When the decision was made public, it should have surprised no-one: the CPS has announced that all but one of the expense claim investigations that had been mounted as a result of the Tory Party’s spending during the 2015 General Election campaign would not result in any criminal charges being brought. This is what they had to say.
“We have considered files of evidence from 14 police forces in respect of allegations relating to Conservative Party candidates’ expenditure during the 2015 General Election campaign … We considered whether candidates and election agents working in constituencies that were visited by the Party’s ‘Battle Bus’ may have committed a criminal offence by not declaring related expenditure on their local returns. Instead, as the Electoral Commission found in its report, these costs were recorded as national expenditure by the Party … We reviewed the files in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and have concluded the tests in the Code are not met and no criminal charges have been authorised”. Their reasoning was straightforward.
“In order to bring a charge, it must be proved that a suspect knew the [expense] return was inaccurate and acted dishonestly in signing the declaration. Although there is evidence to suggest the returns may have been inaccurate, there is insufficient evidence to prove to the criminal standard that any candidate or agent was dishonest … By omitting any ‘Battle Bus’ costs, the returns may have been inaccurate. However, it is clear agents were told by Conservative Party headquarters that the costs were part of the national campaign and it would not be possible to prove any agent acted knowingly or dishonestly”.
It was not possible to say that there had been intent to commit an offence. The Tories were fined for irregularities at national level, but unless any of those signing an expense return could be shown to have known what they did was wrong, no charge would succeed.
So the complaints were given the benefit of due process, with the Electoral Commission, the Police, and the CPS - all independent bodies - doing their part. A conclusion was duly reached. The Tories got away with spending what looked like a hell of a lot of money on holding and gaining seats in 2015. So who is being magnanimous this morning?
The answer is, not the Tories. While Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has declared himself “surprised and interested” in there decision not to proceed, he has added “the Electoral Commission is independent, the Crown Prosecution Service is independent, the director of public prosecutions is independent. They have to make a judgment on it”. We should put our trust and confidence in those independent bodies.
This has not occurred to the Tories, who have shown just why they are known as The Nasty Party. Chairman Patrick McLaughlin, dead cat slinger supreme, had decided that someone other than his party must be blamed: “these Conservative candidates did nothing wrong. These were politically motivated and unfounded complaints that have wasted police time”. And he had stern words for all those out there using social media.
“A number of false and malicious claims continue to be spread on the internet. People should be aware that making false claims about a candidate’s personal character and conduct is an electoral offence, as well as being defamatory”. Yeah, right. I say McLaughlin is a Vindictive Fat Tory Bastard. He is free to sue me.
Yet more vindictive was Karl McCartney, who is standing for re-election in Lincoln, asserting “After the Majority Conservative Government was elected in 2015, both the Executive Team and the Senior Management Group of the taxpayer-funded Electoral Commission, such as their anti-Conservative Head of Regulatory Compliance, Louise Edwards, decided to engage in smearing the reputations of various Conservative politicians and their Agents”. I do hope he can stand all of that up.
There was more. “It is clear that those who lead the Electoral Commission who followed and allowed this action to take place are politically-motivated and biased - actions that have rendered this organisation wholly unfit-for-purpose … In these circumstances, the positions of the Executive Team and Senior Management Group - from the Chief Executive down to her side-kick, Louise Edwards, who has spearheaded many, if not all, of these one-sided enquiries – are now untenable and I believe that they should resign forthwith”. And what is he going to do if they decline his invitation?
“If the leaders of the Electoral Commission do not take this most honourable course of action, as public servants paid for by the taxpayer, I, and no doubt my colleagues who have been victims of the Electoral Commission’s witch-hunt, will take every opportunity after the General Election to persuade the newly-elected Government to abolish this incompetent organisation and ensure that those who comprise the Electoral Commission’s Executive Team and Senior Management Group are never to play a role in our Country’s public life again”. Will they now?
One often hears the term “sore losers” bandied about. But here we have a very sore winner. The Tories are so taken aback that Britain still has independent bodies prepared to monitor and police the electoral system that they want to take the axe to them when action is taken that incurs their displeasure.
Patrick McLaughlin and Karl McCartney have shown up the true face of today’s Tory Party - a vindictive, vengeful, anti-democratic, dissent-crushing, free speech-endangering, swaggering, overbearing, arrogant, intolerant rabble of the insular, overmonied and otherwise privileged, prepared to trample over anyone and everyone and then proclaim that they are champions of fairness and good old British values.
Yesterday evening, Theresa May and her husband went on the BBC’s One Show to show how they are ordinary human beings, softening the image, reassuring a few more voters. Today, one of her candidates showed just how false that image was.
The Tories are still The Nasty Party. Something to bear in mind on June the 8th.