The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, long believed to be a disownable branch of CCHQ, have been dutifully deflecting attention from the Tories’ spending on last year’s General Election with claims that “they were all at it”, and in particular taking aim at Battle Buses used by both Labour and the Lib Dems in the last weeks of the campaign. This has taken up a considerable part of their time recently.
The Fawkes folks were particularly keen on the “Labour Express” operation, first going after Rupa Huq, who defeated Angie Bray in Ealing Central and Acton, and concluding “this is identical to what the Tories were doing”. More candidates were then revealed to have had Labour Express visits. Then MP Paula Sheriff was shown to have had a bus visit. They even got their pals at the Sun to run an item.
Even national battle bus tours, it was suggested, where up to no good, especially the Lib Dems, where Fawkes fans were told “Proof Libdem Battle Bus Did Transport Activists”, and were then presented with “‘Cheated’ Libdem Pictured Campaigning On Battle Bus”, a story about defeated candidate Tessa Munt. Sadly, the Police declined to take complaints about Ms Munt any further, and now more bad news has arrived.
The ever-vigilant Mr Ceebs has been assembling invoices for bus and coach travel for the three main English parties, but has found only one vehicle for the Lib Dems, concluding “once again a vehicle for the party leader, so rightly part of the national campaign”. For Labour, he found “two buses … the Battle Bus and the Press Bus, so both are properly part of the national campaign”. What of the Tories?
Ah well. Having located an invoice for yet another midi-sized coach, he concluded “we now have a grand total of nine coaches and two midi coaches”. Eleven vehicles. There is no way that all those can be attributed to the national campaign, especially when that list is married up to previous claims about three Battle Buses for activists, a dedicated bus for SpAds, and a “virtual bus” of fifty activists travelling by rail.
It gets worse: Michael Crick at Channel 4 News, who was confronted by Staines and his claims that “they were all at it”, revealed yesterday that the Labour Students’ “Battle Buses” were in fact small people carriers, costing a fraction of the hire costs the Tories shelled out for each of their coaches. And then there was Labour Express.
Crick tells “We have analysed and mapped all 19 seats visited by any vehicle described as ‘Labour Express’ … We’ve also charted how much the local candidate spent in each seat, and calculated whether by declaring the costs of the Labour Express as local spending, those candidates would have exceeded their local spending limit”.
His conclusion? “In every single seat we’ve looked at, the costs of the Labour Express would not have pushed the candidate over the limit, even if they had been declared in full as local spending”. That means The Great Guido is well and truly Fawked once again.
But there is good news from Crick: he has found “strong evidence” against one party. Sadly for the Fawkes rabble, that party is the Tories. Another fine mess, once again.