The amounts of money the Tories appear to have thrown in the general direction of their RoadTrip and BattleBus 2015 operations, in the final weeks leading up to last year’s General Election, are significant, and none moreso than in the last frantic fortnight before the polls opened on May 7. The period from April 26 to May 6 looks to have been subject to some serious injections of subsidy, if not other inducements.
We do not have much to go on at present, but the BattleBus 2015 Eventbrite site still has some of the details available. Tickets were offered for one of three periods - 26 April to 1 May, 1 May to 6 May, or, for the truly dedicated activist, 26 April to 6 May. This appears to have been two spells of five days, which it has to be assumed was solid campaigning - in other words, canvassing and supporting the candidates.
Several constituencies would have been targeted, and one of these was the City of Chester, where Stephen Mosley was defending a majority of just over 2,500. The constituency had been solidly Conservative from 1910 until the Labour landslide of 1997, when the unfortunate Gyles Brandreth was defeated after just one term, perhaps not helped by his having to succeed Peter Morrison.
Mosley had good reason to suspect his majority was under threat, not least that he was not well-regarded in the city. There was also the issue of fracking on the northern fringe of the constituency, likely to affect the vote in normally staunchly Tory areas. So his was one of the locations visited by those Battle Buses, a visit taking place on Saturday May 2. Activists even took turns to sign a Mosley poster before heading out.
We know all this as it was recorded for posterity, and remember, those are among the activists who were getting five days of campaigning for just £50 - which, it has to be assumed, included their accommodation, food and drink. If all of that was promised beforehand, that could mean serious trouble for the Tories. And all of them knew what was going on - even Andrew Feldman, pictured with Grant “Spiv” Shapps.
So the activists gathered: “#Battlebus2015 activists ready to begin the day in Chester campaigning for @stephen_mosley”. The numbers were duly recorded: “Over 100 activists out in Chester with #Battlebus2015 today campaigning for hope and #Conservative majority”. And afterwards there was “A brilliant speech from @stephen_mosley followed by passionate #Conservative campaigners chanting ‘5 More Years’”.
Some serious money must have been expended in trying to keep Mosley in the Commons. But it was all for nought: he lost by less than 100 votes to Labour challenger Chris Matheson, and was duly consigned to the dustbin of political history. But the obvious expenditure is still there for all to see, and that Mosley lost does not mean it should not be subject to as much scrutiny as all those marginals the party won.
The Tories’ election spending continues to be scrutinised, whatever the result.