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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tories admit not declaring expenditure in marginal seats

Channel Four News has finally pinned the Tories down on the tens of thousands of pounds they spent campaigning in 29 key marginal seats in the 2015 general election that were not declared to the authorities.

The news channel say that they have found further undeclared receipts showing more than £38,000 was spent accommodating activists at hotels across the country, as part of the BattleBus2015 campaign. This spending was not declared to the Electoral Commission in accordance with the law:

The investigation has also obtained evidence that the BattleBus campaign was focused on local candidates, suggesting the accommodation costs incurred should have been declared on local candidate spending returns, if so this could constitute a criminal offence.

If local campaigning had taken place, 24 of the 29 constituencies visited by BattleBus would have exceeded the legal spending limits set out by law. 22 of these seats were won by the Conservatives.

In the South West overall, the Tories won 14 seats all from the Lib Dems.

They say that the Conservative Party has now confirmed to them that it had failed to declare the costs related to the Battlebus hotels due to what it described as an "administrative error" despite previously stating that all of the party's returns were accurate.

The Electoral Commission are currently investigating this expenditure and in particular whether it should be classed as local or national. It would not be right to pre-empt their conclusions, but the question the Commission needs to answer is whether the Tories effectively bought their majority through illegal expenditure or not and if so what the consequences will be for such an action?
Guido has commented that prima facie a criminal offence has been committed. However, I suspect that, as with a certain Labour deputy leadership fund-raising dinner some years ago, no one controlling mind will be identified.

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