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…

CPS Says Up to Cops to Pursue Tories

battlebus

The Tory expenses affair takes another turn, the CPS says:

“Following a constructive meeting with the police and Electoral Commission, it has been agreed that each relevant police force will consider what action to take. This may Include making an application to the court under s.176 of the Representations of the People Act 1983 to extend the time allowed to bring a prosecution.”

Looks like the curse of Mark Clarke has hit a wall despite his best efforts in briefing Michael Crick… 

CCHQ Breaks Neutrality Promise

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click to enlarge

The battle commences, the promise that CCHQ would be neutral is broken. On day one.

Harry Cole on Shapps Resignation

Feldman next?

Bully-Linked Baroness Inducted Into Lords Tomorrow

The father of Elliott Johnson, the young Tory activist who took his own life amid bullying allegations, has given an interview to LBC. Ray Johnson says CCHQ mishandled complaints against election guru Mark Clarke and again insisted Lord Feldman hand the evidence to the police:

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Tomorrow sees the induction into the House of Lords of Emma Pidding, who was chair of the Clarke’s ‘Road Trip’ campaign. Pidding has been accused by Ray Johnson of being involved in helping Clarke. Johnson says: “I believe that Clarke had powerful backers. I don’t know for certain who Clarke’s backers are, but the name of Emma Pidding keeps cropping up”. As recently as July, Pidding arranged for her close ally Clarke to be publicly ‘feted‘ by David Cameron at the Conservative National Convention. There are rumours that it was she that leaked the names of complainants to CCHQ about Mark Clarke – allowing him to apply intense pressure on them. Social media photos – like the one above – of Clarke and Pidding together were deleted by the Baroness-to-be after the scandal broke…

Father of Bullied Suicide Tory Demands Lord Feldman Hands CCHQ’s Evidence to Police

elliott-johnson-feldman

Ray Johnson, Elliott Johnson’s father has written to the Conservative Party chairman Lord Feldman demanding he hands over all the internal inquiry’s evidence to the police and abandons the party’s own investigation.

The letter alleges that

  • Edward Legard, the lawyer running CCHQ’s internal investogation is an “Old Etonian contemporary of the Prime Minister who can in no way be recognised as independent”.
  • CCHQ is complicit in a “cover-up”
  • That the party failed in its clear “duty of care” to young people  

Ray Johnson’s key argument is

“The party’s belated attempt at an internal inquiry is too little, too late. The correct process would be to now hand the investigation and all evidence over to the proper authorities, the Metropolitan Police, for a full criminal inquiry.”

CCHQ insiders and young Tory activists believe that a police investigation is inevitable – particularly given that the names of the original complainants against Mark Clarke were leaked to Mark Clarke from within CCHQ – leading to him exerting intense pressure on the very people who had accused him of wrongdoing. Ray Johnson accuses Emma Pidding – now Baroness Pidding – of being complicit with Clarke. With tragic consequences…

Hat-Tip: Blue Guerilla

Three Tory Activists Banned From Conference Amid Suicide Bullying Claims

Three prominent Conservative activists have had their conference accreditations rescinded following the death of 21 year-old Tory member Elliott Johnson. Johnson reportedly took his own life after making allegations against another Tory member. Guido understands that two of the banned activists are former candidate Mark Clarke, who ran the party youth-wing’s Road Trip election campaign, and Sam Armstrong, a member of the Tory youth group Conservative Future. Guido has been unable to confirm the identity of the third person at this moment.

A Tory spokesman said:

“Everyone in the Conservative Party is deeply saddened at the death of Elliott Johnson. The circumstances surrounding his death are in the hands of the Coroner and it is not appropriate to comment on those at this time.

The Party’s own, separate, disciplinary inquiry is in relation to complaints received from Mr Johnson and others against a member of the Party.

This initial disciplinary inquiry was launched as soon as a complaint was received in August 2015. An individual has had their membership suspended, pending the outcome of a full disciplinary panel.

Three individuals have had their Conference accreditation rescinded.”

The contents of a note left by Elliott Johnson are the subject of intense speculation…

Confirmed: Philippa Roe Running For Mayor

On Wednesday Guido exclusively revealed that Philippa Roe would be a last minute addition to the Tory mayoral race. Today she confirms she is running:

“I am a Londoner through and through. I was born and brought up here, have spent my entire working and political career here and am now raising my family in what I consider to be the world’s greatest city. I am passionate about what London and Londoners can achieve… I believe I am now ready to make the next step up and deliver successfully for all Londoners.”

Her campaign team would not be drawn on when exactly Roe put in her application. Or speculation that she only entered after CCHQ realised there was no female candidate. Instead optimistic supporters point to the fact that she runs a £1 billion operation at Westminster council and say her campaign will be based on showing her “proven track record in London”.

You heard it here first…

CCHQ Bend Rules to Avoid All-Male Mayoral Shortlist

Guido understands there is likely to be a last minute addition to the Tory mayoral race: gaffe prone Westminster council leader Philippa Roe has had her arm twisted to put in an application. Multiple sources say she has been canvassing for support.

The deadline for candidates to apply was Monday, sources say “CCHQ panicked that they didn’t have a woman on the ticket” and Roe has been convinced to throw her hat in even after the deadline had supposedly closed “at the request of CCHQ”. CCHQ are being suspiciously tight-lipped.

Readers will remember her PR blunder of publicly accusing immigrants of “defecating on people’s doorsteps”. Sounds like it’s hit the fan today…

At the time of going to pixel Philippa has not responded to Guido’s request for comment…

Amy Fisher New Head of Press at CCHQ

amy fisher showcase_3bea2c4e6574bbb6d162a9de46bdb148
Chris Grayling’s SpAD Amy Fisher replaces Giles Kenningham as Head of Press at CCHQ.

Long time press office stalwart – and tax justice campaigner – Richard Jackson will be her deputy.

Fisher used to be at Policy Exchange before spinning for Caroline Spelman (remember her?) at DEFRA.

She escapes the Grayling graveyard of Office of Leader of the House.

PFL?

SPOTTED: Grant Shapps Leaving Back of Cabinet Office

Why the delay in the announcement of party chairman?

What’s Claret and Blue?

The speechwriter’s posterior. Somebody is going to get an auto-cue kicking…

west-ham-cam

It is the moment when he coughs uncomfortably as his brain whirs over whether to correct it and draw attention to the gaffe, or hope no-one notices. Tough call…

LibDems Face Tory Wipeout in South West

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If this poll is correct the Tories will take all their coalition colleague’s seats.

Tory party chairman Grant Shapps has been predicting strong gains in the South West for months…

Inheritance Tax Highlights Millionaire Miliband’s Hypocrisy

The Tories are going to make it a manifesto commitment (again) to raise the inheritance tax threshold so that only millionaires pay it. David Cameron is giving a speech today highlighting the issue. This morning Harman was less than convincing on Marr about the Milibands’ own efforts to avoid the inheritance tax threshold. Why would the Milibands – as Harman claims – pay expensive lawyers to produce a Deed of Variation to not avoid tax?*

CCHQ’s promotion for their manifesto commitment looks like this:

ihtgraphic

Guido’s version would look like this:

IHT-MILIBAND

Not positive enough?

*Guido’s informed guess is that they entirely avoided paying inheritance tax at the time. Later Ed Miliband and David Miliband probably had to pay some lesser amount of capital gains tax when they realised their profits on the difference in the value they had inherited tax free and the price they received for their shares of what was the family home when it was eventually sold.

Tory Nerves Fraying

one-month-rolling-average

This is the rolling poll-of-polls average for the last month. See how the blue line moves in the opposite direction to the purple line? If the Tories can’t recover those lost UKIP voters this month… the socialist terror will begin on May 8…

Tory Jitters: Backbencher Publicly Slams “Dry Economics Lecture” Plan

Just in time for the Budget, former Tory whip Michael Fabricant has slammed the Tory election strategy, speaking out against the “dry economics lecture” currently on offer:

“The Long Term Economic Plan is a means to an end and so is lowering the deficit.

YouTube videos displaying a reduction in deficit are appropriate for a dry economics lecture, but they are hardly going to win the hearts and souls of the electorate.

We’ve got to say why we want a strong economy, what are those sun lit uplands?

We’ve not just got to win the battle of the minds but the battle of the heart.”

Whatever happened to David “let sunshine win the day” Cameron, who promised the Conservatives would be the “party of optimism”?

Classic “Don’t Let The Other Party Wreck It” Campaign Poster

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They say there are only two types of political campaigns, “Time for Change” and “Don’t let the other guy wreck it”. Can you guess from the new poster above which one Lynton Crosby is running?

Guido vaguely remembers a wrecking ball featuring in a previous Tory campaign which he can’t find, though it is a bit reminiscent of this old Saatchi poster:

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Or maybe it is a Mileyish wrecking Balls?

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Last image courtesy of @GeneralBoles

Tory Stunts: Sol Campaign Sparks Spurs Backlash

Guido’s revelation earlier today that the Tories were using Sol Campbell to campaign in Spurs’ backyard of Enfield has upset plenty of voters, but local MP Nick De Bois is defending the stunt:

Clearly no one from CCHQ was at White Hart Lane when they released 4,000 balloons with the word Judas on them to celebrate last time Sol was in town:

Back of the net.

Tories Silent on New “Volunteer” Allegations

Following this morning’s unpaid Tory “volunteer” row, more stories are coming out of the woodwork. A Tory activist gets in touch to report:

“I recently volunteered at CCHQ and travelled from outside of London to volunteer at a cost of around £20 a day doing around 6 hours work. I was told I could only claim for the cost of a zones 1-2 travel, which was £4.60.”

Guido put the new allegation to the Tories this afternoon but at the time of going to pixel they have so far refused to comment, instead demanding to know the identity of our source. Guido can however reveal that they were not doing phone canvassing as previous spin suggested. Does only stumping up for the tube fare for Zones 1-2 really constitute “reasonable travel expenses”? Come and campaign for the Tory party, so long as you’re rich enough to live in central London…

Tories in ‘Economic Plan’ Row With Campaigners

The Tories landed a cool £8,345,687 in donations last quarter, but a row has broken over whether the miserly skinflints at CCHQ are failing to pay their reams of election “volunteers”. The well respected Graduate Fog campaign site highlight how Tory HQ are advertising for young turks to “assist with different aspects of the party’s work”, an unfortunate choice of words since “work” falls under Minimum Wage Law.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Angela Rayner on Labour’s economic policy (via Speccie):

“It is a bit of a sh*t-or-bust strategy…”

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