The shame of the police who refuse to investigate Tory election expenses

David Cameron (left) with Chris Davies (centre) at the Royal Welsh Showground in 2014. How much benefit did Mr Davies gain from Cameron's visit during the general election campaigning period the following year?

David Cameron (left) with Chris Davies (centre) at the Royal Welsh Showground in 2014. How much benefit did Mr Davies gain from Cameron’s visit during the general election campaigning period the following year?

Dyfed Powys Police isn’t interested in election expenses fraud by local MPs.

The force won’t investigate allegations and appears to be lying about its reasons for doing so.

This Writer made a complaint to the force’s Financial Crime Unit about Brecon and Radnorshire MP Chris Davies on May 19, after uncovering serious omissions in his 2015 general election expenses statement a few days previously.

I was aware that the period in which an investigation may be launched is time-limited to one year after the statement is filed. In this case, that meant police would have until June 3 this year – unless they sought permission from the courts for an extension. So time was tight. I had received the information that had prompted me to investigate only a few days previously.

I had to submit follow-up inquiries to Dyfed Powys police twice, and eventually emailed the new Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llewelyn, before receiving a response.

It came from an officer calling himself Paul Callard, and ran as follows: ” have considered the matters referred to and have sought clarification from the Electoral Commission. In consultation with them I have concluded that none of the issues highlighted by you would constitute a criminal offence under the Representation of People Act and also that your complaint does not warrant a criminal investigation. Should you require clarification on the expenses rules please contact the Electoral Commission.”

I have a few doubts about that. For one, I doubt he discussed the matter with the Electoral Commission because it had been the Electoral Commission who had urged me to contact the police.

Why would anybody have done that if they could have simply stated that I had misunderstood the law?

As it happens, my understanding of the law is just fine. Check it yourself:

The spending limit for candidates in Brecon and Radnorshire during the election campaign last year was £13,599.69. Mr Davies declared a total of £12,202.96 – but this did not include a four-page “wraparound” advert on the front of local newspaper the Brecon and Radnor Express, on April 30, 2015, addressing the voters of the constituency and urging them to vote ‘Conservative’. The cost of such an advert is likely to have been between £3,000 and £4,000 – probably more, considering it was on the front and back of the newspaper itself, the most prominent place it could possibly be.

It seems the Conservative Party is keen to claim the cost of this “wraparound” as national party expenditure, rather than that of the local candidate, but this is a mistake.

Electoral Commission guidance makes it very clear that “party campaign spending is authorised by a party to promote the party and its policies generally. For example, national newspaper adverts for the party, or leaflets explaining party policy”.

This is a four-page advert for the Conservative Party, wrapped around an edition of a local newspaper and bearing that newspaper’s masthead. It is clearly intended to influence voters in Brecon and Radnorshire who know the candidate’s name, even though it is not mentioned in the text.

This is certainly the way readers of the newspaper interpreted the advert – as the letters pages
of the paper’s May 7 and May 14 editions attested.

Then there is the matter of the Welsh Conservative manifesto launch in the Royal Welsh Showground on April 17.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, visited the BSW timber mill in Brecon and Radnorshire, which is a large employer for the area. He launched the party’s Welsh manifesto at the Royal Welsh showground in nearby Llanelwedd, Builth Wells – also in Brecon and Radnorshire.

One of the now-infamous ‘battle buses’ was present at both events.

Electoral Commission guidelines http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/party-or-campaigner/guidance-for-political-parties/election-campaign-spending state that “You may need to split your costs between activities and materials that count as campaign spending and those that don’t.

“For example, you might hire a car for a staff member who spends some of their time working on the party’s regional campaign, and the rest working for a candidate in a particular constituency.

“In all cases you should make an honest assessment, based on the facts, of the proportion of expenditure that can fairly be attributed to your campaign spending.”

How many Conservative activists were bussed into Brecon and Radnorshire with David Cameron? At what cost? And how much did Chris Davies benefit from the exposure given to him and his campaign?

Neither event was mentioned on Mr Davies’s expenses declaration.

Other police forces around the UK are investigating Conservative candidates in the 2015 election for omissions just like these – yet Dyfed Powys Police, and Mr Calland in particular, want This Writer to believe that they do not warrant a criminal investigation.

Do you believe it?

I have already written to inform him of his mistake and to tell him that, if he can’t see that there is a case to answer, plenty of other forces can and he should turn the investigation over to them while there is still time.

I am concerned that, whatever the response, these shenanigans will delay any investigation to such an extent that Mr Davies will face no investigation at all.

That’s not good enough and, by the time you read this, I will have already written another complaint to the new Police and Crime Commissioner, who can be contacted by emailing
[email protected]

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36 thoughts on “The shame of the police who refuse to investigate Tory election expenses

  1. NMac

    Stick to it Mike. Surely they will have to follow the precedent set by other forces in similar circumstances.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I may, after this issue has run its course.
      It’ll be a waste of time, though.

  2. Brian

    Mr Calland will surely be under an obligation to have had his correspondence with the commission recorded and documented as a matter of police policy if this is a crime report. Perhaps evidence of that communication taking place at the time he states will put all our minds at rest that he is not telling porkies.

    1. Brian

      Just one other thought, If he has been in contact with the commission, were the facts misrepresented, to get the response he says?

  3. Florence

    Does the same Police force cover Pembs? We’ve only just got the election info for Crabb

      1. Florence

        Thanks, I’ve worked it out now.. We’ll just have to see what happens for other constituencies in the Dyfed Powys force area……..fingers crossed for Mike’s case.

  4. Dez

    What poltical party does the crime commissioner align that you refer in this report? It was a nagging concern locally that the Cons invested a large effort in pushing for their local Crime Commissioner with absolutely nothing heard from the other contenders who must have had diddly squat budgets for their promotions. Maybe these local elections of Crime Commissioners should have min. budgets they are allowed to allocate for promotions so the electorate get to know about all the contenders not just those with large budgets..

  5. Damien Willey

    Let the Mirror know as well as part of their People’s Election Fraud Investigation – can’t hurt, this is the first I’ve heard of a Police Force refusing to investigate

  6. Claire

    Well done Mike I have sent off an email of complaint to Dyfed-Powys police commisoner urging them to do their ‘Duty’ and apply for the extension and investigate. I suggest that if enough people complain directly to him
    then they will possibly get their act into gear.

  7. Neilth

    There was a similar wraparound on the Barry Gem free paper which was published on the Thursday 14th April which I think was the day before the short campaign started so if it was prepaid would it feature in the expenses for the election period?

    It was definitely a local expenditure but as it covered both the named candidate for the vale and for the regional list including the leader of the Tory group can the expense be dispersed amongst them?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      If it was the day before the short campaign started, then it’s not a short campaign election expense.
      If it had been part of the short campaign but featured the local candidate and the regional list, then the expense would have had to be divided between them according to the amount of benefit likely to have been derived by each side.

  8. John

    Err, Mike, this issue you’re having, wouldn’t by any chance have anything to do with (the blog post you haven’t written yet), about the Tory lawyers blocking the police asking for an extension in South Thanet would it? I wonder if the police are starting to be ‘leaned’ on in some way? I know it sounds crazy, but it’s just a thought!

  9. Martin

    Have you looked into the spending of the other Tory Davies in the north of the county? It may also be worth sending a copy of the police response to the Electoral Commission for confirmation that Dyfed Powys did indeed contact them.

    There’s an officer of that name on Facebook, but he works for Greater Manchester Police, not Dyfed-Powys?

  10. Franklin Percival

    I can’t even post this on the Dyfed-Powys Police time-line.

    I have just received an automated response from PCC Dyfed-Powys Police indicating that I may expect to receive a reply within three weeks. This is entirely unsatisfactory since action must be taken before 3 June 2016. Action now, please. A further joke is that the complaints link in their reply yields error 404 (site not found), and that if I try going direct to online complaints I gat an error message!

    “Cris Davies MP for Brecon & Radnorshire 2015 Electoral Expenses Apparent Breach of Limits.

    My friend Mike Sivier has reported the above to your force on the advice of The Electoral Commission. He has notified concerned citizenry that the force for which you are responsible has declined apply for more time to investigate what appears to be a prima facie case of fraudulent accounting. Dyfed Powys Police is refusing to act.

    He writes, inter alia:-

    “It came from an officer calling himself Paul Calland, and ran as follows: ” have considered the matters referred to and have sought clarification from the Electoral Commission. In consultation with them I have concluded that none of the issues highlighted by you would constitute a criminal offence under the Representation of People Act and also that your complaint does not warrant a criminal investigation. Should you require clarification on the expenses rules please contact the Electoral Commission.”, also:-

    “I have a few doubts about that. For one, I doubt he discussed the matter with the Electoral Commission because it had been the Electoral Commission who had urged me to contact the police.”

    Many other Police Forces have applied successfully for the one year extension giving rise to the ridiculous case in Folkestone where the Police turned up at court to find lawyers for the tories milling about hoping to oppose the grant of extension. This was scarcely the action of an innocent party seeking only to clear its name.

    Will you now please uphold the Queen’s Peace by revisiting your force’s decision to sit on its hands in the face of apparent criminal fraud that strikes at the root of our democracy.” http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/26/the-shame-of-the-police-who-refuse-to-investigate-tory-election-expenses/

  11. Margaret Williams

    I checked with the B&R ads department immediately after the 2015 election – such a wrapper would cost over £14,000, so more than the expenses filed. I have also emailed the commissioner, on the grounds that given the coverage of the B&R, the B&R constituency, only Mr Davies could have benefited.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Holy Mother of Profit!
      That is obscene in itself.
      Since I wrote the article, a friend on Twitter has told me that the newspaper wrap was likely to be taken as national expenditure because it crosses constituency boundaries, but I think this needs to be tested in a court of law, by a jury.
      I mean, how many articles have you seen in the B&R about a Herefordshire or Shropshire MP?

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        In terms of national politics, it only covers Brecon and Radnorshire. It used to cover Kington, just across the Herefordshire border, in its community pages.

  12. Kyle Austin

    every single one of them is bent, the local MP for totnes in south Devon Dr Sarah Wollaston has been informed on numerous occasions about a massive fraud on the public purse happening in her own constituency , that is quite possibly also happening country wide yet she has ignored the evidence and refused to even look into it. now things like this make you wonder, is it down to pure laziness? or does her party or she have a part to play in it and want it kept quiet? like the election expenses?

  13. Tom

    Dear Mr Llewelyn

    Having read the article by Mike Sivier of Vox Political I would like to strongly urge your force to investigate the allegations of electoral fraud by the current Conservative MP Chris Davies. I am not from your region, however given that this is no small matter and the result of the potential fraud may be a party in power in Westminster who have no legitimate claim, I felt it necessary to voice my concern to you directly.

    These are not minor allegations by any stretch of the imagination and both the local and national elections will of been affected by the alleged misreporting of electoral expenses by the Conservative party.

    Mike Sivier has submitted the information to your force within the required timescale having already consulted with the Electoral Commission who advised him to make contact with your force. Yet somehow one of your officers, a Paul Callard, states that he has also contacted the Commission and following this has concluded that no criminal offence has taken place.

    The allegations made against Mr Davies by Mike Sivier are very similar in nature to those being investigated by numerous other Police forces around the country. Should these investigations progress to charges and prosecutions then the overall result of the national elections will be called into doubt and hundreds of thousands of voters will of been mislead and the Conservative party will be proven to have no legitimate claim to power.

    Once again I hope that you will review your forces decision not to investigate this matter further.

    (Email sent today, keep up the fight Mike)

  14. crazytrucker1951

    It stinks to high heaven but then the Tories are used to the stink, it surrounds them every day the stink of vileness and corruption, its the Tory way, though I’m loathe to use the term “like Pig’s in ^^^^” as I believe the poor Pig has been much maligned being compared to a Tory, for Tories are lower then Vermin, Nye Bevan said so, and if as Hamoron keeps saying they have nothing to hide why are they once again resorting to using the courts to cover their lies and corruption?
    Without doubt this is the most corrupt administration that this country has ever witnessed.

  15. welshwomaninengland

    Have you tried reporting this to The Brecon and Radnor Express, to see if they can add any pressure. If they’re not interested, there’s The South Wales Argus, which cover a much larger area of Wales.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I don’t think the B&R will offer much joy. That paper gained £14K from the wraparound ad. Biting the hand that feeds them? I don’t think so.

      1. Margaret

        Mike, please try ringing them and see what the new editor Eryl Jones is like. He is probably a Tory to judge by the Assembly election coverage but we really need to know what we’re dealing with. The previous editor said the wrapper was simply an order to the Ads department and not due to any editorial policy – maybe. I think the paper has got worse – ask him why there has been not Letters column a for 2 weeks and why the comments boxes are disappearing from their online version.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        I know Eryl Jones from many years ago, but I really don’t think contacting him will do any good. These decisions are carried out by the financial managers and foisted on editorial.
        Also, there have been some developments regarding the evidence that I want to get straightened out by the Electoral Commission.
        Good question about the Letters page, though.

      3. Margaret

        Why not try sending a press release to the B&R on “Local MPs election expenses called in question” just saying a complaint had been made by more than one local elector regarding the failure to declare the cost of the wrapper in Davies’ 2015 election expenses, plus comment on his attack on the newly elected AM (sour grapes or what?) then if they don’t put it in you could write to the Western Mail and South Wales Argus describing the failure to include your story or investigate the complaint. Sorry to conduct this via the blog but I don’t have your email!

      4. Mike Sivier Post author

        Let’s see what the Electoral Commission says, first.
        If I go to the papers too soon, I could end up looking daft – and that would reflect poorly on the whole expenses investigation.

  16. Neilth

    Am I right in my belief that a lot of these local rags and free sheets come under the ownership of just a few proprietors who claim they give editorial freedom etc but actually direct policy? As I say this is just my belief based on assumptions and some limited information and I haven’t done research to back it up. But I know for example that the Penarth Times is owned by a company that puts out the local rag in Newport where the parent company is based.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Many are. Whether the owners dictate policy is debatable. In the case of a big advert, the managers would take it because it’s a lot of cash for them. Politics need not come into it.

Comments are closed.