Police Receive Multiple Clegg Expenses Complaints

South Yorkshire police have this morning received multiple complaints from members of the public asking them to investigate Nick Clegg’s election spending. Yesterday we revealed how documents in Clegg’s own election return suggested his budget had been surpassed:

Clegg’s lawyers have been in touch to deny that he overspent in his Sheffield Hallam short campaign – they have also sent out threatening letters to newspapers. As with the other parties, the LibDems insist all spending was apportioned correctly to the local and national campaigns. So how do they explain the above document which says in black and white that the Sheffield Hallam budget was exceeded by £17,652?

They claim these figures were based on a budget which “mistakenly included template indicative figures” which “have no relevance whatsoever” to Clegg’s election expenses. Odd since they were filed in Clegg’s official election return. There is no denial that the monies were actually spent during the campaign. In their original official response to our questions, the LibDems made no mention of any “mistake” on their part.

Clegg’s position is that the budget discussed in this spreadsheet was a mistake on their behalf, and that these figures are not relevant. It does seem an odd thing for them to get so badly wrong. Labour sources in the constituency believe he overspent by a considerable sum more than so far revealed, judging by the amount they saw him throwing at the campaign. Clegg says it was all apportioned within the law. Either way, it’s in the hands of the police now…

REVEALED: How Nick Clegg Cooked the Books for £17,652

clegg

Guido can reveal that Nick Clegg overspent by £17,652 in his Sheffield Hallam short campaign, then cooked the books so his declarations came in under the limit. Clegg’s official declarations claim he spent £14,138.77 in his short campaign:

Yet a second internal budget schedule obtained by Guido reveals Clegg’s true expenditure in Sheffield Hallam. This bombshell document admits Clegg actually spent £36,852.89 in his Sheffield Hallam short campaign. Astonishingly, under the column headed “What you’ve got left”, the figure “- £17,652.89” appears. This is prima facie evidence that Clegg broke electoral law – Clegg overspent by over £17,000…

CLEGG2

Clegg disguised his overspend by declaring £14,120.31 of his Sheffield Hallam spending as part of the national campaign. His Election Address – which by statute, namely the Representation of the Peoples Act, explicitly states is for the local candidate’s spend only – was declared as part national spend. His vehicle hire, room hire and agent costs were all declared as national spend. A further £5,913.45 was then “offset” for local elections and future campaigns. This is classic cooking the books – the document we have obtained admits that in reality all this spending was part of the “Sheffield Hallam Short Campaign Budget”.

A LibDem spokesman says spending was apportioned correctly to the national and other local campaigns in Sheffield Hallam:

“The figure of £-17,652 that you refer to is the amount spent above an indicative figure in a draft template budget. It does not relate to spend over and above an election spend limit. Any claim or suggestion of an overspend on the constituency return is misleading and factually inaccurate… We are confident that all spend has been correctly attributed to the appropriate return.”

It’s there in black and white – “What you’ve got left: -£17,652.89” – that looks like the true figure to Guido…

Labour Activist Outs Cat Smith’s Campaign Manager

singleton2

If Labour MP Cat Smith had declared her campaign organiser’s full salary in her election expenses, she would have bust her limit and broken electoral law. Instead, she declared just 12.5% of Ben Singleton’s wage because she claims he spent just 12.5% of his time on her campaign. Yet the above tweet from a fellow Labour activist outs Singleton as the man “who managed her campaign”. Added to the vast social media evidence here, there can be no doubt now that Singleton was in charge. It is simply not believable that he spent just 12.5% of his time on her campaign. Falsely declaring it as such would be against the law…

Guido has tried to ask Singleton for an explanation, but his phone is off and his email bounced back. He has also hidden his tweets from public view. This is now the key part of a live police investigation, so perhaps that’s why he doesn’t want to talk. Remember, Smith would have been over the spending limit if Singleton’s full salary had been declared. Cat got your tongue?

Knightly Loss of British Influence

night-knight-brit-influence

Drippingly Europhile British Influence appear to have made their co-President an unperson this morning. One minute he was there on the website under the ever-authentic Ken Clarke, the next minute “Sir” Anthony Bailey KGCN OBE was gone. Down the memory hole. Could it be anything to do with the fact that he was not actually knighted by Her Majesty?

Police Investigating Tessa Munt Election Expenses

Avon and Somerset Police have received several complaints about ex-LibDem MP Tessa Munt following Guido’s story on her election expenses. Munt, who hypocritically attacked the Tories over their spending declarations, herself failed to declare a battle bus which campaigned in her constituency. Asked about the Munt case, the cops tell Guido:

“Avon and Somerset Constabulary have received a number of allegations in relation to improper spending in the 2015 General Election. We will be applying for an extension to the time allowed to investigate and continue to liaise closely with the Electoral Commission.”

They are in court today applying for an extension to investigate local Tory MPs, which will now apply to Tessa too. She says she welcomes the police investigation. The question for all parties is this: If transport benefited both local and national campaigns, why were the costs not split between the local and national spend as required by law?

Eddie Izzard’s Hotel Bills Not Lawfully Declared

Eddie Izzard Alex Sobel Leeds Labour

On Sunday the Labour Party told Channel 4 News that they “never spent any mone y putting volunteers up in hotels during tours” in the general election. Channel 4 reported that “so far no evidence has emerged to contradict them”. Until now…

On April 20 2015, Eddie Izzard travelled to Leeds North West to campaign on behalf of Labour candidate Alex Sobel. As you can see above, Izzard had pictures taken with the candidate, in front of posters bearing the candidate’s name. There can be no doubt this was local campaigning…

Yet the invoice above shows Labour’s national campaign paid for Izzard’s hotel in Leeds on April 20. This is a flagrant breach of the rules – Izzard was an activist who campaigned for a local candidate, so his hotel bill should have been declared as part of the candidate’s local spend. It also shows Labour’s claim that they never put activists up in hotels to be untrue. Just because Izzard is a celebrity doesn’t mean he isn’t an activist, the rules still apply…

Munt Admits She Didn’t Declare Local Campaign Transport

Tessa Munt has confirmed to Guido she did not declare any battle bus costs in her local spend, telling us: “Nothing to declare! Leader’s bus different from activists bus all expenses paid.” The Electoral Commission however say that the a party leader’s transport costs, if used for local campaigning, should be split between the local and national spend. She has broken the rules…

Munt says she only jumped on to deliver some cider and cheese to Clegg’s team, sending us a photo that she reckons proves no local campaigning took place. Hilariously – and dishonestly – Munt cropped out the journalist and cameraman from her local paper. This is what she didn’t want us to see:

Clegg gave the local journalist quotes telling constituents to “vote for Tessa” –  that is demonstrably local campaigning. You can see why they were known as the FibDems…

“Cheated” LibDem Pictured Campaigning on Battle Bus

“My constituents should feel cheated,” whinged beaten ex-LibDem MP Tessa Munt to the BBC about the Tory election expenses scandal. The sore loser went even further on her Facebook page:

“The new Tory MP seems to have cheated the people of the Wells Constituency of a fair and just election result last May. Expenses should not be hidden, but be declared as the law requires.”

Oh should they, Tessa…

This photo shows Munt on the LibDem battle bus on May 5 2015. Nick Clegg used the journey to campaign specifically for Munt, resulting in not one but two stories in her local paper. Clegg told them:

“if you vote for Tessa, not only will you get a wonderful MP, but someone who is a member of a party who wants to balance the books”

Clearly this was both local and national campaigning. The Electoral Commission says the cost of such travel for a party leader and candidate should be split between the local and national spend:

“If the travel 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.”

Yet the LibDem battle bus was declared wholly as a national expense. Maybe Munt should take a look at her own failed campaign – and her own election expenses – before crying about how she was “cheated”…

Police Investigating Shadow Minister Over Election Expenses

Detectives have launched an investigation into shadow minister Cat Smith after Guido revealed a string of anomalies in her election expenses. Last week we reported that several thousand pounds were missing from the Labour MP’s spending declarations. Smith herself refused to comment, though her election agent denied wrongdoing. In the past few days Lancashire Police have received a number of complaints from members of the public, and last night they confirmed that detectives have launched an investigation. This is the first police investigation into a Labour MP over 2015 election expenses…

Worth noting that the Cat Smith case is different from all the other election expenses stories. Smith’s spending irregularities are not about battle buses or hotels for activists. Much more worryingly, this is about how she declared her office rent and staffing costs, many thousands of which were not declared in her campaign expenditure. As an individual case, this is more serious than any of the other election fraud stories of the last few weeks. Read Guido’s original story showing how Smith’s declarations were a work of financial fiction here

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…

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…

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…

Proof LibDem Battle Bus Did Transport Activists

libs

Following this morning’s story, a LibDem HQ spin-doctor categorically denied their battle bus was ever used to transport activists across the country:

“The only bus we ever had was Nick’s tour bus, which carried journalists and his staff, which is different to offering transport to bring activists into a seat to campaign. I would’ve loved to have the extra money to spend on transporting activists, but it simply didn’t happen.”

The LibDem spokesman insisted a Guardian report claiming the bus was used to transport activists “was wrong”. 

Here is photographic evidence of the LibDem battle bus being used to transport activists:

lib dem battle bus

According to LibDemVoice, these pictures show “Chipping Barnet candidate Marisha Ray and friends about to board“. Inside was campaigner “Alex Feakes and his daughter”. The article even confirms where these activists were ferried: “The bus’s maiden voyage took it from London to Oxford West and Abingdon”. These people aren’t Clegg’s team or members of the press. The LibDem battle bus demonstrably was used to transport activists, despite the party saying “this simply didn’t happen”. You just can’t trust those lying LibDems…

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…

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…

MPs Pay Family Members £21 Million

snouts

+ 139 MPs’ family members employed on the public payroll +

+ 1 in 4 MPs have employed a relative +

+ Relatives’ salaries “significantly higher” than other employees +

+ Pay rises awarded “at twice the rate” +

IPSA releases its consultation on MPs’ expenses this morning – the most eye-catching revelation is that MPs pay family members more than other staff, and are more likely to give pay rises to family members. As of March this year a total of 139 “connected parties”, which means MPs’ family members and those with a close business association, were on the payroll as secretaries and assistants. 1 in 4 MPs employed a connected party in the last parliament. £21 million of taxpayers’ money was sent by MPs into the bank accounts of relatives…

IPSA admits that “controls to prevent misuse of funding on employing connected parties were limited”, adding:

“their salaries were significantly higher than the average across all MPs’ staff. Salaries of connected parties had also risen at twice the rate of other staff”

Family members are paid on average £5,600 more than other staff.

IPSA are so concerned that they are consulting again on the issue of connected parties, but only for new staff. MPs already had a 10% pay rise and earn three times the average wage, yet a quarter of them have employed family members on up to £55,000-a-year on top. Stay tuned – Guido will name and shame the piggies shortly…

Rotten Robertson at the Races

Robertson Race Course

Last month Guido looked at the murky goings on around Tory MP Laurence Robertson, who was then referred to the Standards Commissioner over allegations of cash-for-access. Well, he’s at it again…

Robertson has received four fully-funded racecourse trips from bookmakers Gala Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill, as well as two further trips from course owners The Jockey Club. In total, that’s £3,466 of free trips to Aintree, Cheltenham and Chepstow, with the priciest trip costing a whopping £800. Such generosity is only to be expected – in December Robertson raised a couple of helpful questions in the Commons in favour of the so-called “racing right”, a key issue for the racing industry and large bookmakers.

Last month it was cash-for-access claims, this month it’s completely coincidental freebies. Time for a stewards’ inquiry…

Osborne Exempts “Politically Exposed Persons” From Money Laundering Checks

MPs complained earlier this year that they are being hounded “like African despots” following anti-money laundering checks from banks like HSBC. These checks are designed to ensure money isn’t being funnelled into criminal gangs or other corrupt arrangements. Charles Walker was furious that MPs and their families are on the list of “Politically Exposed Persons”, the automatic anti-money laundering watch list used by banks:

“It is ridiculously heavy-handed for banks to treat British MPs and their families in this aggressive way. They should be targeting crooked despots and dictators, not MPs’ grannies.”

Because politicians’ family members would never be involved in anything dodgy…

George Osborne this afternoon accepted an amendment to the Financial Services Bill which will see some Politically Exposed Persons and their families exempted from these anti-money laundering rules. Ministers will now “exclude… specified categories of persons” from the list of so-called PEPs, as Osborne says it is “disproportionate” for banks to include MPs and relatives on the watch list. Mossack Fonseca will be able to whisk MPs and their families through the account opening process…

Feldman Gets Cricked

An out of breath Michael Crick at his best…[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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