It need only take one entry on an expense return to undo all the spin: as Zelo Street showed yesterday, all the pretence by the Tory Party that Road Trip 2015 and all those Battle Buses were a “national expense” was scuppered by the candour displayed by Byron Davies, who won Gower for The Blue Team. His Road Trip 2015 visit was declared. And someone else showing surprising honesty about her visit was Anna Soubry.
Ms Soubry, the routinely combative MP for Broxtowe (it’s the area to the west of the city of Nottingham), is, as Russell Harty might have said, famous, nay notorious for her forthright and occasionally crude utterances. It was she who, during the paper review on The Andy Marr Show (tm), described Nigel “Thirsty” Farage as often wearing a facial expression that suggested someone “had their finger up his bum”.
Thanks to the Mirror for capturing this image
Broxtowe is regarded as a marginal seat: indeed, Ms Soubry was victorious in 2010 by less than 400 votes. So it was no surprise to see it on the itinerary for the Midlands Battle Bus and the Road Trip 2015 crowd. Before it was deleted, a Tweet with a group photo was captured by the people at the Mirror. “Fantastic to have the Home Secretary join Midlands #Battlebus2015 in Broxtowe today campaigning for @Anna_Soubry”, it told.
All those activists who gave up their time - midweek - needed refreshment after their hours of campaigning, and they duly received it at Beeston Conservative Club. We know this as Ms Soubry’s expense return shows an item for £140, described as “Refreshments for Team 2015 activists”. This is most helpful, but perhaps not in the way Anna Soubry might have expected - because it merely provokes more questions.
One, either Road Trip 2015, the Battle Buses, and those activists were, as the Tory Party claims, a “national expense”, or they weren’t. If Ms Soubry is admitting that some of those costs should be borne locally, then it merely confirms the suggestion resulting in a scan of Byron Davies’ expense return for Gower, that at least part of the cost should be declared on the local candidate’s return. That’s as in part of all the costs.
Two, Anna Soubry’s expense return shows a NIL entry against “Transport”. But Byron Davies put a “notional” £500 on his return. There in the photo is the reason there should be an entry for Transport - that Battle Bus, along with all its activists. They were leafletting, canvassing, walking the streets in support of Ms Soubry. She registered some of their cost - but, apparently, not enough to bust her spending limit.
And Three, the £140 payment for refreshments is most unlikely to cover the full cost of what was provided for those activists. Road Trip 2015 made promises upfront to those taking part - for instance they would have a meal provided after campaigning, along with a few hundred notes behind the bar to pay for them all to have a few drinks. Anna Soubry cannot get away with just making a token admission that they were there.
If that busts her spending limit, well, that’s just too bad. More on Tory Expenses later.