The street artist Banksy has pulled a controversial offer to give free artwork to British voters for opposing the government after police started investigating him.
Banksy, whose true identity is a secret, had offered free copies of an original, election-themed artwork to people in the UK who vote against the Conservative government.
It was a version of his famous “girl with balloon” street art, with the girl’s round, red balloon replaced by a heart-shaped balloon branded with the British flag.
In order to claim it, voters in select areas of the country were told to send in proof they had voted against the candidate for the ruling Conservative party.
UK law is extremely strict when it comes to offering any incentives to vote in a particular way – to the extent that parliamentary candidates shy away from offering biscuits and coffee at campaign events in case they are accused of bribery.
Banksy had attempted to claim that his offer was not designed to affect anybody’s vote and that the prints, on high-quality paper, had “no monetary value”.
Given the association with an artist whose work often sells for millions, it is hard to see how the prints could reasonably be described as worthless.
However, he abandoned that claim, and posted a statement on his website early on Tuesday announcing that the “ill-conceived and legally dubious promotion” was no more.
The decision was made about 12 hours after Avon and Somerset police announced that they were investigating the offer, and that anyone who took it up could be prosecuted.
The prints were offered to voters who live in and around Banksy’s home city of Bristol, England.
He named seven constituencies, six of which are currently held by the Conservatives.