Online advertising paid off massively for the Conservative Party in the 2015 General Election. It’s just a shame the Tories don’t seem to have declare the spending in their expenses returns.
So now Energy Secretary Amber Rudd and Amber Valley MP Nigel Mill are facing allegations that they used ads designed by M & C Saatchi in their local campaigns, but failed to declare them in their spending returns.
And then there is the allegation by New Scientist that the Conservatives spent £1.3 million on Facebook ads in the 40 constituencies they needed to win the election – that’s £32,500 per constituency, which is more than twice as much as the local spending limit in the ‘short’ campaign.
Here’s how the Mirror reported the allegations against the individual MPs:
The Tories paid £395,575 to M&C Saatchi for advertising costs in the run up to poll last May, including one “wrecking ball” advert.
The poster and video ad used the slogan “Recovering Economy” and a wrecking ball carrying the words “Don’t Let Labour Wreck It”.
These costs were declared nationally as party spending where the Tories were more than £2 million below the spending cap.
But Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy, ran what appeared to be a local version of the same advert on her YouTube channel on March 29. The slogan was changed to “Unemployment down by 1,921 in Hastings and Rye since 2010”.
It was uploaded on March 29, the last day of the “long campaign”, but does not appear in Ms Rudd’s long campaign election spending return.
Under “advertising”, the only online costs declared were a series of Facebook ads and one £60 bill to her local conservative association for a “pop up banner”.
Another Tory MP, Nigel Mills, posted what appeared to be a local version of the “wrecking ball” ad with the slogan changed to “Unemployment down by 59% in Amber Valley since 2010”.
It was uploaded to the votenigelmills YouTube channel on April 8, during the short campaign, which lasts for the final 39 days before the vote. But the only online costs Mr Mills declared for the short campaign was £76 paid by his local conservative association for registering and hosting votenigelmills.com.
Mr Mills is being investigated by Derbyshire Police for failing to declare the costs of a ‘battle bus’ packed with party activists, but more than a year has passed since Ms Rudd filed her return, meaning she cannot be prosecuted under the Representation of the People Act 1983.
Meanwhile, here’s the New Scientist on how the Tories targeted 40 constituencies they needed:
In the 2015 UK general election, the Conservatives spent £1.3 million on Facebook adverts, targeting people who lived in the 40 constituencies they needed for a majority. Before the vote, everything pointed to a hung parliament, with the Labour party likely to be the largest party. On the night, the Tories came out on top.
The article doesn’t say whether the money was spent in the ‘long’ campaign or the ‘short’, but if it was declared as a national expense, then this was wrong; the article specifically states that this was spending “targeting people who lived in the 40 constituencies they needed for a majority”.
It seems to This Writer that, even after months of digging, we have not yet plumbed the depths of Conservative corruption with regard to last year’s general election.
The one-year deadline for opening investigations has now passed – or at least, it has for most MPs – so it seems likely that many who won their Parliamentary seats by criminally out-spending their opponents will go unpunished.
If the Conservatives had an ounce of decency about them, they would admit the investigation has undermined public faith in the legitimacy of their government. They should declare the last election void and call another one.
They haven’t done this, and they won’t. Draw your own conclusions.
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