Meet Nick Timothy. Last year, he was a Special Advisor, or SpAd, to Home Secretary Theresa May. His level of remuneration is not known, but his successor was hired on a salary thought to be around £81,000 per annum. That means a monthly rate of £6,750. This figure is important, as two months before the 2015 General Election he was taken from his role in Government to work on an election campaign.
Specifically, Timothy was sent to the Thanet South constituency to run the show for Craig Mackinlay, who was facing a challenge from UKIP supremo Nigel “Thirsty” Farage. The Tories, so an article published later in the Staggers tells, “sent Nick Timothy, chief of staff to Theresa May, who had worked on three by-election victories before the 2010 election, to live and work full-time in Ramsgate”. That gives the Tories two questions to answer.
One, the SpAd code of conduct prohibits use of their time on election campaigns: “if a special adviser wishes to take part in an election or by-election campaign, he/she is able to do so in their own time and out of office hours. They may not use annual or unpaid leave for this purpose”. Timothy was working full time on Thanet South.
There is also the question of whether he should have continued to be employed as a SpAd, as the code of conduct says “With the agreement of the Prime Minister, special advisers can remain in post during the General Election campaign period. Those who remain in post to work on government business must ensure that they do not use official resources for party political purposes and that any participation in the campaign is in a special adviser’s own time and outside office hours”.
What was he doing still employed by the Government - at taxpayers’ expense - while working on a Tory campaign? That much is bad enough, but then we get question Two - Mackinlay’s expense return. There is no get-out clause here: it’s not possible to claim that Timothy was only giving a fraction of his time to the campaign. He was working on it full time. So we’re looking for an honest declaration of £13,500 in staff costs.
Instead, for the “Short Campaign”, we get just £1,216.66 for “Agent and other staff costs”. This consists of £916.66 for an Election Agent, and £300 for clerical support. This, by no coincidence at all, allowed Mackinlay to declare an amount just under the spending limit, which for Thanet South was little more than £15,000. Nick Timothy’s two month salary would have bust that limit. And it wouldn’t have been the only busting factor.
There are also those visits from the Battle Buses bringing activists to canvass for the Tories. No transport costs are declared. Then there are the personalised mail shots, which also appear not to have been declared. Nor have all the inducements offered to get the activists to spend all those campaigning days in Thanet South. And some wonder what justification there is for a Police investigation into the whole business.
The Conservative Party has broken the rules. The only imponderable is whether anyone is prepared to do anything about it.