The Metropolitan police is among the forces that have passed files to the CPS [Image: Kirsty O’Connor/PA].

Only days after we were told police forces may seek prosecutions against sitting MPs “within weeks”, up to 20 Tory MPs are facing court action for alleged spending fraud in the 2015 general election.

And more police forces have yet to make a decision.

Theresa May’s Conservative government is now in serious trouble. With her majority in Parliament wafer-thin, if only a few of these MPs are prosecuted and lose their seats, she will lose her mandate to govern.

She might consider holding a snap general election, but she would not be able to rely on her party alone to repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act brought in by her forerunner David Cameron (ironically, to keep himself in office) and the Opposition parties may well wish her to suffer the damage that political impotence would do to the Tories if they became a minority government.

On the other hand, any governing party having to call a general election after being forced to admit in the courts that it had cheated in order to win the last one is unlikely to hold the public’s confidence.

The Electoral Commission is holding an inquiry into whether the Conservative Party – nationally – broke spending limits, and this may well create further upset.

And what will the MPs under suspicion say, if they lose in court? Already some have broken ranks to complain at their treatment by Conservative Central HQ – can this not be interpreted as an admission of some kind of guilt?

A dozen police forces have passed files to the Crown Prosecution Service over allegations that up to 20 Conservative MPs broke local spending limits at the last general election.

Prosecutors have to decide whether to charge the MPs or their agents, after a 10-month investigation into whether party spending on an election battlebus that brought activists to marginal seats was wrongly recorded as national spending.

Prosecutors have already received files from 12 police forces – in Avon and Somerset, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon and Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Lincolnshire, London, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and West Yorkshire.

Warwickshire police also said they had interviewed two people as part of their investigation, and a decision would be made soon about whether to hand the file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Downing Street refused on Wednesday night to comment on the development, but senior party figures are concerned that any successful prosecutions of sitting MPs could lead to election results being declared void, causing a string of byelections as the Brexit negotiations draw to a conclusion in late 2018 or early 2019.

Police have not named the Conservative MPs or agents under investigation, but it emerged on Tuesday that Craig Mackinlay, the Tory MP for South Thanet, was interviewed under caution over spending returns related to his electoral battle against the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage.

Channel 4 also revealed separate allegations concerning South Thanet, showing that the hotel expenses of a team of Conservative party officials, including Nick Timothy, who is now May’s chief of staff, had been recorded as national rather than local.

A separate Electoral Commission inquiry into whether the national party broke election spending limits is also under way and is expected to come to a head soon, potentially within days.

There was even speculation in Westminster that May would consider seeking an early general election to draw a line under the spending allegations about the 2015 election.

Adding to pressure on May, the party is facing a mutiny from Conservative MPs under investigation who feel they have been hung out to dry by the party, which organised the battlebus campaign centrally.

Source: Tory election spending claims: 12 police forces pass files to CPS | Politics | The Guardian

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