The Tory election expenses case had been thought to have blown over - except there was still the case of Thanet South MP Craig Mackinlay, whose constituency had had so much resource poured into it in 2015 to prevent Nigel “Thirsty” Farage from achieving his first success in several attempts to become a Westminster Parliamentarian.
And then, like an afternoon thunder shower brewing up on a hot and sticky afternoon, there was a flash of light, and soon after, all hell broke loose. With less than a week to go before the General Election, and well after the last point at which parties could pull their candidate and nominate someone less toxic, Mackinlay was in trouble.
As the Independent has reported, “A Conservative fighting to retain his seat and his two aides have been charged with electoral fraud as part of a major investigation, less than a week before the country goes to the polls … The Crown Prosecution Service announced on Friday that Craig Mackinlay, defending South Thanet for his party, has been charged following a probe into his 2015 election campaign expenses”.
All those Battle Buses, activists, hotel bookings and associated food and drink have, it seems, caught up with The Blue Team, and just in time to set thoughts of 1990s “Tory Sleaze” echoing around the media. CPS Head of Crime Nick Vamos has told “We have concluded there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to authorise charges against three people”. And who might the other two be?
“Agent Nathan Gray, 28, and Marion Little, 62, have also been charged with offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983 and, with Mr Mackinlay, are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on July 4”. Marion Little. Now there’s a most interesting name, because she drags in another Tory leader.
The Mail knows all about her: “Amid the actors, athletes and other famous figures rewarded in the 2016 New Year Honours list, there was a name unfamiliar to all but a few Westminster insiders. It was that of Marion Little. She was described in the official London Gazette announcement as 'Campaign Specialist, Conservative party'. She was to be made an Officer Order of the British Empire. She had earned it for unspecified 'political service’”.
So Young Dave gets dragged in, as does Theresa May: she and Patrick McLoughlin “both argued that the legal authorities had ‘confirmed what we believed was the case all along, that these Conservative candidates did nothing wrong’. Mr McLoughlin added that the allegations had involved ‘politically motivated and unfounded complaints’ and had ‘wasted police time’, something Ms May also agreed with”.
Well, now it seems that the complaints may not have been unfounded, nor a waste of Police time, in the case of Thanet South, Mackinlay, and Ms Little. Just as the polls are showing a move away from the Tories to Labour, the imperial progress of the Empress Theresa suffers another most inconvenient setback.
It couldn’t happen to a more deserving party.