Questions are being asked of the Conservative Party’s reporting of expenses after it emerged today that the party has claimed that over £14,000 worth of hotel bills in the South Thanet seat were registered as ‘national expenses’.
Under Electoral Commission rules, expenses incurred locally for candidates – in this case Craig Mackinlay – must be registered as local expenditure, the deadline for which was June 5th 2015. Mr. Mackinlay was contesting the seat alongside the UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, and won by 2,812 votes.
Locally, candidates are allowed to spend a fixed sum of £8,700 – a figure that would have been dwarfed by the hotel costs incurred by the Conservative Party in South Thanet alone – plus 9p per voter in the constituency (around £6,000 in South Thanet). Expenses that need to be declared include advertising of any kind, unsolicited material sent to voters, transport costs, public meetings, staffing costs, accommodation, administrative costs, and more.
But on hotels alone, seemingly, the Tories spent more in South Thanet than the basic fixed cost. The party has stated that they believe they are in compliance of the rules, and that the staff staying in the Royal Harbour Hotel in Ramsgate, racking up over £10,000 in suite and alcohol costs, were working on national campaigns.
A spokesman for the Conservative Party told Breitbart London this evening: “All election expenses are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with Electoral Commission rules.”
The numbers filed with the Electoral Commission show that the Conservative Party spent £15,640.65 at the Royal Harbour Hotel, for rooms including the Junior Suite, the Royal Oak Suite, a number of hotel bar bills, and even a “large glass of milk” for £1.95. The bills on the receipts from the hotel show a total potential spend of £25,831, though party officials were not in a position to explain the discrepancy when Breitbart London asked the questions this evening.
One PDF uploaded to the Electoral Commission site is also blank, thought it is supposed to account for £9,925.94 in expenses. Around £560 of the last bill uploaded to the Electoral Commission website was for costs incurred outside of the election period – on the night of the election count – after campaigning activities had ceased.
The returns further show that some of the dates the expenses were incurred fall before the start of the short campaign. According to Channel 4 journalist Michael Crick, this leaves the Tories with a bill of £14,837 unexplained.
One election expert told Breitbart London this evening: “If you incur costs across several constituencies, you apportion them across those constituencies. You do not claim that they are national expenses. So even if people in South Thanet were working on other seats as the Tories claim, they appear to not have followed the rules here”.
Channel 4 journalist Michael Crick reported tonight: “Officially, without hotel bills, Tories spent £14,837 in S Thanet, [£]187 below limit”. He added: “If this [sic] hotel bills added £29,050, almost twice legal cap”.
Craig Mackinlay MP, who won the seat by 2,812 votes – or £253.20 worth of expenditure if calculating the cost per voter – has not yet responded to Breitbart London‘s request for comment on the matter.