Another day, and another way in which the campaign by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, to prove that it was not just the Tories doing less than totally above-board things with their election spending returns, is once again progressing not necessarily to their advantage. This time, the “look over there” claims are being levelled not at Labour, but the Lib Dems.
Would you buy a used accusation from him?
Why, the Fawkes folks wanted to know, were the likes of Michael Crick not going after the Tories’ former Coalition partners? First in their sights (and nobody escapes being in their sights, ho ho ho) was Adrian Sanders, who represented Torbay from 1997 until he was defeated last year. Sanders had complained to the Police about his Tory opponent. The Great Guido waddled obediently into action in The Blue Team’s defence.
Here is their charge sheet: “The Representation of the People’s Act 1983 states that only candidates can send Election Addresses to voters. It explicitly says that only ‘a candidate’ can ‘send free of charge for postage’ an election communication, and that these must be candidate-specific rather than part of the national campaign. The Royal Mail confirm ‘a candidate mailing that is designed to secure the election … in another electoral constituency is unacceptable’. By definition candidates’ Election Addresses are therefore local spend and must be declared as such”.
But Sanders had declared some of that cost as a National expense, which the Fawkes rabble decreed was “in manifest breach of the rules”. But, as Mark Pack has pointed out, the Electoral Commission has explicitly stated that part of that spend could be declared nationally. Sanders was following their advice. The Fawkes complaint was thrown out.
Still, if at first you don’t succeed, try sucking some more seed, eh? So on went The Great Guido to the campaign of Tessa Munt, telling “Munt, who hypocritically attacked the Tories over their spending declarations, herself failed to declare a battle bus which campaigned in her constituency”. They even had a Police statement to back them up.
“Avon and Somerset Constabulary have received a number of allegations in relation to improper spending in the 2015 General Election. We will be applying for an extension to the time allowed to investigate and continue to liaise closely with the Electoral Commission”. The Fawkes conclusion? “They are in court today applying for an extension to investigate local Tory MPs, which will now apply to Tessa too”.
Sadly, this was weapons grade horseshit: the full Police statement actually begins “Avon and Somerset Constabulary has received a number of allegations in relation to improper spending in the 2015 General Election by the Conservative Party” [my emphasis]. The complaint against Tessa Munt has also been thrown out. But the Fawkes folks’ posts are both still there, unamended, as if reality somehow never intervened.
How much more of this success can they manage? Another fine mess, once again.