Another day, another brick out of the wall that defended the Tory Party on their expense spend during the 2015 General Election campaign: now, the Electoral Commission has imposed a £70,000 fine on them for managing to miss such trivia as six-figure sums from their national expense return. As the BBC has reported, the sums involved are high.
Their report tells “The Conservative Party's 2015 UK Parliamentary general election spending return was missing payments worth at least £104,765 … Separately, payments worth up to £118,124 were either not reported to the commission or were incorrectly reported by the party … The party did not include the required invoices or receipts for 81 payments to the value of £52,924 … The party failed to maintain records explaining the amounts it invoiced to candidates in three 2014 by-elections, for work on their campaigns”.
Still, what’s £275,000 between friends? And there was more: “The Conservative Party also failed to correctly report all expenditure on a national battlebus campaign, which helped David Cameron win a majority at the general election, the watchdog found … It has referred a possible criminal offence - of whether Simon Day, the Conservative Party's registered treasurer until April 2016, ‘knowingly or recklessly made a false declaration’ - to the Metropolitan Police”. It’s that Battlebus 2015 again.
And some contests may have to be re-run, as the Guardian suggests: “A dozen police forces have passed files to the Crown Prosecution Service over allegations that up to 20 Conservative MPs broke local spending limits at the last general election … Prosecutors have to decide whether to charge the MPs or their agents, after a 10-month investigation into whether party spending on an election battlebus that brought activists to marginal seats was wrongly recorded as national spending”. As many as 20 by-elections?
Thus far, the idea that the gross overspending would result in by-elections had been waved away: this, it has been repeatedly declared, would be so high a bar that no such action would be taken. But the people at Channel 4 News, headed by the tenacious Michael Crick, have other ideas, especially for the constituency of Thanet South.
The expense return for winning Tory Craig Mackinlay looks increasingly like a work of fiction: no mention of the custom leafletting blitz, nor of the Battlebus tours to the area, nor of the secondment of Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s right-hand man. And now Channel 4 has linked two more senior Tories to the contest. And they aren’t on that return, either.
And, er, HIM?
“Stephen Parkinson, Theresa May’s Political Secretary and Chris Brannigan, Director of Government Relations at the Cabinet Office are named in a cache of secret emails about the Conservative campaign in South Thanet during the 2015 General Election … Both men spent time as part of a ‘crack team’ of senior Conservative campaigners sent down to the Kent constituency” tells their report.
And there is potentially even worse news: the Battlebus 2015 operation, as Zelo Street regulars will know, was masterminded by the likes of Mark Clarke … the one involved in the Tories’ bullying scandal. Which is also not over by any means. Watch this space.