctions.
It seems that unsolicited research calls to people are fine and dandy, but marketing calls require specific opt-in consent.
The Information Commissioner's office said
After carefully considering the script it is our view that these automated calls are for the purpose of promoting the Liberal Democrats. We are seeking formal confirmation about who was contacted and whether their consent was obtained. The regulations forbid the use of automated direct marketing calls to any individual who has not previously given their consent to receive such calls.In a Guardian interview
the Lib Dems' chief executive, Lord Rennard, admitted that they did not have that consentOh dear. I'm sure they'll try and spin it in the same way they've spun the embarrassment over the Michael Brown affair, but their polished image as the party supporting privacy and civil liberty is looking a little more tarnished these days.