Guido can shed some more light on how the Tories hid their by-election hotel bills in Newark. On 31 May 2014, over 350 young Tories boarded coaches and minibuses up to Newark for a day of campaigning. At the end of the day’s door-knocking, they needed something to eat and somewhere to stay. Paying for travel and hotels for that many people would rack up thousands in by-election expenses. So, the Tories ferried their activists to the Crowne Plaza hotel in Nottingham, outside of the constituency. There, Tory donors treated them to curry at an event named the “first annual RoadTrip dinner” – pictured above – where Rob Halfon and Eric Pickles gave speeches. After that they boozed at the Coco Lounge and NG1 bars, before returning to the hotel, where they made contributions to their room bills. The transport costs of ferrying the activists up to Newark and around Nottingham were apparently undeclared.
A source present says the meal and hotel were deliberately booked outside of the constituency, under the pretence of an “annual RoadTrip dinner”, to avoid appearing on the Newark by-election expenditure. They say this was by no means the only time this happened. A nifty little way of dodging the rules…
Labour MP Huw Irranca-Davies is stepping down from parliament after 14 years to run in the Welsh Assembly elections in May. Guido has been passed the timetable for the selection process to find Labour’s candidate in his Ogmore seat:
- Self-nomination deadline: February 1, 12 noon
- Shortlisting interview with NEC in London: February 2
- Selection meeting: February 13
- Expected by-election date: May 5
The local Labour party is up in arms over the rushed selection process and the decision to host the short-listing interview in London. One source describes this as a “good old fashioned stitch up” and another as “an absolute disgrace”.
Who will be the new MP? Local councillor Ceri Reeves is the wife of Irranca-Davies’ election agent and has been canvassing members for weeks. Corbynista sources say she is “very anti-Corbyn” and blame her for promoting the rumour that the leader’s office was attempting to parachute left-wing ex-MP Katy Clark into the seat. Corbyn’s team say the rumour is untrue. Other local councillors are considering making a formal complaint to Corbyn about the situation. Whether Reeves secures the nomination is seen as a proxy for the battle between Corbyn and the PLP…
Crick is alleging that the Tories smashed the spending limits in an effort to defeat Nigel Farage. It was treated by CCHQ like a by-election. Even if UKIP prove it, would the Electoral Commission do anything about it?
UPDATE: A legal source reminds Guido
The South Thanet misspending a not an Electoral Commission matter. It is a police matter and a criminal offence under sections 81, 82 and 84 of the representation of the people act 1983. If only someone could get the police to take it seriously.
Three weeks ago Jeremy Corbyn was up in Cumbria, visiting flooded properties in the village of Botcherby with his Shadow Environment Secretary Kerry McCarthy. They clearly made a lasting impression. In the first local by-election of 2016 yesterday, independent candidate Jack Paton gained the Botcherby seat from Labour with an 11% swing. Will the floodgates open on May 5?
This is the UKIP window poster being put up in homes ahead of the Oldham by-election. Do not approach…
Nigel Farage and John Bickley launched UKIP’s by-election campaign HQ up in Oldham this morning, telling potential voters to give them a ring on a freephone 0800 number. Yet if you call the number advertised, budding ‘Kippers are told: “The 0800 number you have dialled is unfortunately no longer available”. Amusingly this is the same hotline that Guido revealed has been disabled back in March this year after it was spammed by Hope Not Hate.
It’s a No campaign alright, no answer…
UPDATE: Hurrah! Since Guido’s story this morning, the number now appears to have been reactivated. Happy to have been of help…
UKIP are already mobilising ahead of the Oldham West by-election. The party managed a respectable 21% there in May, though Michael Meacher leaves behind a formidable 14,000 majority. Guido gives you your runners and riders to be the UKIP candidate…
- Paul Nuttall – UKIP’s deputy leader is the favourite. Nuttall has previously run in neighbouring Oldham East and is seen as the party candidate, “Nigel’s choice” as one senior figure puts it. Main drawback is he is a Scouser in a Manc area.
- Mark Davies – A self-made businessman, free marketeer and ethnic minority candidate, Davies “has a great backstory” according to an ally. Ran in Manchester Withington in May so has experience, too.
- Steven Woolfe – Another local and also a BME candidate, Woolfe came a decent third in Stockport in May. A long-time party spokesman whose face is well-known from TV, though he is currently recovering from recent serious surgery. The by-election may come too soon for him.
- John Bickley – Fought for UKIP in the Wythenshawe by-election, Bickley is a self-made businessman and the son of a trade unionist. A key proponent of the Red UKIP ‘protect your benefits and the NHS’ strategy in the North. He is old-fashioned ex-Labour so could clean up if they choose a Corbynista candidate.
- Louise Bours – Famously mouthy and a North-West MEP, Louise was surprisingly coy when Guido asked her if she fancied running: “Any decisions about Oldham will be made by the local branch in conjunction with the UKIP NEC.” Guido will take that as a yes.
- Francis Arbour – The party’s candidate in May, where he finished a strongish second. Will feel he deserves another crack.
Guido understands there is a hustings at the weekend and the decision is imminent. They think they have a shot…
Could Ed Balls soon be back in the Commons? There is a rumour going round that Labour’s veteran MP in Coventry North West, Geoffrey Robinson, who was at the centre of a huge internal row about whether he would stand down before the election, could quit and trigger a by-election:
A report published today by the Public Administration Select Committee has found that CCHQ were wrong to ask Special Advisers to campaign for the party in the Rochester by-election. Theresa May’s SpAd Nick Timothy was dropped from the candidates list in a major internal Tory row after he argued that demands from Grant Shapps for SpAds to take part in telephone canvassing were against their Code of Conduct.[…] Read the rest
Not the sort of news you want on the eve of your spring conference. In the St Pancras and Somers Town council by-election last night – the ward in Natalie Bennett’s target constituency in which she lives – the Green Party fell from second place to third, behind Labour and the Tories.[…] Read the rest
UKIP MEP, policy chief and Thurrock parliamentary candidate Tim Aker has added councillor to list of his many jobs, last night winning the Aveley & Uplands by-election. UKIP were jittery amid concerns they would lose yesterday given they were thumped by Labour in a nearby council by-election in October, but Aker fought off the Tories’ dog whistle leaflet campaign calling him “Timür Aker” to romp home. […] Read the rest
The polls are open in Rochester and Strood. Mark Reckless is promising fireworks if he wins:
[…] Read the rest
“During the campaign I have spoken with two Conservative MPs about the possibility of their moving over and I think they will want to see what the result is before making any decisions.