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Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Tories In By-Election Expenses Mire

One of those sights that strikes fear into many Tories - alongside the sight of another investigation by the Guardian’s Nick Davies - is the appearance of Michael Crick, now at Channel 4 News, bearing down on their affairs. And so it has come to pass that Crick has looked into the party’s spending on three recent by-elections, and found apparent undeclared overspends totalling tens of thousands of pounds.
The report tellsHundreds of pages of receipts obtained by this programme seem to show undeclared expenditure by the party in three crucial parliamentary by-election campaigns in 2014 … The documents appear to reveal a pattern of undisclosed spending and link directly to Conservative HQ and senior figures within the party”. And there’s more.

Campaign spending in each by-election is subject to a legal limit of £100,000 to ensure fairness, so contests are not skewed in favour of richer political parties … If all the receipts had been declared, the party would appear to have flouted spending limits in all three by-elections in Newark, Clacton, and Rochester & Strood during 2014”.

And the amounts overspent? “This includes £56,866.75 undeclared hotel bills in Rochester, which would have taken them £53,659.83 over the £100,000 spending limit; £26,786.14 in Clacton, which would take them £10,835.36 over the limit; and £10,459.30 in Newark, which would mean a £6,650.28 overspend”.

Typically, the Guido Fawkes blog has run a spoiling post, suggesting that much of the Newark campaign expenditure was hidden away as a “Road Trip Annual Dinner”, which took place well away from the constituency in Nottingham. They even tell readers the names of the bars where activists drank that evening, which suggests that their informant may not be unrelated to the now-expelled Mark Clarke.

Given the small alleged Newark overspend, the Fawkes intervention could be a “look over there” tactic: as Crick’s report suggests, if there was blatant overspend anywhere, it was in trying to prevent Mark Reckless being returned as a UKIP MP in Rochester and Strood, an exercise which was not successful. And mentioning the RoadTrip movement only turns attention to the costs that part of the campaign may have incurred.

According to Elliott Johnson, whose death sparked the Tory Bullying furore, while 600 activists signed up to go to Newark, more than 1,300 put their names down for Clacton. Robert Semple claimed that 400 activists were transported to Rochester on one Saturday of the by-election campaign alone. Where were those costs declared?

And just to cause The Blue Team a little more discomfort, Crick has separately enquiredDid the Tories spent twice as much in defeating Nigel Farage in Thanet South last year as they were legally allowed under the rules?” The RoadTrip concept, with its Battle Buses, visited many marginal constituencies in the run-up to last year’s General Election, with Sebastian Payne at the Spectator noting thatCCHQ will be paying for accommodation and sustenance during [activists’] five days on the road”.

If Michael Crick wants something to get his teeth into, the RoadTrip costs may just be it, and for both by-elections and General Election. Just a hint, you understand.


rob said...

*Off the road again*

Gotta a good reason
For thinking the Tories are bust
Gotta a good reason
Bullyingdon Boys have been sussed, now

They used the Roadtripper
To hide expenses yeah
It took us soooh long to find out
But we found out

Road Tripper, a Crick ripper yeah
Road Tripper, cash disappearer yeah

Anonymous said...

If these allegations are true - and it wouldn't surprise me - it is merely a blip compared to more serious areas of British political culture.

When the same mentality steals national assets and flogs them off to their public school and Wall Street chums it is an easy step to election corruption. You need only look across the Atlantic for the logical conclusion.

Any election investigation shouldn't stop at the tories. It should encompass New Labour too - they are after all the other main part of our de facto neocon one party state.

Tory election corruption is merely one symptom of a nation is near-precipitous moral collapse. The warnings have been voiced for years......well her's the Brave New Bankrupt World. Best get used to it because there's no sign it's going to improve, let alone reverse.