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Tory dictatorship power grab vote fraud undermines UK voters

 
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Whitehall_Bin_Men
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:06 pm    Post subject: Tory dictatorship power grab vote fraud undermines UK voters Reply with quote

6 ways you can stop the Tories being in power for the rest of your life
14:43, 12 MAY 2015 UPDATED 10:27, 18 JUN 2015 BY RICHARD BEECH
Major changes are afoot in the UK - and if you want to stop them you need to act now

http://www.mirror.co.uk/usvsth3m/how-you-can-stop-tories-5684624

9258 SHARES
Take action now if you don't want this lot to be in charge forever
Over the coming months and years, the new Tory cabinet is set to make a number of sweeping changes that will make life more difficult for ordinary people.
One BIG change will make it unlikely for any party other than the Tories to gain a majority ever again.
Just some of the changes include:

The Snooper's Charter

They'll have access to personal data from your phones and computers. These plans were shelved in 2013, but now that the Lib Dems are out of the way, Theresa May is planning to bring them back.
Police and security services will have access to your information, and phone companies and service providers will be legally obliged to hold onto it for a year.

Making legal strikes close to impossible

A move which will likely lead to further protests from trades unions
Not happy with your working conditions? Tough luck, the Tories are effectively planning to outlaw legal strike action.
Strike action in the health, transport, fire and education services will now have to be backed by 40% of the unions' membership, and there must be a 50% turnout.

Scrapping our human rights act

Cling on to the right to life, the right to start a family, and the right to a fair trial while you still can. The Tories are set to meddle with it.

Introducing a benefits cap of £23k per household

That's lower than minimum wage for a two person household, in the 7th richest country in the world.

But finally, making sure they never lose power again

The Conservatives don't ever want to lose power again, especially after failing to win a majority for 18 years.

They're planning to reduce the size of government, you know, sort of like those perfectly reasonable Tea Party people in America want to do.

The number of MPs would drop from 650 to 600, and what's more, more seats would be lost in the north-west than in any other region.

This is Labour's heartland, and the boundary changes would be a disaster for the party, making it very difficult for them to seize back control.


How can I stop this from happening?

If you don't want a lifetime of Conservative rule, you need to make your voice heard now, just as you need to if you oppose any of the other brutal changes the party is set to make now that it doesn't have the Lib Dems to stand in its way.

1) Write to your MP
This is especially important if you have a Conservative MP in your area, write to them and let them know how you feel.
MPs receive numerous letters each day on a variety of issues, but by receiving communication on a high scale in opposition to their plans, they cannot claim to be ignorant of what you expect of them.
After all, they work for you.

2) Join a political party
And become more active in politics. You can find out how to join the major opposition parties here.

3) Petition
When the Tories do formally announce their plans to change the election boundaries, there will undoubtedly be a number of petitions that come out in opposition to the plans.
While you are free to sign all of these, what will likely gain most attention from the Tories is by doing it through the Government's own ePetition website.
The site was temporarily closed down in the run up to the election, but is due to launch again soon.

4) Get involved with a campaigning organisation
National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts opposes tuition fees and education spending cuts. Arts Emergency aims to counter reductions in access to the arts and humanities.
If you're concerned about the "snooper's charter" and other civil liberties issues, take a look at Liberty and Big Brother Watch.

5) Combat the assault on unions by...
...joining a union. Unions need active members now more so than ever, look after yourself and your colleagues by signing up and staying active.
And if you know any members who have been inactive, encourage them to get involved.

6) Finally, look after each other
The politics of fear triumphed over the politics of hope at the election, but that doesn't have to happen again.
The Conservative campaign played on ordinary people's fears over the economy, but it didn't focus on the fact that they will plunging more and more people into poverty.
Look after your neighbours, reconnect with your community, and, however angry you are right now, remember that feeling in five year's time, when the next election comes around.

Do you support the Conservatives government's planned welfare cuts?

_________________
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'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
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Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The great Tory power grab: how they plan to rule for ever
Since the Conservatives’ narrow election victory, they have been quietly reshaping the political system to give them a permanent advantage. Will any other party be able to challenge their dominance in future?
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/dec/14/conservative-power-gra b-stay-in-power-permanent

Andy Beckett
Monday 14 December 2015 17.39 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 13 September 2016 15.03 BST

Two months ago, the chancellor and would-be prime minister George Osborne invited an unusual visitor to Downing Street. Robert Caro, the American biographer of Lyndon Johnson, US president half a century ago, had dinner and answered questions from Osborne and selected Conservative MPs.

Johnson was a Democrat, and one of America’s most left-leaning leaders. But he was also famously ruthless. “I do understand power, whatever else may be said about me,” Caro’s biography quotes him saying. “I know where to look for it, and how to use it.”

The essence of British democracy is under threat
Read more
Osborne, too, is even more interested in power than most politicians – the accumulation of it for him and his party, the denial of it to others. “Osborne is a political chess player,” writes his biographer Janan Ganesh. The chancellor’s “grand strategy”, Ganesh continues, is “the calculated use of [government] policy” to alter Britain permanently in the Conservatives’ favour. Since school, Osborne has been a keen reader of political history books. His favourite, reportedly, is Caro’s Johnson biography.

The cut in 'Short money' could make a huge difference to the capacity of opposition parties to operate
A few weeks after Osborne met Caro, on 25 November, the chancellor produced his latest economic and political blueprint, the 2015 autumn statement. Half-hidden within it, and not mentioned by Osborne in his accompanying speech to parliament, was a proposed cut in “Short money”, state funding for all opposition parties, of 19%. “It came out of the blue,” says Katie Ghose, head of the pro-democracy pressure group the Electoral Reform Society. “The cut could make a huge difference to the capacity of opposition parties to operate.”

Since the Conservatives won their crafty but narrow election victory in May, they have made other subtle and not-so-subtle adjustments to the playing field of British politics. In October, they gave MPs in England, where their majority is much more solid than in the UK as a whole, greater voting rights than non-English MPs on matters deemed to affect England alone – “English votes for English laws”, or Evel for short.

In August, the prime minister David Cameron created 26 new Conservative peers. Even the usually Tory-supporting Times was uncomfortable at what it saw as an ongoing effort to “pack” the sporadically rebellious House of Lords with government supporters: “Mr Cameron has now created more peers than any other modern prime minister.” Government proposals for taming the Lords further, by reducing its powers to veto legislation, are expected to be slipped out before Christmas.

The House of the Lords: the government is attempting to tame the Lords further, by reducing its powers to veto legislation.
The House of the Lords: the government is attempting to tame the Lords further, by reducing its powers to veto legislation. Photograph: Ben Stansall/PA
The current trade union bill, too, looks like an attempt to give the Tories an impregnability that their small Commons majority does not. By requiring that trade unionists take the trouble to opt in individually to union funds for political parties, even though those funds are already subject to regular ballots, the bill threatens to cut off much of Labour’s largest and longest-established source of money. Meanwhile, the bill’s many proposals to make strikes and other union activities more difficult, particularly in the public sector, suggest a state-shrinking government crudely trying to minimise opposition to its policies. In September, the Financial Times, usually no friend of unions, said the bill was “out of proportion”, and would “threaten basic rights of assembly and free expression”.


Osborne accused of ‘despicable’ attempt to cut opposition party funding
Read more
This year, the government has also increasingly menaced the BBC, another potential centre of resistance, or at least, subjected it to inconvenient scrutiny. During the election campaign, according to the corporation’s then political editor Nick Robinson, Cameron responded to a BBC story that displeased him by telling journalists: “I’m going to close them down after the election.” Within days of winning it Cameron appointed John Whittingdale, long an advocate of drastically shrinking the BBC, as his culture secretary, responsible for negotiating the BBC’s charter, which sets out how the corporation operates, and which expires next year.

“The Tories have found themselves in government, probably to their surprise, and they’ve realised that their hold on power is thin,” says Norman Baker, the former Lib Dem MP and coalition minister, who lost his seat in May. “They want to make sure they stay there. There’s a window, until the opposition reasserts itself.” In August, Baker warned in the Independent that Britain was in danger of becoming “a one-party state”. He wrote: “Those interested in the continuation of a viable multi-party democracy need to wake up.” The Labour MP Chris Bryant, shadow leader of the Commons, is blunter: “I think the Conservatives are rigging the system massively.”

John Whittingdale, Cameron’s culture secretary, has long been an advocate of drastically shrinking the BBC.
John Whittingdale, Cameron’s culture secretary, has long been an advocate of drastically shrinking the BBC. Photograph: Hannah Mckay/EPA
The part of the Conservative power grab that most alarms Bryant and Baker, and also more neutral observers, is the most stealthy and technical, but also the most fundamental. It concerns who gets to vote in general elections, and how they are arranged into constituencies.

In July, against the advice of the independent Electoral Commission, the government announced that it was accelerating the introduction of a new and controversial system for registering voters, Individual Electoral Registration (IER), so that it could be used for elections from the spring of 2016 onwards, including next year’s for London mayor. In theory, IER, which requires voters to register themselves, is a modern, much-needed replacement for the old system of registering voters by household, which was rooted in 19th-century assumptions connecting voting to property ownership. The system was occasionally exploited by electoral fraudsters, and more often was unable to cope with the fluidity of contemporary life – which meant that by 2015, one voter in 10 was left unregistered. The legislation for IER was introduced by Gordon Brown’s Labour government, with Conservative and Lib Dem support, in 2009.

I think the Conservatives are rigging the system massively
Yet since then it has become steadily more clear that, in practice, the new system does not work well for some types of voters. “Inner-city areas, especially those with young and/or student populations and high levels of privately rented property, are most at risk,” according to a report on IER published last month by the left-leaning thinktank the Smith Institute, titled 10 Million Missing Voters! Another recent study, by the pro-diversity pressure group Hope Not Hate, found IER to be most inadequate in places with a lot of “multiple occupancy housing” and “regular home movers”. London and Scotland were the worst affected areas, potentially losing 6.9% and 5.5% of their voters respectively.

The electoral consequences of all this may be profound. London and Scotland, the inner cities, university towns, voters under 25 – these are all contexts where the Conservatives still struggle. At the last general election, according to the pollsters Ipsos Mori, the Conservatives received the support of only 27% of 18- to 24-year-olds. Labour got 43%. The government’s rushed introduction of IER fits a pattern, Baker argues: “Since the election Osborne has gone round saying: ‘Where are the threats to us? Where is the opposition? How can we damage it?’”

Norman Baker, former Lib Dem MP
Norman Baker, former Lib Dem MP: warned Britain is in danger of becoming ‘a one-party state’. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
The government denies that its voter registration reforms are in any way party-political. “Individual electoral registration is to tackle election fraud, to remove ghost voters who don’t exist or have moved on, to make sure we have a clean and fair electoral roll,” said the minister for the constitution John Penrose last month. “The answer to under-registered groups like young people is … to run a vigorous and energetic voter-registration campaign. Which we will do.”

But there are already signs that this campaign, which has been cut short by a year by the early introduction of IER, may not have been as effective as advertised. This month, the university city of Cambridge, which has a Commons seat with a tiny Labour majority of 599, became one of the first places to publish a register of voters compiled using IER. Its electorate had shrunk by more than 10,000. In Liverpool, which has no Conservative MPs, it was down by more than 14,000.

The city of Liverpool
Under voter registration reforms, the number of registered voters in Liverpool shrunk by more than 14,000. Photograph: UK City Images/Alamy
Next spring, the latest review of parliamentary constituency boundaries is due to begin, based on the contentious new electoral register. The results are to be published in the autumn of 2018, well in time for the next general election in 2020. The body carrying out the review, the Boundary Commission, is respected and independent. But everything else about the review has long filled many non-Conservatives with foreboding.

On average, a Labour-held constituency currently contains about 5% fewer voters than a Tory one. Some analysts say this is down to a long-term population drift away from the broadly Labour-supporting north and inner cities, and towards the broadly Tory south and suburbs. But others point out that some inner-city populations are no longer falling but rising, and instead blame the lower rates of voter registration in many Labour areas. Either way, evening out constituency sizes has long been a Conservative ambition.

The boundary review is also intended to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600. The idea of downsizing the Commons was first mooted by Cameron in 2009, in the aftermath of the parliamentary expenses scandal, to “reduce the cost of politics” in an age of austerity. But this bland rationale sits oddly with Britain’s rapidly rising population, and Cameron’s enthusiasm for a larger House of Lords. Bryant says the real motive is strengthening the Conservatives’ Commons position. Inside and outside the Tory party, the expectation is that pruning and evening up the constituencies will improve their advantage over Labour by up to 30 seats.

The Tory expectation is that evening up the constituencies will improve their advantage over Labour by up to 30 seats
In 2013, a Conservative attempt to achieve all this collapsed when they fell out with the Lib Dems over parliamentary reform in general. But now the Tories are in government unencumbered by coalition partners, little can stop the boundary review – and this time, its effects will be magnified because of its use of the new electoral register. According to an investigation last year by the psephologist Lewis Baston: “It could result in a gerrymandered electoral map in which the cities are disproportionately under-represented.” The Labour stronghold of London alone may end up with at least half a dozen fewer MPs than its population merits, he writes. “Whether this is deliberate or not, it would be a disaster for democracy.”

It is possible that the idea of the Tories engineering a permanent supremacy is scaremongering by the other parties. Labour have a history of seeing every boundary review as almost an existential threat, just as many Labour supporters see every general election defeat as the start of perpetual Tory government. But the Conservative power grab fits the pattern of their spending cuts, which have affected Labour councils much more than Conservative ones, and which have hit Britain’s left-leaning young much more than its right-leaning pensioners. And the appetite of the Conservatives to rule and to marginalise their enemies should not be underestimated. In September, within moments of Jeremy Corbyn being elected Labour leader, Conservative headquarters sent an email to its footsoldiers: “WE CAN’T EVER LET LABOUR BACK INTO POWER AGAIN.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn: the Labour stronghold of London could be weakened by boundary changes. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
“George Osborne has got this hegemonic project, to construct a Conservative party state, and to reverse what he sees as the client state that Labour built up,” says Tim Bale of the University of London, a historian of the modern Tory party. “While you can’t quite say he’s gerrymandering, he’s aware that there’s quite a lot you can do on these technical, ‘boring’ issues.” Bale points out that Osborne is an avid student of both contemporary American politics, where the manipulation of constituency boundaries for party advantage is taken for granted, and of 19th-century British politics, when exactly who was able to vote was perhaps the most crucial and closely fought issue. But in today’s relatively apathetic Britain, Bale continues, “Who’s going to get exercised about this stuff? Who’s going to take the time to understand it? These are issues that get traction among the chattering classes, at best.”

The Guardian view on English votes for English laws: the problem of Evel
Read more
What interest most Britons have in electoral structures has been absorbed by the thunderous debate around Scottish independence. Meanwhile, the Conservatives’ quieter power grab has gone largely unnoticed. Ghose says: “The constitution is in a state of flux. Lots of electoral rules are being changed. But if you introduce things piecemeal, it is hard for people to understand how they fit together.”

I ask Bryant why Labour, rather than complaining about the Conservatives’ electoral and constitutional rule-bending, didn’t simply do the same when it was in office. “Maybe we’re just a bit more decent. We devolve power. We introduced Short money for opposition parties when we were in government in the 70s. We trebled it for the Tories when we came to power in 1997.”

You could see such even-handedness as a lack of ruthlessness, as part of a broader Labour tentativeness in office, a tentativeness that caused Tony Blair to govern cautiously in the late 90s, despite a majority of 179 – whereas Cameron governs with a sense of entitlement now, despite a majority of 12.

In fact, Labour governments have not always been as high-minded as Bryant suggests. In the late 60s, when Harold Wilson was prime minister and Jim Callaghan was home secretary – an effective charmer-and-hard-man combination not dissimilar to Cameron and Osborne – the government was presented with another set of boundary review results that strongly favoured the Conservatives. Callaghan simply delayed the implementation of these constituency changes, in defiance of the usual protocol, to the fury of the Tories and much of the press, and the next general election, in 1970, was fought without them.

Labour lost it anyway. “In later years,” writes Callaghan’s biographer, the Labour peer Kenneth O Morgan, “Callaghan was embarrassed by the action he had taken over the electoral boundaries, and he was right to do so. It was a cynical partisan manoeuvre.” Somehow it’s harder to imagine Osborne having such feelings in years to come.

_________________
--
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
http://aangirfan.blogspot.com
http://aanirfan.blogspot.com
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2016 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Where Tory election fraud claims are being investigated, in one map
Posted 4 months ago by Louis Doré in news
https://www.indy100.com/article/where-tory-election-fraud-claims-are-b eing-investigated-in-one-map--bylZ35tQIXb

Nineteen police forces are currently investigating whether expenses were filed illegally in the 2015 general election.

The Conservative party faces claims that it failed to properly record accommodation costs for activists who were bussed to key constituencies as part of candidates' spending.

Instead, these costs were recorded as part of national campaign spending and up to 29 Conservative MPs are thought to have benefited from the scheme.

Here is a map of the 19 police forces investigating election fraud claims across the country:

Those include:

Avon & Somerset
Cheshire
Cumbria
Derbyshire
Devon & Cornwall
Gloucestershire
Greater Manchester
Kent
Lancashire
Lincolnshire
Metropolitan Police (London)
Nottinghamshire
Northamptonshire
Staffordshire
Sussex
Warwickshire
West Midlands
West Yorkshire
Wiltshire

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 11:51 pm    Post subject: by the way......... Reply with quote

Theresa May’s husband is a senior executive at a $1.4tn investment fund that profits from tax avoiding companies

Exclusive: May mentioned Amazon and Starbucks in speech about tax avoidance
Ted Jeory, Jon Stone | @tedjeory | Tuesday 12 July 2016|

The relatively unknown investment fund where Theresa May’s husband Philip works as a senior executive is one of the world’s largest and most powerful financial institutions, controlling $1.4 trillion in assets.

Its portfolio also includes $20 billion of shares in Amazon and Starbucks, both of which were cited by the Prime Minister-designate in her pledge to crack down on tax avoidance yesterday.

Latest filings to US authorities show that Los Angeles based Capital Group owns huge stakes in a variety of companies, including investment bank JP Morgan Chase, defence giant Lockheed Martin, tobacco company Philip Morris International, the pharmaceutical sector’s Merck & Co, and also Ryanair.

The company, which has a low profile outside the financial sector, has confirmed that Mr May, a pension fund expert, works out of its Mayfair office in London, with a spokeswoman telling The Independent: “Philip is a client relationship manager who stays in contact with organisations and institutions in the UK to ensure they are happy with the service being delivered by Capital Group and that we understand their goals. Philip is not involved with our investment research or portfolio management activities.”

Who is Philip May?

However, the company he works for has benefited from its investments in the likes of Amazon and Starbucks, both of which have been criticised for tax avoidance structures and which were mentioned by Ms May as she outlined her manifesto for Downing Street yesterday.

She said: “We need to talk about tax. It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re Amazon, Google or Starbucks: you have a duty to put something back, you have a debt to your fellow citizens, you have a responsibility to pay your taxes. So as Prime Minister, I will crack down on individual and corporate tax avoidance and evasion.”
Capital International's office in London (Google)

It is not clear whether she was aware that her husband’s company was such a significant investor in the Amazon and Starbucks.

According to latest filings on 31 March this year, Capital Group, through its various divisions and funds, including Capital World Investors and Capital Research Global Investors, owned at least 32 million shares in Amazon, worth about $20bn.
?5 tax avoiding companies in the UK

Its 6 per cent stake made it one of Amazon’s biggest shareholders.

It also owned about $2bn of Starbuck shares at the end of March when the total assets under its management was $1.4 trillion.
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Other shareholdings included at least $7bn in JP Morgan Chase, $9bn in Philip Morris International, $5bn in McDonald’s, $6.6bn in Lockheed Martin, and $1.5bn in Ryanair.

A source close to Ms May said: 'She said in her speech that these companies have a duty to put something back. That is her strong view and it remains her strong view.'

It is not clear which clients Mr May deals with on behalf of Capital Group, but his name has been mentioned in the minutes for Norfolk County Council’s pension committee reports, where he has appeared on behalf of his company as a pension manager.

A spokesman for Starbucks said: “We pay all our taxes in the UK and in 2014 we moved our European Headquarters to London. Last year we paid £18m in corporation tax.”

Amazon, which has been previously criticised for diverting profits out of the UK, last year began booking sales in Britain. It has previously denied deliberate tax avoidance.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2016 10:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

18 months on and no arrests - no election re-runs
http://www.electionexpenses.co.uk/

Nick Timothy, PM’s chief of staff, drawn into election expenses scandal
https://www.channel4.com/news/nick-timothy-pms-chief-of-staff-drawn-in to-election-expenses-scandal
Tonight Nick Timothy, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, is in the spotlight for his role in the Conservative election expenses scandal. This programme has confirmed that Mr Timothy played a part in the controversial campaign in South Thanet, which is now under investigation by the police.

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http://utangente.free.fr/2003/media2003.pdf
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2017 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Trump is a buffoon - an accident waiting to happen in the USA
May - with this - a potential lame duck
Are both sides of the Atlantic about to be destabilised?

The inside story of the Tory election scandal
The unexpected Conservative election victory of 2015 transformed British politics. Now an unprecedented Electoral Commission investigation has raised the question of whether it was even a fair fight.
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/mar/23/conservative-election-sca ndal-victory-2015-expenses

by Ed Howker and Guy Basnett Thursday 23 March 2017 06.12 GMt

A few hours after dawn on 8 May 2015, the morning after his unexpected victory in the general election, David Cameron delivered a celebratory speech to the jubilant staff of Conservative campaign headquarters, at 4 Matthew Parker Street, Westminster. “I’m not an old man but I remember casting a vote in 1987 and that was a great victory,” he said. “I remember 2010, achieving that dream of getting Labour out and getting the Tories back in, and that was amazing. But I think this is the sweetest victory of them all.”


The assembled Tory campaign staffers cheered and whistled as Cameron declared: “We are on the brink of something so exciting.” The election result would indeed change British politics, although not in the way that Cameron intended: the obliteration of the Conservatives’ Liberal Democrat coalition partners cleared the way for the referendum that set Britain on a path to leave the EU and ended Cameron’s political career. As a result, Theresa May is now the prime minister, while Cameron is on a speaking tour of US universities and George Osborne is moonlighting as a newspaper editor.

Until recently, Britain thought it knew how the Conservative party had defied expectations to win the election. After the initial shock that predictions of a hung parliament had proved incorrect, a new narrative was soon established. Commentators explained that the Tories had prevailed by successfully emphasising the threat of a Labour coalition with the SNP and deploying the “pumped-up” prime minister for a spurt of decisive last-minute campaigning. Several newspapers reported that the Tories had spent less to win their 12-seat majority in 2015 than they did to win 24 fewer seats in 2010.

In truth, the victorious Conservative campaign was the most complex ever mounted in Britain, run by two of the world’s most successful campaign consultants. Warehouses of telephone pollsters were put to work for a year before the election, their task to track the views of undecided voters in key marginal seats. The party also distributed thousands of detailed surveys to voters in marginals, and merged all this polling data with information from electoral rolls and commercial market research to produce the most comprehensive picture yet of who might be persuaded to vote Conservative.

Armed with an unprecedented level of detail, the Conservatives began distributing leaflets and letters that directly addressed the hopes and fears of their target voters. And in the final weeks of the campaign, shock troops of volunteers were dispatched to the doorsteps of undecided voters with a mission to persuade and cajole on the party’s behalf. In the most high-profile fight, an elite squad of strategists moved from the London HQ to Kent, where the Ukip leader Nigel Farage was making his bid for parliament.

If the sophistication of the 2015 campaign was not widely known, that was by design: the Conservative Home website, a meeting place for party loyalists, called the victory a “stealth win”. But over the last few months, another story has emerged – an account that is told in a paper trail of hotel bills, emails and witness statements that has led to a year-long investigation by the Electoral Commission and the police.

The startling evidence, first unearthed by Channel 4 News and confirmed in a condemnatory report released last week by the Electoral Commission – the independent body that oversees election law and regulates political finance in the UK – suggests that the Conservative party gained an advantage by breaching election spending laws during the 2015 election. This allowed the party to send its most dedicated volunteers into key seats, in which data had identified specific voters whose turnout could swing the contest. Some of this spending was not properly declared, and some of it was entirely off the books. The sums involved are deceptively small, but the impact may have been decisive.

Are British elections being stolen?
Michael Crick
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At present, up to 20 sitting Conservative MPs are the subject of criminal investigation by 16 police forces. If any of the candidates are charged and found guilty of an election offence, they could be barred from political office for three years or spend up to a year in prison. The whole case is unprecedented: this is the largest number of MPs ever to be investigated for violations of electoral law. In the past, cases of alleged election fraud have usually focused on a single MP. This time, there are so many cases that police forces across England have taken the unusual step of coordinating their investigations.

The release of last week’s 38-page Electoral Commission report produced a minor political earthquake: as a result of the biggest investigation the commission has ever undertaken, it levied its largest-ever fine against the Conservative party and referred the case of the party’s treasurer, Simon Day, to the Metropolitan police for further criminal investigation. “There was a realistic prospect,” the report said, that the undeclared spending by the party had “enabled its candidates to gain a financial advantage over opponents.”

The party’s response to the report has been dismissive from the very start. During their investigation, the Electoral Commission was forced to file papers with the high court, demanding that the Conservative party disclose information about its election campaign, after the party had failed to fully comply with their requests for information for three months. Since the report was published, Conservative ministers and spokesmen have pointed out that the commission found only “a series of administrative errors” and that other parties have been fined for their activity in the 2015 election too. Conservatives also say that the missing money identified by the commission represents just 0.6% of the total spent by the party during the 2015 election.

It is true that the sums involved in this case are small: the Electoral Commission’s highest-ever fine turns out to be just £70,000, and it has been applied to punish undeclared and misdeclared Conservative spending totalling just £250,000. Most reports on the commission’s findings have echoed this defence, allowing that some criminal charges may indeed be filed, while overlooking the impact of the overspending on the result.

But British elections are designed to be cheap. Laws that date back to the 1880s limit campaign spending precisely so that people of all backgrounds, and not only the wealthy, have a fair chance to compete for votes. And if that egalitarian principle enhances our political culture, it has another less obvious consequence: even small sums of additional, illegal money, if shrewdly spent, can make a huge difference to results.

Thanks to the Electoral Commission report, we now know that some of the Conservative party’s central spending did benefit MPs in the tightest races, but it was not declared. It is possible even that this money helped to secure the victories from which the Conservative majority was derived. Slowly, a chilling prospect emerges that British politics, our relationship with Europe and the future of our economy, were all transformed following a contest that wasn’t a fair fight.

The Conservatives’ election worries were never financial. By the end of 2014, newspapers reported that the party had raised substantially more money than its rivals, assembling a £78m “war chest” that would allow it to “funnel huge amounts of cash into key seats”, according to the Observer. The campaign would be constrained only by two factors: the legal spending limits for each candidate and the number of volunteers the party could recruit to take its message to voters.

In fact, the scandal in which so many MPs now find themselves embroiled concerns precisely those limits. The spending that has been found to be in violation by the Electoral Commission was used to bring Conservative campaigners into the tightest marginal election battles. Separately, multiple police investigations are examining whether individual candidates and their election agents broke the law.

It is difficult to understand the election expenses scandal without understanding the election strategy that had been unveiled three years before the vote. At a closed session on the first day of the 2012 Conservative conference, the party’s campaign director, Stephen Gilbert, laid out a plan that would come to be known as the 40/40 strategy. For the 2015 election, the party would focus single-mindedly on holding 40 marginal seats and winning another 40. Candidates for these seats would be selected early, and full-time campaign managers – heavily subsidised by Conservative campaign headquarters (CCHQ) – would be appointed in every 40/40 seat.

The 40/40 campaign would be centrally controlled and would require two ingredients. The first was detailed information about every potential Conservative voter in each of the marginal seats. The second was a field team capable of making contact with them and persuading them to vote Tory.

To put the plan into action, the party turned to two men who have helped reshape the way elections are fought. The first, the Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby, had overseen the Tories’ 2005 general election campaign and Boris Johnson’s two victories in London mayoral elections.

Crosby’s notoriety made him the subject of considerable press attention – but the second man behind the Conservative campaign may have been even more important. This was the American strategist Jim Messina, who was hired as a strategy adviser in August 2013. Senior Conservative staff had been awestruck by Barack Obama’s comfortable victories in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, crediting their relentless focus on data to Messina.

British elections are designed to be cheap: even small sums of additional money can make a huge difference to results
Using vast databases, commercial market research, complex questionnaires and phone banks, Messina had been able to map the fears and desires of swing voters, and design highly personalised messaging that would appeal to them. The Conservatives hired him to perform the same magic in Britain. To do so, Messina used commercial call centres to track the views of between 1,000 and 2,000 voters in all 80 of the seats targeted by the 40/40 strategy.

This data was crucial to the Conservative campaign: it determined which voters the party needed to contact and which messages they would hear. This began with direct mail – personally addressed to voters in each target seat, who were divided into 40 different categories, with a slightly different message for each one.

But the big-data strategy requires more than leaflets: once you have identified the voters who might be persuaded to switch, and fine-tuned what message to give them, you have to send campaigners to actually knock on their doors and urge them to go to the polls on election day. This requires an army of volunteers, spread across dozens of constituencies. It fell to the party’s co-chairman, Grant Shapps, to establish the necessary volunteer outreach program, which was dubbed Team2015.

Shapps had begun sending out recruitment emails to the party’s mailing list in the summer of 2013, hoping to build a centrally controlled base of activists who could be deployed to marginal constituencies. CCHQ demanded that Team2015 coordinators be established in every swing seat. It was an uphill struggle. Rallying enthusiastic volunteers to David Cameron’s cause turned out to be a harder task than attracting Obama supporters had been.

David Cameron
‘Under David Cameron’s leadership, the number of party members had further depleted, halving to fewer than 150,000.’ Photograph: Peter Nicholls/PA
Conservative membership had been in long-term decline from a peak of 2.8 million in 1952. Under David Cameron’s leadership, the number of party members had further depleted, halving to fewer than 150,000. Those remaining members tended to be older and less active – not the dynamic door-knocking volunteers that Team2015 wanted to recruit. While some local Conservative associations reported new members, most described numbers as “hit and miss”. One seat’s early Team2015 report records: “[Team2015] invited to party with MP – no one turned up!”

In some marginal seats, Team2015 was almost nonexistent. One campaign manager recalls: “Trying to get members to volunteer was practically impossible, so Team2015 volunteers were even worse. People would put their names down, generally via CCHQ, who would then pass the person’s details to the local campaign manager but, in my case, when I tried to contact them I never got any volunteers.”

As the election drew nearer, Shapps made upbeat reports on the growing volunteer force. But, according to Conservative Home, the party’s records indicate that only about 15,000 people ever turned up to campaign, and fewer than that did so regularly.

There was, however, another team at work. Unsupervised by CCHQ to start with, it would later be adopted as a critical element in the party’s “ground war” since – unlike Team2015 – it had managed to deliver platoons of committed Conservative activists to the places that needed them most in a series of crucial byelections the year before. It was called RoadTrip.

RoadTrip2015 was the brainchild of Mark Clarke, who would become infamous after the election as “the Tatler Tory”, pilloried in the press over accusations that he bullied a young Conservative who later killed himself, and made unwanted sexual advances towards female members of the party – allegations he has always denied. But in 2014, as a failed parliamentary candidate desperate to get back into the party’s good graces, he launched a grassroots volunteer scheme that sent party members into marginal seats to distribute leaflets, knock on doors, and work the voters.

RoadTrip2015’s work began with a March 2014 trip to Cannock Chase, a West Midlands Labour marginal where 50 volunteers battled through a hailstorm to the doorsteps of swing voters. In the months that followed there were trips to Harlow, Chester and Cheadle. In Enfield, Team2015 marshalled 130 volunteers and party co-chair Grant Shapps attended too. But what put the scheme on the map, and drew the admiration of Conservative commentators and MPs, was the Newark bylection in early June 2014.

On 31 May, the Saturday before the byelection, Clarke successfully marshalled 500 volunteers to Nottinghamshire to campaign for the Conservative candidate, Robert Jenrick. Clarke posted his invitation across social media and on the Conservative Home website: “Join us, Grant Shapps and the hundreds of people signed up this Saturday to come to Newark. Afterwards, join Eric Pickles for the inaugural annual RoadTrip2015 dinner (a free curry) in nearby Nottingham. We will take care of your travel from cities like London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and York.”

The Newark campaign was the first major stress test for the Conservatives’ parliamentary election team. By polling day, 5 June, they were feeling intense pressure from Ukip, which had triumphed in the European elections two weeks earlier – showing they were more than capable of stealing support away from the Conservatives.

Before Clarke’s RoadTrip arrived in Newark, a small team of senior Conservative staff – including Stephen Gilbert and a “campaign specialist” named Marion Little – had quietly taken position on the outskirts of the town at the Kelham House country manor hotel. In Newark itself, many more junior party employees – some of them campaign managers from other 40/40 seats – worked from temporary offices during the day and, at night, stayed in a Premier Inn.

The well-resourced Tory campaign turned out to be decisive and Robert Jenrick was returned with a 7,403 majority – rather smaller than his predecessor, but still substantial. But, on the evening of the count an exasperated Nigel Farage, interviewed by Channel 4 News political correspondent Michael Crick, raised the first concerns about Conservative election expenses – which, he suggested, might have breached the £100,000 limit for campaign spending in a byelection.

“Given the number of paid professional people from the Conservative party here, it is difficult to believe that their returns are going to come in below the figure,” Farage said, referring to the documents every candidate must file to detail their campaign costs. “I’d love to see what their returns are. Because it seems to me the scale of the campaign they fought here is so vast … There will certainly be some questions.”

The rules in a byelection contest are simple. All costs incurred in promoting the candidate in parliamentary elections – advertising, staff costs, unsolicited leaflets and letters, transport for campaigners, hotels that volunteers do not pay for themselves, and administrative costs such as phone bills and stationery – must be declared. Deliberate overspending can be a criminal offence, and it may also lead to an election being declared void.

Robert Jenrick’s campaign in Newark had declared expenses of £96,191. But the Electoral Commission later found that his return did not include the hotel bills for 54 nights of accommodation for senior Conservative staff, or 125 nights of hotel rooms for junior Conservative staff at the Premier Inn. Those costs totalled more than £10,000; had they been declared, the campaign would have breached the spending limits. Farage had been correct. (When questioned by Channel 4 News in 2016, Jenrick denied all wrongdoing. In response to questions about by-election hotel expenses, the party responded that “all byelection spending has been correctly recorded in accordance with the law”.)

At the time, however, these details remained unknown – and Channel 4 News reporters did not discover the undeclared hotel bills until long after the one-year time limit for the imnvestigation and prosecution of election crimes had passed. As a result, there was little attention to increasing Conservative spending in two more crucial byelections.

In October 2014, another huge team of Conservatives descended on Clacton-on-Sea, where Douglas Carswell had defected from the Conservatives to stand as a Ukip candidate. Again, hotels were booked for visiting campaign staff, and a return of £84,049 was filed – which did not mention all the party’s hotel costs of 290 nights at the Lifehouse Spa & Hotel, and 71 nights at the Premier Inn, worth at least £22,000. Had they been declared, the overspending would have been more than £8,000.

In Rochester and Strood, where the defection to Ukip of yet another Tory candidate, Mark Reckless, prompted another byelection in November 2014, the Conservatives could have breached the spending limit by a far larger amount – more than £51,096. As detailed in the Electoral Commission report, their candidate did not declare hotel costs of at least £54,304 against expenses of £96,793. The Conservatives still lost both contests. (Neither of the Conservative candidates responded to requests for comment. The party replied on their behalf that all spending was filed in accordance with the law.)

In these byelections, RoadTrip2015 – which was now supported by CCHQ and endorsed by Shapps – became an increasingly important influence. When the campaign launched a Facebook page advertising for a “Clacton Volunteer Force”, 1,300 people signed up to take part. In Rochester and Strood, it offered volunteers who turned out on Saturday 8 November “FREE transport there and back, FREE drinks and access to the FREE RoadTrip2015 Disraeli Dinner with a very special guest speaker!” The guest speaker was Theresa May, who was filmed celebrating with volunteers. She said: “What you do matters so much because, although what the politicians do has got a role to play, in terms of election campaigning, it’s the people who go out on the doorsteps, who knock on those doors, who make those telephone calls, who put those leaflets through the door, that make a real difference to the results we have.”

By the time of the 2015 general election, the tactics that the party had used to saturate all three byelection constituencies with activists and workers would all come together: there would be more buses of volunteers, more undeclared hotel bookings, and more senior advisers moved out of London into crucial seats. But this time, it would be discovered.

Today, two pieces of rather antiquated legislation exist to tame the influence of money on our elections. The first law governs spending by constituency candidates in the run-up to a general election during two time periods: the “long campaign” runs from about six months before polling day until parliament is dissolved; what follows is the “short campaign”, a final frenzied push for votes that lasted for 38 days in 2015.

The spending limits in each period are tight, with exact values depending on the type of constituency (borough or county) and the number of voters. For the “long campaign” in 2015, the totals were typically around £35,000 to £45,000. While in the short campaign, the most crucial campaign period, the limits were tighter still, set at £8,700 plus 6p or 9p per elector, giving a limit of around £10,000 to £16,000.

The limits are low, theoretically allowing as many people as possible to mount a viable campaign for election. Any costs incurred promoting the candidate in the constituency – from advertising, administration and public meetings, to party-paid transport for campaigners, staff costs and accommodation – must be honestly declared. At the end of the campaign, every penny spent must be declared in an official spending return submitted soon after the end of the campaign. Each spending return includes a declaration that certifies it is “complete and accurate … as required by law”. This must be signed by both the candidate and their election agent – a member of the local party that they appoint to manage their spending. Failing to declare spending, and spending over the limit, are criminal offences.

The second election spending law applies to political parties, and sets much higher limits for their spending on national campaigning during a specified period – roughly a year – before the election. The precise limit is derived by multiplying the number of constituencies being contested by £30,000. For the Conservatives in 2015, this gave the party a national limit of £18.9m to spend promoting David Cameron and his plan for the country through advertisements, billboards and direct mail. As it turned out, the party ended up declaring a figure well below the limit – around £15.6m. It is the responsibility of the national party treasurers to ensure that these national returns are correct, and again they commit an offence if they are found not to be.

Of course, the existence of two different laws setting out two different spending limits – one for local spending and one for national spending – is a source of potential confusion. In the real world of campaigning, there are bound to be expenses that do not fit neatly into one category or the other. For example, leaflets may contain a national message on one page – promoting the party’s leader or policies – and a local message, from the constituency candidate, on another page. When this happens, both the party and the candidates are required to make an “honest assessment”, in the words of law, about how much of the cost of the leaflet should be declared on both returns, before “splitting” the value accordingly. To aid transparency, election material must, by law, carry an “imprint” that shows whether it was produced for the local candidate or for the national campaign.

But the presence of two separate spending laws also presents an opportunity for abuse. Much of the scandal surrounding the Conservative party’s 2015 election spending relates to evidence that suggests spending declared as “national” – where limits are much higher – was, in reality, used to promote local candidates, who face much tighter spending limits.

In fact, it is the enormous difference between the national limits, in the millions, and the local limits, in the tens of thousands, that makes these allegations so significant. Even small amounts of candidate overspending – easily buried in the multimillion-pound national accounts – could have a significant impact on a local campaign, and even shift the result.

Following Ukip’s triumph in the Clacton and Rochester byelections in late 2014, the Conservative campaign faced a miserable winter. Labour led the polls for a few months, and by April 2015, pollsters and pundits were predicting a hung parliament.

The Conservatives made two moves that helped to turn the tables. The first was a new message – to stoke fear that without a clear Conservative majority, Britain would be run by a coalition between Labour and the Scottish National Party.

The second was a new tactic, based on RoadTrip2015. Mark Clarke’s day-long campaign events in the run-up to the general election had given the Conservatives a taste of what the party desperately needed – enthusiastic volunteers knocking on doors in areas that mattered. Historically, Labour had better form bringing activists into marginal battlegrounds, largely thanks to its more active membership drawn from the unions. The Conservative party, with its dwindling and increasingly inactive membership, often found it had no response.

The Conservative party insists that the BattleBus was only intended to conduct national campaigning
But a new plan grew from the seeds of RoadTrip, one that involved busloads of activists and block-booked hotel rooms. BattleBus2015 would send a fleet of coaches to three regions of the UK – the south-west, the Midlands and the north – for the final 10 days of the election campaign. These mobile units, each with around 40 party activists, would stay in hotels in each region, from where they would be loaded onto coaches and driven into different marginals to campaign each day. This would allow the party to flood 29 key seats with much-needed support: nine in the south-west, 10 in the Midlands and 10 in the north.

Receipts for the hotels and coaches, obtained later by Channel 4 News, would prove the operation was expensive. The Electoral Commission later calculated that the BattleBus operation cost £102,483, which works out to around £3,500 for each seat it visited. But while the national party could easily absorb the cost before hitting its spending cap, many of the local candidates were already cutting it fine. If they had to declare the extra costs associated with bringing in more campaigners, the majority would breach the limit.

In the event, £38,996 of the BattleBus costs were declared on the Conservative party’s national return, while the other £63,487, which included the hotels used by volunteers, was not declared at all. The Conservative party put this down to “human error”.

None of the 29 candidates visited by BattleBus declared any of its costs. Whether this should be categorised as national or local spending depends on what the activists did: if they promoted local candidates, even part of the time, then at least some costs associated in bringing them to the constituency should have been declared locally.

The Conservative party insists that BattleBus was only intended to conduct national campaigning. The Electoral Commission report states that it “has found no evidence to suggest that the party had funded the BattleBus2015 campaign with the intention that it would promote or procure the electoral success of candidates”. But, the report continues, “coaches of activists were transported to marginal constituencies to campaign alongside or in close proximity to local campaigners,” and “it is apparent that candidate campaigning did take place during the BattleBus2015 campaign”. It adds that, in the commission’s view, a proportion of the costs should have been declared in candidate campaign filings, “casting doubt” on whether these candidate spending returns were accurate.

The Conservative party has responded to these allegations by insisting that BattleBus volunteers did not promote local candidates. But on Twitter, in the weeks before the election, the BattleBus activists hailed their own efforts to win over voters for specific candidates. On 2 May, one volunteer wrote: “1,300 voters talked to on the doorstep in Amber Valley today for @VoteNigelMills!”. Another posted: “Nice homes in the beautiful Amber Valley – great reaction on the doorsteps in support of Nigel Mills.”

Photographs posted on social media add to the layers of evidence. One young female activist is pictured on a doorstep holding a leaflet bearing the name of Nigel Mills. In the north, a group of activists in Sherwood were photographed holding calling cards for the candidate Mark Spencer, carrying his name and image, and the words: “I called by today with my local team to hear your views.” Channel 4 News has spoken to a handful of volunteers who say their time on the BattleBus involved local campaigning.

Gregg and Louise Kinsell, a married couple from Market Drayton, Shropshire, joined the Conservative party in the run-up to the election, motivated by a mix of patriotic pride, shared values and a liking for David Cameron. They signed up to join BattleBus2015 for its final stretch in the south-west, visiting four constituencies over four days: Stroud; Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport; St Ives and North Cornwall. The aim of the south-west tour was to turn the nine yellow seats of the Liberal Democrats into a sea of blue for the Conservatives – and the Tories won all but one.

The BattleBus operation is still being investigated, but the Kinsells firmly believe that, contrary to claims of Conservative party HQ, they and their fellow volunteers did promote local candidates. “The coach would pull in”, Louise says, “and they’d all be cheering. Honestly, we were like the big hitters coming down to make sure that we win. That’s exactly how it was.”

The couple recall that senior activists gave them scripts about the local candidates to memorise on the bus, in order to be ready to sing their virtues on the doorsteps of undecided voters. Specially prepared briefing notes helped them absorb local issues. And they claim they were handed bundles of locally focused leaflets and calling cards to slip through the letterboxes of prospective voters. The voting intentions of the people they called upon were carefully logged. The couple are clear that they were used as a tactic to “sway marginal seats”, and are angry at the ongoing claim of the Conservative party and some MPs that the BattleBus operation only promoted the national message. “If people are saying – and the MPs concerned in these areas are saying that it was part of a greater expense nationally for the Conservatives, that’s an obvious falsehood,” Gregg says.

Craig Mackinlay with Nigel Farage and Al Murray, Margate, 8 May 2015
Nigel Farage, Al Murray and the winning Conservative candidate Craig Mackinlay at the count for the South Thanet seat, May 2015. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
But if there was one seat, among the 40/40 constituencies, that the Conservatives were most set upon winning, it was South Thanet in Kent. There, the Conservative party’s principal rival, Nigel Farage, would take on Craig Mackinlay in the most closely watched contest of the 2015 election.

Today the investigation into the Conservative victory in South Thanet is staffed by nine officers from the Kent police serious economic crime unit. The questions they are considering are familiar to those raised in the 2014 byelections. Were the hotel costs for visiting Conservative staffers in South Thanet – nearly £20,000 in total – properly declared?

After his election victory, Craig Mackinlay filed expenses of £14,838 for the short campaign – just £178 under the spending limit – but made no mention of the Royal Harbour hotel in Ramsgate where senior party workers had taken rooms. Was that an honest account of his expenses? And if not, who was responsible?

The search for answers has so far taken in boxes of internal Conservative documents, the testimony of campaigners, and a six-hour police interview earlier this month with Mackinlay. But a more basic question about the election remains disputed: who actually ran his South Thanet campaign? The list is longer than it should be.

At the top is the name Nathan Gray, Mackinlay’s election agent. In common with many of the “campaign managers” employed as part of the 40/40 strategy, Gray’s enthusiasm for politics was not matched by his experience. Then 26, he had never done the job before. (Gray denies any wrongdoing.)

In the aftermath of the great victory against Nigel Farage in South Thanet, Gray was largely written out of the story and replaced by Nick Timothy, a long-time special advisor to Theresa May who is now the prime minister’s joint chief of staff. In his book Why the Tories Won, Tim Ross describes how Timothy “was sent to take charge of the party’s flagging campaign to stop Farage in Thanet”. Grant Shapps even said recently that Timothy was “front and centre” in South Thanet. But he was not responsible for filing the expenses return and, when contacted about his involvement, a spokesperson stated that he provided “assistance for the Conservative party’s national team and would have given advice to any candidate who asked for it and indeed did so”. There is no suggestion that Timothy is at fault.

An analysis of the campaign written afterwards for the South Thanet Conservative Association credits someone else entirely: “In February [2015] CCHQ sent a professional team to help us. Their leader, Marion Little, is a very experienced election ‘trouble shooter’, and from the moment she arrived she effectively took control of the whole campaign.”

A Conservative staffer since 1984, Little had held the previous title “battleground director” of the Conservative party. And just as she had a formidable presence in the byelections of Newark, Clacton and Rochester and Strood, so she transformed the South Thanet Conservative’s constituency office into a military command post. Little was also not responsible for filing the election spending for South Thanet but she worked long into the night, battle planning and deploying troops: “Dear Team ‘South Thanet’,” she wrote in an email on 23 March. “Just to confirm that this weeks’ [sic] meeting schedule is as follows …” When Nick Timothy did make suggestions, they were run by Little: “Are we not putting ‘two horse race’ on everything?” he asked her in one email sent on 29 March 2015, before adding: “don’t we need to?”

Little didn’t respond when asked whether her role in South Thanet involved local campaigning.

Buses of activists also descended from London. Volunteers were dubbed the “South Thanet Soldiers”. One Labour campaigner, Peter Wallace, recalled seeing hordes of well-dressed young Conservatives working the constituency week after week. “They were like Terminators,” he said, “straight out of GQ, out of London and on our patch. They blew us away.”

Photographs and videos taken by Conservatives in the final weeks of campaigning show the scale of the resources used to bolster the party. There were visits from Boris Johnson and George Osborne, and groups of campaigners arriving on liveried Conservative coaches ready to work for Craig Mackinlay. On the morning of the election, party co-chairs Grant Shapps and Lord Feldman arrived with Mark Clarke and a coach of last-minute campaigners.

In the end Mackinlay defeated Farage in some style. The problem is that when Timothy and Little stayed down in South Thanet, they lived in some style too. The local spending limit in the election was just £15,016, but the bill for rooms housing the troubleshooters from CCHQ at the Royal Harbour hotel ran to £15,641 alone. Mackinlay denies any wrongdoing.

“They had a few rooms block-booked, yeah,” James Thomas, the owner of the Royal Harbour, told Channel 4 News. “All hotels become headquarters, unofficially sometimes,” he added. “Mr Farage was going to be defeated by them, so they made sure they had the right brains to do that.”

More hotel receipts, uncovered by Channel 4 News, showed more party workers staying at the Margate Premier Inn, some for 12 nights, with a total cost of £3,809. Little’s name was on the bill, but these costs were not declared in the local return or the party’s national expenses. It appeared to resemble the spending in the 2014 byelections – the money was off-the-books. The difference was that, this time, the Conservatives won.

The first report into the Conservative party’s election expenses was broadcast by Michael Crick on Channel 4 News in late January 2016. It was a short item on a slow news day, which simply asked why the cost of rooms at the Royal Harbour hotel in South Thanet had been declared as part of the Conservatives’ national – rather than local – campaign expenses. Why, Crick asked, would a team of top Conservatives be based at a small provincial hotel miles from anywhere if not to work on behalf of the Conservative candidate fighting Nigel Farage for the seat?

When investigative reporters at Channel Four News began to look at the threads connecting tactics in South Thanet to other high-profile Conservative campaigns, a tangle of receipts and emails revealed the party’s hidden spending elsewhere: undeclared hotels, busloads of activists on specialist missions, and senior CCHQ staff buried deep in provincial England.

For months, the Conservative party repeated that all their campaign spending was “in accordance with the law”. A member of the party’s governing body stepped in front of the cameras on 1 March to announce: “Channel 4 has got it wrong.” But eventually the Electoral Commission, which had been widely criticised as toothless, developed canines and sank them into the case. After pressing the party for three months, they were finally provided with seven boxes of papers in May 2016. The secrets they held would make police investigations inevitable but, even then, the Conservatives dug in.

One of the nation’s leading QCs was dispatched by Craig Mackinlay to Folkestone magistrates’ court to halt a Kent police investigation into election spending offences in South Thanet. He failed, and the detectives’ work continued. By the middle of June, 17 forces were conducting investigations into 27 sitting Conservative MPs. Since then, 12 police forces have passed files to the CPS to review, and up to 20 sitting MPs wait to discover if criminal charges will be brought, while other forces still sift through evidence.

In the meantime, the prime minister re-elected in 2015 has melted away, while the election expenses scandal continues to lap at the door of No 10 Downing Street. Theresa May’s chief of staff Nick Timothy and her political secretary Stephen Parkinson were both part of the team dispatched to South Thanet by CCHQ; both took rooms in the Royal Harbour hotel. Whether the reality of their work is reflected in the spending documents signed by Mackinlay is the essential question that Kent police must answer. The photograph in which May appears, walking with members of the senior campaign team on South Thanet’s seafront three weeks before election day, should also give the prime minister pause to consider her own party’s tactics.

Should the Conservative MPs still under investigation face trial and be convicted, May’s government will be imperilled. Her majority is just 17.

In deciding whether or not to prosecute, the CPS must consider two clear tests. The first concerns the public interest in pursuing prosecutions and is met easily: the integrity of our election process is at stake. The second test regards the chance of success at trial. This is harder to meet, because the law says that prosecutors would have to prove that the candidate or agent knowingly submitted a false return.

A likely defence is clear. In South Thanet, Mackinlay has told police that the senior Conservatives who came into his constituency to work on his campaign were not under his “direction or control”, so he is not accountable for their activity. Other MPs who enjoyed a visit from the BattleBus have said that they were told by party headquarters that it was a national scheme. While few of the MPs under investigation have publicly revealed what they knew of the real effect of BattleBus, some have stated publicly that they received an email from the RoadTrip founder and BattleBus organiser Mark Clarke, instructing them not to declare the costs. (Clarke declined our request for comment.)

After one year of investigation, the Electoral Commission has found categorically that at least some of the spending the party claimed was national spending was spent on “candidate campaigning” and therefore should have been declared by candidates on their local returns. They did not. This, the commission said, had potentially given them a “financial advantage over opponents”. It was the responsibility of the candidates and their agents to do so. According to the law, the responsibility for failing to do so lies only with the candidate and the agent.

It is too soon to say whether charges will be brought. Lancashire police recently told the BBC that it has dropped its investigation into one MP who received the BattleBus, David Morris. Press reports have cited police sources who suggest that prosecutors “might decide to make an example” of others.

But if prosecutors decide not to “make an example”, they may set a legal precedent instead. Future candidates will reasonably conclude that they can, with the assistance of their parties, circumvent the electoral laws intended to keep our democracy free and fair – and that parties and candidates alike may do so without facing any penalty.

The Channel 4 News investigations team are: editor, Job Rabkin; producer, Andy Lee; Channel 4 News managing editor, Ed Fraser

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And what is the intention as far as your families health and data are concerned? :

What the Media is not telling you about the National Health Service

http://thebridgelifeinthemix.info/finance/media-telling-national-healt h-service/#sthash.rPhrMsP8.GsuNEqtv.dpuf

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PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2017 12:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Myth-busting the “Tory election fraud” – A 10-point guide
Posted on May 10, 2017 by thesecretbarrister
https://thesecretbarrister.com/2017/05/10/myth-busting-the-tory-electi on-fraud-a-10-point-guide/

The offending Battle Bus

1. So what’s all this about a Tory election fraud?

The Crown Prosecution Service today announced that, following a police investigation into allegations relating to Conservative Party candidates’ expenditure during the 2015 General Election campaign, no charges will be brought. Fourteen police forces submitted files of evidence for the CPS to consider, said to show that candidates and their agents had submitted inaccurate expenditure returns and, in the case of all but one (a decision on which is pending), the CPS have concluded that no criminal charges should be authorised.

2. What was inaccurate about the expenditure returns?

In short, there are complex rules governing expenditure during election campaigns. One of the more simple is a legal requirement that all candidates – or in practice, their agents – submit to the returning officer within 35 days of the election a “true return” declaring their expenditure, stating all payments made relevant to the campaign together with invoices and receipts. This allows, among other things, for people to check that a candidate has not breached the spending limits (calculated according to a convoluted formula set out in section 76(2) of the Representation of the People Act 1983) to secure an unfair advantage. There are similar rules prescribed for registered political parties in relation to national campaigns. In the 2015 General Election, the Conservative Party deployed “Battlebus2015”, a campaign in which party activists were bussed into target marginal seats. Problems arose when it emerged, as part of a Channel 4 investigation, that the travel, accommodation and subsistence costs of those activists had been classified as national party expenditure – part of the nationwide Conservative Party campaign – rather than local expenditure, and was therefore not declared on the records of the candidates whose campaigns the activists appeared to be helping. It was suggested by political opponents that this represented a deliberate attempt to circumvent the spending limits.

3. This sounds familiar. Hasn’t there already been a prosecution?

You’re thinking of the Electoral Commission investigation, which reported in March of this year. One of the many inexplicable quirks of electoral law is that it is enforced separately at national and local level. The Electoral Commission is the statutory regulator with investigatory and enforcement powers over registered political parties, and is responsible for securing compliance with requirements relating to, inter alia, political party campaign spending. The Commission has the power to investigate alleged breaches of the law and, if it finds a breach proved, to impose financial penalties, as set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA). But this is only at the national party level. The law governing individual candidates is the criminal law set out in the Representation of the People Act 1983 (RPA), enforced in the criminal courts by the police and Crown Prosecution Service. So where, as here, there are allegations that local expenditure has been misrecorded as national, it straddles the two parallel regimes. The Electoral Commission therefore investigated what offences, if any, were committed by the party, with the police and CPS looking at individual candidates and their agents.

4. What allegations did the Electoral Commission consider?

The Commission investigated a series of alleged discrepancies arising out of three by-elections in 2014 (Clacton, Newark and Rochester & Strood), European Parliament elections in 2014 and the General Election in 2015. This was wider than the CPS investigation that followed, as criminal proceedings in respect of any offences committed in 2014 were time-barred by statute, meaning the CPS were only concerned with the 2015 allegations. The full report is here, but in short, the Electoral Commission considered a series of allegations that the Conservative Party had failed to declare a complete statement of its spending, both by wrongly declaring local expenditure as national and by omitting certain expenditure – including £63,487 on the Battlebus – altogether; had failed to provide adequate accounting records; and had failed to keep invoices and receipts. Responsibility for this was said to ultimately fall on the Treasurer, Simon Day (who is presently under police investigation and so about whom nothing more will be said).

5. What did the Electoral Commission conclude?

It found that there had been three failures to keep accounting records sufficient to adequately show their transactions (in contravention of section 41 of PPERA), all of which related to the 2014 by-elections. And it found proved two offences proved under section 82(4)(b), firstly in failing to submit a complete spending return (by wrongly including £118,124 of local candidate spending and omitting at least £104,765 of national spending) and in failing to provide receipts and invoices to the value of £52,924. The Commission fined the Conservative Party a record £70,000.

6. That sounds pretty damning. So why are the CPS are now refusing to prosecute?

It has to be borne in mind that the Electoral Commission and CPS were considering separate issues and applying separate tests, albeit with a common factual nexus. As far as the local candidates were concerned, there were two available criminal offences: “knowingly making a false declaration” contrary to s.82(6) of the RPA, amounting to a “corrupt practice” punishable upon conviction by up to two years’ imprisonment; and a lesser offence of failing to deliver a true return, amounting to an “illegal practice” contrary to sections 81 and 84, punishable by a fine. The distinction between “corrupt” and “illegal” in this context is that dishonesty – i.e. knowledge that you are acting dishonestly according to the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people – must be present to prove the more serious “corruption” offence. When considering whether to prosecute, the CPS applies the “Full Code Test”. This has two parts – the evidential test and the public interest test. The evidential test is simply: is there a realistic prospect of conviction – i.e. of persuading a court of guilt beyond reasonable doubt – based on the available evidence? If this is satisfied, you go on to consider whether a prosecution is in the public interest. The CPS formed the view that, as the candidates and their agents had been assured by Conservative Party HQ that the Battlebus expenditure was legitimately part of the national campaign, it would be very difficult to prove that the candidates or agents acted dishonestly, as opposed to having acted mistakenly in good faith. In relation to the lesser offence of failing to deliver a true return, the CPS concluded, perhaps charitably, that for for the same reason it was not in the public interest to charge any of the agents or candidates with that offence.

7. So the Conservatives did nothing wrong?

You would be forgiven for thinking so, given the undignified grandstanding indulged in by Conservative Party members today – including utterly ludicrous calls from Karl McCartney MP, one of those investigated, to “abolish the Electoral Commission”, as if the CPS’ decision in any way undermines the Commission’s findings. It is a far leap from “insufficient evidence to prosecute in this instance” to “proven innocent of any wrongdoing ever”. The CPS appeared satisfied, as was the Electoral Commission, that the returns were inaccurate. You do not get fined £70,000 for playing by the rules. Furthermore, it must not be forgotten that during the Electoral Commission’s investigation, the Conservative Party was wilfully obstructive and refused to cooperate fully with the inquiry. This was one of the reasons cited in the Commission’s report for the unprecedented level of fine:

“The unreasonable uncooperative conduct by the Party, of which this offence was one element, which delayed without good reason and for a number of months the provision of information needed to progress the investigation. This in turn increased the public funds incurred by the Commission during the investigation.”

8. But the Prime Minister said earlier:

“The CPS has decided – they are an independent body – they have decided that no charges will be brought against any candidate in relation to this matter. Candidates did nothing wrong. It’s very important and I repeat that – I have said it many times – candidates did nothing wrong.”

and

“[The CPS] confirmed what we believed all along” – that “local spending was properly reported”.

Is she lying?

Yes. Brazenly. The CPS in fact said the opposite, concluding, as we’ve seen, that there was evidence to support a prosecution of failing to submit true expenditure reports, but declined to prosecute as an act of clemency on public interest grounds.

In fact, lest anyone else be tempted to swallow the claim that the Party and its candidates have nothing to be ashamed of, the Commission’s reasons for imposing the £70k fine are worth reproducing in full:

In determining this penalty the Commission took into account the following factors:
The magnitude of the contraventions and the harm caused to confidence in the PPERA regime were, in the Commission’s view, significant.
The correct apportionment of spending between parties and candidates has a significant impact on the effectiveness of, and public confidence in, the PPERA regime.
The advantage obtained by the Party from its actions with each invoice provided to each of the three candidates and agents which inaccurately understated the amount spent by the Party on behalf of the three candidates. This is irrespective of whether, in the end, the Party’s candidates were successful in the by-election.
The significant uncertainty for voters as to whether the Party complied with its duties significantly, which increased the weighting to be attached to the magnitude of the breach and the impact on public confidence.
The lack of cooperation by the Party during the investigation.
The fact that the Party does not accept the requirement to keep records of this type, which leads the Commission to consider the risk that the Party may follow a similar course of action in future if the Commission does not take robust action to make its position clear.
An acceptance that, while the second and third contraventions were no less serious than the first, the three separate failures resulted from the same misconceived course of action.
In respect of the offence under section 82(4)(b) of PPERA related to the failure to deliver the Party’s 2015 UKPGE spending return with a statement of all campaign spending payments, the Commission has imposed the maximum financial penalty of £20,000.
In determining this penalty the Commission took into account the following factors;
The omission of over £100,000 of spending from the Party’s return alone, which was a significant loss of transparency and a failure of significant magnitude. The actual value of the under- and overstated spending was likely to be far greater.
The advantage obtained by Party by its actions; the inclusion in the Party return of what in the Commission’s view should have been reported as candidate spending meant that there was a realistic prospect that this enabled its candidates to gain a financial advantage over opponents. In this respect the Commission noted that the Battlebus2015 campaign visited target constituencies and that South Thanet was also a key priority for the Party.
The unreasonable uncooperative conduct by the Party, of which this offence was one element, which delayed without good reason and for a number of months the provision of information needed to progress the investigation. This in turn increased the public funds incurred by the Commission during the investigation.
In respect of the offence under section 82(4)(b) of PPERA related to the failure to deliver all the required invoices or receipts with the Party’s 2015 UKPGE spending return, the Commission has imposed a financial penalty of £5,000.
In determining this penalty the Commission took into account the following factors:
The harm caused to confidence in the party finance regime represented an aggravating factor, in light of the value of the payments and the campaign to which they related. The omission of supporting information undermines the ability of the Commission and the public to review and verify the spending figures within the return. There was a consequent impact on transparency and most likely, as a direct result, on public confidence.
The unreasonable uncooperative conduct by the Party during the investigation, of which this offence was one element, which delayed without good reason and for a number of months the provision of information needed to progress the investigation.
The Party has now provided the missing invoices and receipts. However, these were only provided as a result of the Commission’s enquiries.
9. This sounds like a giant cover-up. Jeremy Corbyn is right to publicly announce that he is “surprised” by the CPS’ decision.

No. No no no. No. Just no. There is no evidence at all to reasonably support the claim that the CPS have reached the wrong decision; in fact it was predicted by much wiser commentators months ago. It was always likely to be tricky to prove that local candidates completing their expense returns in reliance on the advice of party HQ were individually dishonest, as opposed to careless. Furthermore, the golden rule in all such cases is that anyone not privy to the evidence, and who is limited to the information in the public domain, should tread carefully before reaching a view on the correctness of the CPS’ determination. To criticise a prima facie explicable decision without having seen the evidence on which it is based, or to imply conspiracy or undue influence, is to snap Occam’s Razor in a political tantrum.

10. So everything’s fine?

No. I wouldn’t say that either. Reform of the law in this area merits serious consideration. It is confusing and unjustifiable to have parallel systems for registered parties and individual candidates. There is something artificial about distinguishing between “national” and “local” expenditure where, as here, the national party focusses its resources on helping candidates in marginal local seats. As David Allen Green sensibly points out, the current set-up invites problems such as those that arose in this case. The statute of limitations of 12 months, which excluded consideration of the 2014 by-election, appears ripe for reconsideration. And the powers of the Electoral Commission are puny. A maximum fine of £20,000 for a single offence committed by a national Party does not even approach a deterrent. Commission chairman Sir John Holmes observed:

“There is a risk that some political parties might come to view the payment of these fines as a cost of doing business; the Commission therefore needs to be able to impose sanctions that are proportionate to the levels of spending now routinely handled by parties and campaigners.”

It’s not just the Conservatives at fault, either. It must be pointed out that the Electoral Commission has recently fined both Labour and the Lib Dems £7,000 and £20,000 respectively for similar failures to declare spending. There is much wrong in this case, and plenty that we can learn. Unfortunately for the more excitable on the internet, neither a failure by the CPS to pin down a clear Tory electoral fraud, nor vituperative incompetence on the part of a bumbling Electoral Commission persecuting innocents, is the lesson to take home.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

5. Marion Little, Tory activist
She has been awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) - the next most prestigious award after the CBE - presumably due to her role as a long-serving party organiser based at head office with the title 'campaign specialist'.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/new-years-honours-the-7- biggest-tory-cronies-given-awards-by-david-cameron-a6791901.html


Thanet Conservative candidate Craig Mackinlay charged over Tory election fraud investigation
Also charged are Nathan Gray, his election agent, and Marion Little, a party organiser, the CPS said
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/conservative-election-fr aud-craig-mackinlay-south-thanet-mp-candidate-nigel-farage-tory-charge -cps-a7768596.html

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Police announce 'significant' investigation into Tory election call centre

The Tories and South Wales based Blue telecoms have denied breaking electoral law during the campaign
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/police-announce-significant-inve stigation-tory-11052322
ByMikey Smith Jon Vale

12:14, 25 AUG 2017Updated12:19, 25 AUG 2017

News
Police are investigating a call centre operating on behalf of the Tories (Image: REUTERS)

Police say they are carrying out a 'significant' investigation into a secretive call centre operating on behalf of the Conservative party in the run up to the election.

An undercover investigation at the Blue Telecoms call centre in South Wales claimed the cold-call centre broke data protection and election law.

Call centre workers at the market research firm in Neath, South Wales, read from a script as they made thousands of calls to voters in marginal seats in the weeks leading up to the election.

But the undercover probe by Channel 4 News found the script appeared to canvass for support - which would be regulated under electoral law - rather than conducting market research - which would not.

Calls were also allegedly made on the day of the election to promote individual candidates - which could be in breach of electoral law.
The Conservative party say the call centre was operating legally (Image: Leon Neal)

It's against the law to pay someone to canvass for a particular candidate.

The investigation into the contracting of the business in Neath was confirmed in a letter from South Wales Police to Labour MP Wayne David.

The Conservative Party has said it did not break the law by using the company, which it said was hired to carry out legal market research and direct marketing.

In a letter to Mr David, South Wales Police confirmed the investigation is being carried out by its economic crime unit, who have experience in dealing with "electoral integrity investigations".

It adds there is no timescale for the investigation because it is of "sufficient scale and significance that South Wales Police are unable to offer any specific timescale".

"Rest assured that the officers within this department have the required specialist skills and expertise for this often challenging area of business and will, as with all investigations, act in a diligent and expeditious manner," the letter said.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) also confirmed it is "currently investigating the Conservative Party in relation to a possible breach of Regulation 21 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR)".

Mr David, Labour MP for Caerphilly, said: "I am pleased that both the police and the Information Commissioner's Office are conducting detailed investigations.

"The allegations that the Conservative Party and Blue Telecoms broke electoral law during a general election campaign are extremely serious and the public need to have confidence in our electoral process. That is fundamental to our democracy."

A spokesman for South Wales Police said: "South Wales Police is currently reviewing information received in regards to Blue Telecoms.

"It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

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