Channel 4’s Michael Crick has weighed into the discrepancies over the Conservative Party’s election expenses in South Thanet, where Craig Mackinlay beat UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage.
Speaking live on Channel 4 News this evening, Mr. Crick’s claims tied in tightly with what Breitbart London reported earlier in the day – that there was a seemingly glaring problem with the Conservative Party apportioning a hotel in Ramsgate, South Thanet, to their ‘national’ election expenditure.
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Mr. Crick writes tonight on his Channel 4 blog:
Did the Tories spent twice as much in defeating Nigel Farage in Thanet South last year as they were legally allowed under the rules?
Traditionally, election expense returns are among the great works of fiction in British politics. These days there are not just restrictions on constituency spending but also legal limits to what the parties can spend on their national campaigns. And today the Electoral Commission officially announced how much each of the major parties claimed to have spent nationally last May, along with receipts of everything they spent over £250 on their national work. The Conservatives say they spent £15.6 million in all, well below the £19 million national limit; Labour £12.1 million; the Lib Dems £3.5 million, Ukip £2.9 million, and the SNP £1.5 million.
But there are also local expenses limits for each candidate in each constituency. The trouble is, if local agents have problems fitting their spending within the legal constituency limit, then is there a temptation is to pass it off as a national expense instead? Is that what the Conservatives did in Thanet South?
Helpfully, the Electoral Commission has also published receipts for the parties national spending as well – you can peruse them all on their website.
What stood out for me was a series of four bills claimed by the Conservatives for the Royal Harbour Hotel in Ramsgate last spring, in the constituency Nigel Farage was hoping to win, and which saw a fiercely-contested campaign. The hotel bills total £14,213.18 for the five weeks of the short campaign, from 30 March to 7 May.
But he concludes:
This case is an important test for the Electoral Commission, which has long had a reputation for being pretty tame and toothless. But the information about the Royal Harbour is up on their website. If they’re not going to examine and if necessary police party expense returns, then what’s the point of having rules and limits? And what’s the point of the Electoral Commission?
I suspect they’ll do nothing.