No – criminals.
The Conservative Party has failed to declare tens of thousands of pounds of spending in key by-election campaigns, smashing electoral rules.
Hundreds of pages of receipts obtained by Channel 4 News suggest undeclared expenditure by the party in three crucial by-election campaigns during 2014 – in Newark, which the Tories won, and in both Clacton and Rochester & Strood, which went to UKIP.
Rochester & Strood subsequently switched to the Conservatives in the general election last year.
If the Electoral Commission accepts the reporters’ findings, then the Newark by-election should, by rights, be re-run as the winning MP, Robert Jenrick, will have used illegal means to take the seat. Jenrick has a chequered history of attempting to get into Parliament, as this Political Scrapbook article suggests.
In the face of the wealth of evidence reported by Channel 4, the Conservative Party has claimed that all its spending was correctly recorded.
The documents appear to reveal a pattern of undisclosed spending and link directly to Conservative HQ and senior figures within the party.
Campaign spending in each by-election is subject to a legal limit of £100,000 to ensure fairness, so contests are not skewed in favour of richer political parties.
If all the receipts had been declared, the party would appear to have flouted spending limits in all three by-elections.
All three by-elections were seen as crucial battles to halt the then-growing popularity of UKIP, which was increasingly threatening to steal support from the Tories.
Our investigation obtained copies of receipts for six hotels across the three by-election areas showing … 1,401 nights of accommodation, with the total cost of rooms, food, and additional spending amounting to £113,030.63 across the three campaigns.
Channel 4 News has also found that at least two campaign centres were also not declared; while the precise costs involved in renting these venues is unknown, it could mean thousands more in campaign spending does not appear on the books.
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