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Thursday 26 May 2016

Tory Expenses - The US Contingent

[Update at end of post]

So desperate were the Tories for boots on the ground in the run-up to the 2015 General Election that they brought in a contingent of Young Republicans - under-40s activists from the USA - to canvass in a number of seats in and around London. Not all of these ventures was successful: one constituency they visited was Enfield North, where Nick de Bois, despite the attentions of all that manpower, lost his seat.
But one place where the Young Republicans could point to a victorious campaign was in Croydon South, where Chris Philp scored a majority of over 17,000 over his nearest opponent, Labour’s Emily Benn. With that kind of victory margin, he didn’t really need the Stateside contingent. And he certainly doesn’t need the questions that are inevitably going to be asked about his expense return.

As the Guardian reported before their arrival, “The Conservatives are to draft in a deployment of Republican activists to bolster their efforts in key seats before the UK election … The Americans will arrive during a campaign in which the Conservatives lack ground troops in tight battleground seats compared with Labour, meaning they are relying on mailshots of election literature and busloads of mostly young Tory activists at weekends known as Team 2015”. But not everyone was impressed with the idea.

The expected arrival of the US activists has infuriated Labour candidates in the targeted seats, who pointed out the Republican party’s opposition to President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms aimed at improving care for the poorest in society”. Moreover, “The Tories were … reluctant to answer questions about the deployment, ignoring two calls and two emails to ask whether it was appropriate for Young Republicans to be campaigning for them”. They were not even UK nationals.

So who paid? That was a sensitive point: “A document detailing the programme logistics of the trip, including the estimated $2,500 (£1,675) cost, appears to have disappeared or been removed from the group’s website since the Guardian made inquiries about the purpose of the trip and how many activists would be attending”.

But if they were canvassing in any constituency, and they had been transported in from outside, one might expect the candidate’s expense return to show something. Chris Philp’s return is now online, thanks to the Mirror’sPeoples Electoral Commission”. So what does it say about transport costs? It doesn’t: Philp’s return has a big round zero for transport costs. Zip. Zilch. Nil. Nada. Not a sausage. Bugger all.

Was any of that £1,675 per person charged to Philp’s campaign? It doesn’t look like it: the “Agent and other staff costs” item of £5,579 is likely to be used up by his election agent and the constituency office. “Accommodation and administration”, at £333, is not going to cover any overnight stays in addition to running the campaign. So any Young Republicans who fetched up in Croydon South were, it seems, not declared.

It would be an awful pity if such a comfortable victory were to be tainted by Philp being tripped up over the American invasion. Ah well, repent at leisure, and all that.

[UPDATE 28 May 1410 hours: although the Guardian article which specifically names Chris Philp and the Croydon South constituency has been live for more than a year without amendment, he is adamant that his campaign received no assistance from outside the area.

He has advised me that "Although my seat is one of the 3 seats in Croydon, it is not marginal. A quick look at the results for the 3 Croydon seats will show that. I do not know why they referred to my result ... I and Croydon South received no outside help of any kind from anyone".

Chris Philp has requested that I reflect his categorical assertion in this post, and I am happy to do so]


Anonymous said...

If a Yank turned up on my doorstep to lobby for someone I'd tell the cowboy - gun totin' - invasion mongering - neocon twat to get back home, run another ponzi scheme and bankrupt another city or three.

All of those vices are precisely why Yanks are the perfect partners for the Bullingdon pig's head gang.

No surprise there, then.

Jonny Brogdale said...

Interesting story!
Out of (local) interest...is there any obvious evidence that the YRs were actually canvassing etc for Philp in Croydon South?
I'd be very interested in pursuing the story if there were.

Jonny Brogdale

rob said...

It seems they have taken a leaf out of the unions use of "flying pickets" in industrial disputes?

Didn't they legislate to limit the use of those? Perhaps they should do the same for elections.