Following the two terrorist attacks that struck Britain in Manchester and London, the general election campaign was very tense. While the political parties confronted one another, the street artist Banksy thought he had found an ideal solution to shift the election in favour of the Labour party.
A week before the election, the mysterious artist posted an announcement on his site. He promised to send a limited edition of his famous Balloon Girl, a graffiti showing a small girl letting go of a heart-shaped balloon, to anyone who could prove that he or she had voted against the Tories, the British Conservative party. In his new version of the image printed for the election, the balloon was in the colours of the Union Jack.
This offer was only valid in the six municipalities of his home city, Bristol. Voters only had to send a photograph of their ballot paper to receive their precious gift. The announcement included a “Lawyer’s Note”: “This print is a souvenir piece of campaign material, it is in no way meant to influence the choices of the electorate, has no monetary value, is for amusement purposes only and is strictly not for re-sale”.
The scheme was immediately criticised. For many it was the equivalent of a bribe. Others pointed out that it was forbidden to ask a voter to show his ballot paper or say what he had voted. Following the opening of an enquiry, Banksy was obliged to withdraw his offer.
On his site he published a communiqué as follows: “Product Recall. I have been warned by the Electoral Commission that the free print offer will invalidate the election result. So I regret to announce this ill-conceived and legally dubious promotion has now been cancelled”.
This is not the first time that the artist has taken up a political stance, in particular regarding Brexit. Last May, he created a fresco in Dover showing a workman chipping away at one of the stars on the European flag. More than a year earlier, in December 2015, he had posted several works in Calais demonstrating support for the migrants in the Jungle.