Channel 4 has alleged that the Conservative Party has overspent in at least three by-elections, breaching UK election rules in order to stifle the rise of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Reporting on last night’s Channel 4 news, veteran reporter Michael Crick claimed to have found evidence that David Cameron’s Conservative have overspent in Newark, Clacton, and Rochester’s by-elections in 2014.
“What Tory high command feared most is UKIP getting their first MPs in by-elections. Farage and his party had to be stopped. And at any cost it seems”.
“Channel 4 News has obtained a wealth of information which reveals just how much the Conservatives spent on three parliamentary by-elections in 2014 and appeared to show contempt for the law. A law designed to create a level playing field and prevent any party simply buying election success”.
Mr. Crick then pointed to a binder full of receipts which he claimed proved the Conservative Party “bust the £100,000 legal spending limit”. He claims they spent “tens of thousands of pounds beyond that… spending and receipts that were never officially declared to the authorities”.
Their evidence, Channel 4 says, could prompt a police investigation.
The report mentions the Newark by-election, as well as the Rochester and Strood and Clacton by-elections, two of which the UK Independence Party won.
Mr. Crick claims Conservative Party staff failed to register stays at hotels in Newark, where Tory Robert Jenrick eventually won. Mr. Farage complained that night “it’s difficult to believe that their [spending] returns are going to come in below the legal limit”. At the time, Tory mouthpiece and abdicating MP for Corby Louise Mensch tweeted:
Right. UKIP really thought it was a good tactic to complain the Tories worked hard at #Newark. PM campaigned four times, they whined.
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) June 6, 2014
But Mr. Farage’s claims may prove to be correct after all, if Channel 4’s independently audited investigation is taken further.
And the Conservatives failed to declare any hotel bills in Clacton, where Breitbart London eye-witnessed their election team staying during the campaign.
“It would have put the party over the legal cap,” said Mr. Crick.
But the “greatest spending of all” was at the by-election in Rochester and Strood, where Mark Reckless MP resigned from the Conservative Party and stood again for UKIP.
“The Tories took out 446 nights of room bookings… which cost them more than £38,000… the bills are mysteriously registered to Marion Lyttle’s home… the total in bills for these two Rochester hotels, more than £56,000”.
Bob Watt, an academic who specialises in election law told Channel 4: “I would expect to see bills for accommodation in the electoral returns and I see little or no evidence for that”.
And in Rochester, the party failed to declare spending on three separate campaign offices.
“I’m sure that no political party wants to be involved in electoral corruption, and I just feel that there is something here that I do not like the look of because it does appear… if the figures are as they appear on their face… it appears there has been gross over-expenditure”.
A Conservative Party spokesman said: “All by-election spending has been correctly recorded in accordance with the law”.