The UK Independence Party (UKIP) is inviting applications to be its candidate in a South Thanet by-election, anticipating the Conservative party will be stripped of its 2015 victory in the constituency.
The announcement, by party Chairman Paul Oakden, was made just hours after the Electoral Commission slapped the Tories with a record fine for failing to properly declare hundreds of thousands of pounds of spending in key seats during the 2015 general election and two by-elections.
South Thanet was one of the constituencies mentioned by the Electoral Commission, in which they claimed Tory rule bending gave them a “realistic prospect” of an unfair advantage.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 16, 2017
A police investigation is ongoing and they have not ruled out criminal charges.
It is against the law to “knowingly or recklessly make a false declaration” about election spending, and the Electoral Commission could refer former Conservative Party treasurer Simon Day to the Metropolitan Police for further investigation.
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage told BBC One’s Sunday Politics that he “probably would” stand again in the seat if the electoral fraud investigation led to a by-election.
Posted by BBC Politics on Sunday, 12 March 2017
Conservative candidate Craig Mackinlay beat Mr. Farage by less than 6 per cent (2,812 votes) to represent the marginal seat at the 2015 general election.
The Tories were criticised for pouring allegedly undeclared resources into campaigning in the area. This included visits from their “battle bus” and hotels for Whitehall staff staying in the area, which was recorded as national, rather than local, spending.
Over the weekend, former Tory chairman Grant Shapps claimed Nick Timothy, one of Theresa May’s most senior aides, “orchestrated” the Tory campaign in South Thanet and was living permanently there.
An investigation by Channel 4 News suggested the Tories incorrectly included about £20,000 in national spending when it should have been declared as spending on behalf of Mr. Mackinlay.
Following the release of the Electoral Commission report on Thursday morning, UKIP’s South Thanet branch tweeted: “Me thinks this is only the beginning of [the Tory’s] troubles”, as well as claiming there was a “definite concentration of resources in [South] Thanet”.
“A £70K fine for the Tory Party is laughable. The police and [Electoral Commission] resources would be much more than this paltry amount,” they added.