The Charity Commission has censured the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) for being party political for a second time.

LACS commissioned a YouGov poll last May that asked: “Do you think the Conservative pledge to hold a vote on whether to make hunting with dogs…legal again is MORE in keeping with a ‘nasty party’ or a ‘compassionate Conservative’ party?”

The result was then reported in a press release headed “Poll reveals Tories firmly viewed as ‘nasty party’ on hunting”.

In a report of its investigation into the breaking of rules, the commission said: “The question appeared to be designed to elicit a particular response for the purpose of criticising the [Conservative] party.”

Chief executive of the commission Andrew Hind said: “Charities must not encourage, or discourage, support for any political party.”

The commission will take no further action, but LACS had to promise to be neutral in future.

This comes after the charities’ watchdog was forced to rule on a LACS advert that was deemed party political.

LACS had proposed an advertising campaign that highlighted letters in the slogan “Keep Cruelty History” so it read “Cruel Tory” but was advised this was overly political.

Countryside Alliance spokesman Tim Bonner said: “We believe a lot of what LACS does isn’t very charitable — including paying people to hide in hedges and spy on hunts.

“But if it wants the financial advantages of being a charity, it has to stick to the rules.”

LACS chief executive Douglas Batchelor said LACS accepted the commission’s guidance and, ahead of the general election, would publish candidates’ views on the repeal of the Hunting Act — but would keep to the rules.

“We will be focusing a great deal on this campaign in the run up to the election,” he said.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (8 April, ’10)