As more and more Police forces investigate Tory candidates’ expense returns for last year’s General Election, the party continues to hold firm that the cost of all those Battle Buses and the Road Trip 2015 campaign are a national expense, with no part of their cost to be accounted for locally. This is most convenient for CCHQ, given all the buses, and all the activists sent by train in addition. But there is a problem.
That problem is that, before the operation was scaled up to support upwards of five Battle Buses, and a “virtual bus” of 50 activists dispatched from London by rail (some of the activities taking place every day in the last weeks of the campaign), Road Trip 2015 had already been active in several marginal constituencies, two of which were in Wales, these being Gower, and Brecon and Radnorshire.
Road Trip 2015, along with all its Team 2015 activists brandishing their placards, waving their flags, and sporting their Team 2015 tops, had spent a weekend in south Wales during the “Long Campaign” period. Volunteers were met at Cardiff’s Central station, from where they were bussed, at the party’s expense, to both constituencies, neither of which is easily accessible by rail. Free food and drink was promised upfront.
Gower declares a Transport item ...
Tory youth leader Alexandra Paterson told in late February “Last weekend I campaigned with Mark Clarke and his team on my 24th Roadtrip2015 in the seats of Brecon & Radnor and Gower, South Wales”. He was there too. So how was it for her? “A pleasant memory from the weekend included us all eating ice cream on Mumbles Pier at sunset after a long day’s canvassing before advancing to the obligatory curry and free bar”.
... which is for Road Trip 2015
The Tories were victorious in both constituencies. So how did their victorious candidates record the Road Trip 2015 visit? According to the CCHQ message, all of this is a national expense, and so all those rotten lefties carping on about what happened in seats like Dover and Brighton Kemptown are wasting their time, even if a couple of hundred pounds would have busted those candidates’ expense limits.
What about Brecon? Another Transport item ...
So, as Cilla might have said, shall we have a look and find out? Byron Davies’ return for Gower showed £500 under “Transport”, and, sure enough, it was a “Notional” charge for Road Trip 2015. It wasn’t a national expense back in February. But perhaps this was a one-off? The all-important expense return was that for Chris Davies in Brecon and Radnor. What did his account say about Transport and Road Trip 2015?
... and that is also for Road Trip 2015
And the answer is, he and Byron Davies were consistent: they both showed a charge, and for the same £500. The only difference is that Chris Davies’s return calls the expense item “Road Trip 2015” and the service is described as “Battlebus Team 2015”. Either they agreed to account for the activists’ visit the same way, or CCHQ must have given them guidance. Which of those actually happened I will leave to others.
It was only a national expense later on. When push came to shove. Tory HQ is convincing no-one on this: they are well and truly busted.