Crick Crick’d

Michael Crick finally touched on the Labour expenses fraud on Wednesday, having previously devoted his coverage to the Tory version of the story. After a brief chase around Smith Square, Guido caught up with him for a chat. On the other parties, he promises “more in the next few days”…

LibDem Who Complained to Police About Tory Election Fraud Broke Spending Rules

Former LibDem MP Adrian Sanders has been at the forefront of police complaints about election spending fraud. He even wrote a template letter for concerned constituents to dob candidates in to the cops:

“The criminal offence allegations if proven are very serious indeed. They may have determined who governs our country. It strikes at the very heart of democracy. It therefore affects everyone whether or not they reside in one of the constituencies mentioned in the media. If you want to help get this matter investigated a letter along the following lines to your Chief Constable might assist…”

Oh really…

The Representation of the People’s Act 1983 states that only candidates can send Election Addresses to voters. It explicitly says that only “a candidate” can “send free of charge for postage” an election communication, and that these must be candidate-specific rather than part of the national campaign. The Royal Mail confirm “a candidate mailing that is designed to secure the election… in another electoral constituency is unacceptable“. By definition candidates’ Election Addresses are therefore local spend and must be declared as such…

Adrian Sanders has confirmed to Guido that this was his invoice for his Election Return. As you can see, the £4,900 cost was split between national and local spend, in manifest breach of the rules:

When Guido phoned up Sanders to ask for an explanation, he angrily replied:

“You’d better report me to the police then. If you think there is an error here, report me to the police.”

He then hung up. If he’d declared it correctly, he’d have been £783 over the maximum limit…

13 Labour MPs Didn’t Declare Hattie’s Pink Bus

Since Guido started looking at Labour’s battle bus spending, readers have been in touch to ask where Harriet Harman’s famous pink bus fits in. Well, it’s a very good question. Electoral Commission data shows that 13 Labour MPs who claimed they spent nothing on transport benefitted from activists transported into their constituencies in Hattie’s pink van. Among those who didn’t declare are the new London mayor Sadiq Khan, five shadow ministers  – Gloria De Piero, Judith Cummins, Jo Stevens, Clive Lewis and Mike Kane – as well as Paula Sherriff, Naz Shah, Rupa Huq, Joan Ryan, Tulip Siddiq, Margaret Greenwood, Clive Efford and Ruth Cadbury. Oooops…

Now, Labour listed the pink bus as a national expense costing £5,000. Yet if it carried anyone who did any campaigning in local seats, as Labour boasted it did at the time, Electoral Commission guidance suggests some of the cost should have been declared by individual candidates. Jo Stevens had £10 left over to spend in the short campaign before reaching the legal limit, if she’d declared the pink bus she’d have gone over…

Shadow Minister’s Missing Money Mystery

Cat Smith is a Shadow minister and leading Corbynista who worked for Jezza before he became leader. While investigating Labour’s election spending trickery, Guido came across a series of anomalies in Smith’s declarations. They raise questions about potentially thousands of pounds of missing money.

From December 2014 until the election, Labour rented a campaign office in the Fleetwood constituency Smith went on to win. The office is listed online with an annual rent price of £8,950. Yet throughout the entire long and short campaign, more than four months, Smith declared just £1544.60 in office rent for her HQ. Her election agent admits to Guido they only declared 50% of the rent because, they claim, the building was also used for council campaigning. They also say they agreed a price £1,000 below that advertised. This is the building from where Smith’s general election campaign was launched and entirely organised, yet she got round the rules by claiming it was only half used by her…

In the long campaign Smith declared £692.25 in staffing costs, in the short campaign she declared another £576.88. Yet the job advert for the Fleetwood organiser stated that the salary was £22,547 per annum. Remarkably, Smith claims her organiser Ben Singleton spent just 12.5% of his time on her general election campaign, and spent the vast majority helping the national campaign and council candidates. Believable? Well, during the election Singleton tweeted exclusively about Smith, and not about any other candidate. He was self-evidently a local rather than national campaigner. This is perhaps the most suspicious part of Smith’s declarations. She didn’t declare thousands in spending by claiming her main organiser barely did any work for her…

UNIONS

Throughout the long and short campaigns, Smith declared £8,210.49 for postage paid by trade unions and another £1,050 on letterheads. Unlike other candidates, she declared nothing for envelopes. Typically candidates declare a grand plus on envelopes for that amount of postage. Smith’s election agent says her envelopes were provided by Labour “centrally“. But they were used for her local campaign and were not declared…

Smith appears to have declared nothing for office stationery, printer costs and miscellaneous sundries. Despite this being highly irregular, Smith’s election agent claims it is a “moot point” and that they were all “one-off” items which “would not need to be declared“. Conveniently, this reduced her final spending declaration and meant she was able to spend more on other things…

Crucially Smith’s declared spending was just £2,000 under the limit. If it is found that any of the above was not declared properly, she would have exceeded her permitted spending, in breach of electoral law. Her declarations are clearly a work of financial fiction, she has made fraudulent representations – a criminal act…

Another Labour MP Failed to Declare Campaign Battle Bus

This tweet shows Tom Watson and Jon Ashworth taking the Labour Express battle bus to Paula Sheriff MP’s Dewsbury constituency on March 7 2015. It appears up to 100 activists were transported on the bus to campaign in Sheriff’s seat during the long campaign regulated spending period. According to the Electoral Commission, this is local campaigning and should have been declared as part of the local campaign spend.

Yet Paula Sheriff’s long campaign declarations show Nil spend on transport:

The Electoral Commission say:

“If a battle bus promotes both the local candidate and national policies, then a portion of the cost of that bus should be allocated towards the candidate’s spending limit and a portion towards the party’s national spending limit.”

Paula Sheriff did not do so. This would appear to be a clear breach of the rules…

Top LibDem Avoided Overspend By Not Declaring Battle Bus

This video shows the LibDem election battle bus rocking up in Duncan Hames’ Chippenham constituency on April 29 2015. At the time the Guardian reported the bus was used by the LibDems to ferry activists from London to constituencies around the country so they could deliver leaflets. It was used for local campaigning in individual seats, just like the buses hired by the Tories and Labour

Below is the short campaign spending return submitted by Duncan Hames. Despite the bus being used for his local campaign, Hames declared Nil transport costs:

As you can see, Hames’ spending limit for the short campaign was £15,236.61. He came very close to the limit, within just £98, spending £15,138.20. If he had declared the bus in his short campaign spend, Hames would have breached the rules. This is therefore going to be a particularly tricky one to explain. The Tories were at it, so were Labour, and so were the LibDems…

UPDATE: Despite briefing the Guardian that the bus “will take party campaigners around the country over the next six weeks running up to the general election”, the LibDems now deny that ever happened and say this bus was only ever used by Clegg, his staff and press, and no door-knockers. Worth reading the Guardian report of the bus tour however:

“Activists, the majority of whom had been bussed up from London, visited nearby residential streets to deliver leaflets and put up the 300th Lib Dem stake board in the constituency.”

The LibDems say that report was wrong and all of this didn’t happen…

Two More Labour Candidates Didn’t Declare Election Buses

This morning Guido revealed Labour’s election battles buses had not been declared in local spending, the exact same trickery which engulfed the Tories in an election fraud scandal. Well, it appears to be widespread…

On April 4 2015, MPs and activists boarded a Labour Express battle bus to Pudsey in order to help the local campaign there. Labour was bussing activists – “troops” as they called them – to a key marginal seat to knock on doors. This should have been declared in the local campaign spend for the short campaign. As you can see below, it wasn’t…

The Labour Express battle bus visited Weaver Vale on January 24 2015, ferrying in a considerable number of canvassers:

Yet in the Weaver Vale long campaign spend, transport costs are nil:

This is really no different to what the Tories were doing. Transport costs for battle buses clearly used for local campaigning have not been declared in the local campaign spend. It’s not dissimilar to the expenses scandal – what was seen at first as party specific, was actually endemic…

Labour Battle Bus Not Declared in Local Spending

Labour should be shouting from the rafters about the Tory election fraud scandal, instead broadcasters report that they can’t get Labour MPs to comment on the issue. Alan Johnson, ambushed by Andrew Neil on This Week, said he knew nothing. The reason, Guido suspects, is that other parties were partial to the same spending trickery…

The “Labour Express” battle bus tour ferried activists to constituencies across the country during the regulated spending period. On February 18 2015 a Labour Express bus visited Ealing Central and Acton, where Rupa Huq went on to unseat Tory MP Angie Bray. As you can see above, this is identical to what the Tories were doing – bussing in activists to take part in local campaigning, which then should have been declared as part of the party’s local rather than national spend. Here is the big problem: Rupa Huq’s Ealing Central and Acton declaration states Nil on transport during the long campaign…

This means that Labour’s successful candidate Rupa Huq enjoyed the benefit of a battle bus for her local campaign, yet she did not declare it in her local spending. The Tories are in huge trouble with the police for apparently doing the exact same thing. This is going to be a major problem for other parties as well… Guido has been compiling a dossier, more examples to come…

Tory Hunk’s Taxpayer-Funded Social Media Juice

mercer fb

Soapy hunk Johnny Mercer should have no problem getting social media followers. Those shower commercials should mean he has all the ingredients required for likes, follows, and re-tweets galore. Surprising then that this Tory totty has charged the taxpayer £2,500 on expenses for “professional services” on social media management.[…]

+ READ MORE +

CCHQ’s Battle Bus Guidance Revealed

battlebus

Where do the Tories stand on the election fraud scandal? They are bang to rights on failing to declare £38,000 of hotel bills for Tory activists, blaming an “administrative error”. The issue of transport – the fabled “battle buses” – is contested.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Scandal-Hit Lavery’s Shredding Expenses Splurge

Readers will be aware that shadow minister Ian Lavery has been mired in a scandal over how he benefited from a miners’ benevolent fund – catch up here if not. The Labour union man has dodged questions on this for weeks and lost the support of many colleagues, who’ve been angered by the revelations involving a £250,000 loan, £60,000 of redundancy pay and £85,426 in additional redundancy costs.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Electoral Commission Takes Tories to High Court

battlebus

The Electoral Commission is taking the Tories to the High Court to force them to disclose documents pertaining to the electoral expenses scandal:

“The Commission issued the Conservative and Unionist Party with two statutory notices requiring the provision of material relevant to its investigation.

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Bus-ted: Tories Admit Dodgy Election Expenses

battlebus

The outrageous expense fiddling in South Thanet revealed by Channel 4 earlier this year led to a full blown Electoral Commission investigation. While previously the Tories have denied any knowledge of wrongdoing, a new investigation by Channel 4 has prompted the party to come clean over the £38,000 cost of accommodation for Battlebus activists:

” As is apparent from our National Return, the Party declared expenditure related to our CCHQ-organised Battlebus.

[…]

+ READ MORE +

IPSA: MPs Can Use Expenses to Campaign on Referendum

expenses

Cameron has imposed strict rules on the campaign activities of ministers and SpAds during the referendum, and CCHQ have banned Tory associations from using party resources to campaign for Leave. So Eurosceptic MPs are delighted with a ruling by IPSA last night allowing them to use their office and business costs to campaign on the referendum.[…]

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MPs Send £1 Million of Expenses Offshore

Over £1 million of taxpayers’ money has been diverted to offshore property companies through the MPs’ expenses system. In 2012-13, 13 MPs were paying rent expenses for properties in the luxury riverside Dolphin Square complex, made famous as the home of coke-snorting Lords (and worse).[…]

+ READ MORE +

Danczuk Told to Pay Back £11,500

The report by IPSA’s compliance officer into Simon Danczuk’s expenses finds:

The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the MP obtained an increase to his Accommodation Expenditure budget by claiming dependant uplifts for his two oldest children for a period of over three years, when, at no point were either of the children routinely resident.

[…]

+ READ MORE +



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