Meet David Mundell. He represents the largely rural constituency of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, and has done so since its creation at the 2005 General Election. His majority over the SNP last year was less than 800. Mundell is also Secretary of State for Scotland, not least because he is the only Tory MP who represents a Scottish seat. He now faces questions over his expense return.
That expense return is now available online (see HERE). It covers both the “Long Campaign” from November 2014 to March 2015, and the “Short Campaign” covering the last few weeks before polling day. This is a constituency that covers a large area of southern Scotland: it includes towns such as Annan, Langholm, Lockerbie and Gretna, all of which are a short journey from Carlisle, as well as Peebles, which is in the Edinburgh commuter belt. Covering it all means a lot of travel.
And that is where Mundell’s expense return shows nothing at all: a NIL entry for Transport, neither on Long, nor Short, Campaigns. He was within the spending limit by just over £3,000 for the Long Campaign, and £1,650 for the Short Campaign. It would not have taken much in the way of transport costs to use up all of that.
How might transport costs, other than those for Mundell himself, have been incurred? Well, there were all those activists who travelled from Glasgow - not much opportunity for the Tories to gain seats there - out to locations across Mundell’s turf. We know this thanks to some Tweets and Retweets from the @GlasgowTories account.
On April 10, there was MSP Annie Wells telling “Looking forward to @GlasgowTories road trip tomorrow to @DavidMundellDCT”, followed by confirmation the next day “@GlasgowTories on [sic] route to help David Mundell in the borders”. Borders? Where exactly? “Fifteen volunteers from Glasgow down in DCT today helping @DavidMundellDCT. Campaigning in Annan”. That’s most interesting.
Annan is the thick end of a hundred miles from Glasgow. Fifteen Standard Class day returns (or a minibus) not declared, yet lots of local campaigning, and no doubt canvassing, being done. There was even a group photo to accompany the message “The team on tour with @DavidMundellDCT helping our hardworking MP in Dumfriesshire”. And that was not the only visit Glasgow Tories made to help out Mundell.
They were back on the Monday before polling day, posting a photo (try to get the sun behind the camera next time, folks) telling “#TeamTory at DCT to help reelect our hardworking MP @DavidMundellDCT”. Wherever that was, it will have been a trek from Glasgow. Were they promised food and drink as well? Nothing on the expense return. And the SNP will be looking long and hard at Mundell’s slim majority.
And who else was ferried into the constituency to help Mundell’s campaign? Those costs would soon mount up. No doubt there’s a perfectly good explanation.