From Michael Crick at Channel 4 News:
Following my report on Channel 4 News last night, the Electoral Commission has asked the Conservative Party to explain why the party decided four bills for a hotel in Ramsgate during the general election should be attributed to national spending.
The bills were for more than £14,000 for several rooms at the smart Royal Harbour Hotel in the resort during the “short campaign”, from 30 March last year to polling day on 7 May.
Ramsgate is in Thanet South, the constituency where Ukip leader Nigel Farage was hoping to become an MP.
It’s widely known that the Conservatives had several senior figures working full-time on the Thanet South campaign. These included Henry McCrory, the party’s former head of press, whom I met in the constituency during the contest.
The obvious suspicion is that the hotel rooms were for these experienced Tories sent to defeat Farage in Thanet South, which was probably the most hotly contested seat in the country.
If the Royal Harbour bills had been included in the Conservatives’ local spending total then the party would have spent almost twice the legal limit for spending in Thanet South during the short campaign, which was just over £15,000.
A spokesman for the Electoral Commission told Channel 4 News today: “We have contacted the Conservative Party to discuss the nature of the spend you highlight and to confirm that their return is accurate and complies with their legal requirements under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA), which is the legislation we regulate.”