As the Tories come under fire for their election expenses, it has clearly dawned on their pals in and around the media that it might be a good idea to try and shift the blame for lax accounting practices somewhere else, or at least point at one or more other political parties and say “look over there, they were at it too”. This penny has clearly now dropped for the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog.
So earlier today, under the twin headings of “Exclusive” and “Guido Investigation”, readers were told that “Labour Battle Bus Not Declared In Election Spending”, and “Labour should be shouting from the rafters about the Tory election fraud scandal, instead broadcasters report that they can’t get Labour MPs to comment on the issue. Alan Johnson, ambushed by Andrew Neil on This Week, said he knew nothing about the issue. The reason, Guido suspects, is that other parties were partial to the same spending trickery”.
There was more. “The ‘Labour Express’ battle bus tour ferried activists to constituencies across the country during the regulated spending period. On February 18 2015 a Labour Express bus visited Ealing Central and Acton, where Rupa Huq went on to unseat Tory MP Angie Bray … this is identical to what the Tories were doing - bussing in activists to take part in local campaigning, which then should have been declared as part of the party’s local rather than national spend”. So what’s the problem?
“Here is the big problem: Rupa Huq’s Ealing Central and Acton declaration states Nil on transport during the long campaign”. This looks almost credible. But, sad to say, the Fawkes rabble’s “Guido Investigation” missed something out of their, er, investigation. So let me put them straight on why they are flogging a dead horse.
1 The “Battle Bus” visited three constituencies in all - the others being Harrow East and Harrow West. The Fawkes crowd do not show the returns for the other two constituencies.
2 No inducements have been offered to activists, unlike the Tory RoadTrip 2015 days out, where sit down meals, large bar tabs and even, it seems, accommodation were offered.
3 The “short period” before the election, which the return shown in the Fawkes post covers, did not start until March 30 2015 - almost a month and a half after that visit. Rupa Huq did not officially become a candidate until that later date.
4 The return the Fawkes blog shows actually states that Ms Huq did not become a candidate until March 30 2015, but it does not seem to have occurred to them that the date is significant.
When the Fawkes rabble assert “This means that Labour’s successful candidate Rupa Huq enjoyed the benefit of a battle bus for her local campaign, yet she did not declare it in her local spending. The Tories are in huge trouble with the police for apparently doing the exact same thing”, no, the Tories are not in trouble for doing the exact same thing.
So when readers are told “This is going to be a major problem for other parties as well… Guido has been compiling a dossier, more examples to come”, one has to hope that the quality of the research improves in future. Another fine mess, once again.