As the number of Police forces investigating election expense returns made by victorious Tory candidates grows, the word has clearly gone out from CCHQ to pick up some of the mud that has appeared in their back yard and sling it back over the fence. The message is that the others were at it too, and those willing to participate in this variously creative exercise, knowingly or otherwise, form an interesting coalition.
Predictably, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have taken up the challenge, telling anyone who will listen to “look over there” at Labour (Harriet Harman’s so-called “pink bus”), the Lib Dems’ battle bus, and the SNP’s use of a helicopter. These have been held to be in breach of local spending rules. Except they haven’t been used for local canvassing and so probably aren’t.
Would you buy a used rumour from this person?
Undaunted by this failure to get their press pals to cover their version of the story - at least the papers are consistent, most of them weren’t interested in going after the Tories either - the Fawkes mob have managed to entice normally sensible Tory MP Charles Walker, the man who rumbled the Gove and Hague plot to up-end Commons Speaker John Bercow, into doing their bidding with a letter to the Electoral Commission.
Sadly, Walker’s letter, restricted to making factual statements, can only manage “13 Labour MPs reportedly received visits from Harriet Harman’s ‘Pink Bus’ … The Liberal Democrats reportedly used an election battle bus to transport activists … As part of the ‘Labour Express’ campaign, Labour reportedly used a battle bus to transport activists … Buses with student activists reportedly visited 17 key Labour marginal seats”.
Even his mention of the SNP helicopter, deployed for the use of party leader Nicola Sturgeon, fails to appreciate that Young Dave had a battle bus at his personal disposal throughout the campaign. Look over there, says Charles Walker, those other people are doing the same kind of thing that our party did, and which none of our critics have even suggested was improper! Someone hasn’t thought this one through, have they?
Nor have the Fawkes rabble, who have triumphantly brandished Walker’s letter and declared “Tories Demand Electoral Commission Investigates Labour, Lib Dems And SNP”. There’s only one Tory involved. And perhaps they should have read Walker’s letter before writing the headline: he makes no demand at all. Indeed, his wording - “I would be grateful if the Electoral Commission could look into the issues I have raised, regardless of the party involved” - is no more than a polite request.
Nor, as the Tweeter known as My Sweet Landlord has pointed out, does Walker manage to explain the Tories’ obstruction of the Electoral Commission, the attempt to block Kent Police’s investigation into Thanet South, the use of a Special Advisor to run a campaign, the inconsistent declaration of Battle Bus costs, and the attempt to hobble that same Electoral Commission by trying to smear one of its officials.
Doing the Fawkes rabble’s bidding never ends well. Another fine mess, once again.