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. His Twitter following stands at a relatively modest 13,579 – fewer than many 2015 intake colleagues – and his Facebook page has a mere 3,708 likes. His YouTube channel has a paltry 33 subscribers and his last video had just three views. If Johnny wants to boost his following, selfies are probably a better approach…

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. There are three outcomes here. Are CCHQ right when they say they’ve done nothing wrong? Did they breach the rules on national and local spending? Or was there a conspiracy to hide spending from the official declarations?

Leaked emails reveal CCHQ told their local campaign teams that the cost of hotels and battle buses would be “accounted for out of central campaign spend”. It stressed transport within the seat was not included: “For legal reasons the Battlebus cannot ferry people around the seat”.

The arrangement had the “personal sponsorship” of Grant Shapps, was “signed off” by Lynton Crosby, Stephen Gilbert and Lord Feldman, and was “supported by Deborah Feldman’s Team in CCHQ“. That’s Lord Feldman’s sister.

The good news for the Tories is this shows they did see battle buses as part of the national campaign all along, and demonstrates they were taking steps to abide by spending laws. So they can argue there wasn’t a conspiracy to hide the cash. The bad news? If the cops find it should have gone down as local spend, the party chairman and his sister are implicated…

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. Guido is amused by another sum of money: the £283.50 Lavery recently claimed on expenses for services from Shred-It, a company which “provides the most secure and efficient confidential information destruction service in the industry.” If only he’d used them back in the day he wouldn’t have all this grief…

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. However, the Party has only provided limited disclosure of material in response to the first notice (issued on 18 February 2016) and no material in response to the second notice (issued on 23 March 2016). That follows the Commission granting extensions of time to comply… We are today asking the court to require the Party to fully disclose the documents and information we regard as necessary to effectively progress our investigation into the Party’s campaign spending returns.”

Revenge of the Clarke…

UPDATE: A Tory spokesman says the Electoral Commission have jumped the gun:

“We advised the Electoral Commission on 29th April that we would comply with their notices by 1pm today – and we will do so. There was no need for them to make this application to the High Court.”

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.

However, due to administrative error it omitted to declare the accommodation costs of those using the vehicles. This is something we have already brought to the attention of the Electoral Commission in order to amend the return.  

The Party always took the view that our national Battlebus, a highly-publicised campaign activity, was part of the National Return – and we would have no reason not to declare it as such, given that the Party was some millions below the national spending threshold. Other political parties ran similar vehicles which visited different Parliamentary constituencies as part of their national campaigning.”

If the Conservatives are found to have paid the hotel bills for Battlebus campaigners on locally focussed campaigns, then not declaring the accommodation could constitute a criminal offence. Channel 4’s investigation is set to air on the news tonight. Guido will be watching…

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 […]

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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 […]

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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

[…]

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SNP MP Puts Luxury Jermyn Street Shirts on Expenses

BOSWELL SHIRTS

Walking expenses catastrophe Phil Boswell tried to claim £136.95 worth of luxury shirts on expenses just four days after being elected. The SNP MP attempted to bill the taxpayer £29.95 for items from high-end Jermyn Street tailor TM Lewin, […]

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