Of all those marginal seats fought over at the last General Election, Brighton Kemptown was one of the closest contests, as incumbent Tory Simon Kirby saw his majority over Labour reduced from just over 1,300 to 690. It was also the focus of significant amounts of campaign effort from outside the constituency, along with the promise in advance of significant inducements, including the usual food and drink.
Even before the last few weeks of the campaign, South East Conservative Future organised telephone canvassing in support of Kirby’s candidacy, the event invitation telling “Join South East Conservative Future at Conservative Calling to make calls for Simon Kirby MP's highly marginal seat of Brighton Kemptown … FREE pizza, beer, wine, and soft drinks will be provided, and there will be a SPECIAL PRIZE for whoever makes the most calls”. None of that hospitality appears in Kirby’s expense return.
Nor was the hospitality promised for a “Super Saturday” in late March 2015, when prospective activists were told “We'll be meeting in Saltdean Carvery Car Park (behind Saltdean Lido on the South Coast Road), BN2 8SP, at 12:00pm sharp onSaturday 28th March, before heading out for an action-packed campaigning stint, including free drinks!Can you join us? Brighton, Kemptown is exactly the sort of seat that we need to get a Conservative majority and secure the future that Britain needs”.
Nor was the hospitality promised for the next “Super Saturday” only two weeks later, as the campaign moved into its last phase: “We are running a big action day on Saturday 11th April! Here's the plan: We'll be meeting in Aqua House, 370 South Coast Road, Telscombe Cliffs, East Sussex, BN10 7ES, at 10:00am sharp on Saturday 11th April,before heading out for an action-packed campaigning stint, including free drinks!”
That the 11th April meeting was drawing in activists from outside the constituency is shown by Mole Valley, Epsom and Ewell Conservative Future, who featured an appeal from no less a luminary than Cecil Parkinson, urging attendance in Brighton. And they weren’t finished with those “Super Saturdays”, with another invitation going out for the very next weekend, 18th April. This also promised a bar tab. Which also isn’t on Kirby’s return.
Oh, and this bloke is a SpAd
Even then, the Tories were taking no chances, with yet another of those “Super” days being scheduled, this time for the following Friday, 24th April. The meeting point was the same, the promise of “free drinks” was the same, and the absence of any hospitality from Simon Kirby’s expense return was the same.
One of those tagged is also a SpAd
But at least the Tories held Brighton Kemptown. Just to the West, Graham Cox was defending a majority of just over 1,850 and lost to Labour, despite one of those Battle Buses turning up from London on election day. That bus also appears to have visited Brighton Kemptown. Cox’s return has a zero entry for transport. So does Kirby’s.
That may be one more for the press pack to have a look at. More to come later.