Scrapbook has been through the Electoral Commission report into Tory election spending with a tooth comb so you don’t have to.

We reported earlier that the Tories have been fined £70,000 over “serious failures” in how it declared election expenses for the 2015 general election and three by-elections.

The Commission also slated Tory party leaders for their “unreasonable failure to cooperate” with the investigation.

Now we’ve been through the full report to uncover the biggest discrepancies between what the Tories told the Commission and the truth.

1. Tory staff in the South Thanet

What the Tories said: The Tories said a team of staff based in the South Thanet constituency were working for the central party’s anti-UKIP campaign – and not local candidate Craig Mackinlay. The Tories argued that meant staff expenses did not have to be declared as part of Macklinlay’s election spending, but as part of the central party’s election spending.

What the Electoral Commission found:

The Commission is satisfied that several of them were, for a proportion of their time during the campaign, working to procure the electoral success of Mr Mackinlay rather than of the Party and its candidates generally.

“For example, the Senior Press Advisor explains in correspondence during the campaign that he has “…been drafted in to help Craig Mackinlay with media issues during the election campaign…” and in separate correspondence explains that he is “…working full-time for our candidate in South Thanet…”

2: Where Tory staff stayed in South Thanet

What the Tories said: Nothing about party staff who stayed at the Premier Inn, Margate during the general election campaign in its initial return. During the Electoral Commission’s investigation, the party said that £3,809.03 had been spent at the hotel but omitted from the return.

What the Electoral Commission found:

Invoices seen by the Commission indicated that the Party had booked rooms at the Premier Inn Margate between 14 April and 9 May 2015.

“In correspondence and in interview the Party ultimately advised that the explanation for the missing accommodation spending from the Party’s 2015 UKPGE spending return was “simple human error”. The Commission is satisfied that this does not constitute a reasonable excuse. It does not represent evidence of unforeseen or exceptional circumstances beyond Mr Day’s or the Party’s control that prevented it from reporting this spending.”

3. The cost of the Tory 2015 general election battle bus

What the Tories said: The party registered total spending on the battle bus as £38,996.06.

What the Electoral Commission found: 

“During the investigation the Party identified further spending of £63,487 on Battlebus2015 campaign activity that had not been reported in its campaign spending return. [Tory Treasurer] Mr Day and the Party explained that the omission happened because, during the compilation of the return, spending on a particular budget code was not coded properly and not properly reviewed in accordance with the Party’s financial systems.

“Consequently, they stated, as a result of human error the Party did not identify this spending as campaign spending and did not include it in the return. 112. This does not represent evidence of unforeseen or exceptional circumstances beyond the Party’s control that prevented it from reporting this spending. Consequently it is not a reasonable excuse for the omissions.”

4. Who benefited from the battle bus

What the Tories said: The party argued it was a national campaign and should therefor be registered as national spending, rather than be added to the expenses of candidates in constituencies where the bus stopped.

What the Electoral Commission found:

“The Commission is satisfied that a proportion of the reported spending was candidate campaign spending and should not have been included in the Party’s return. That proportion was also, as a result of this, not included in any relevant candidate’s campaign expenses return, casting doubt on the accuracy of those returns.

“There were extensive social media posts from the time of the Battlebus2015 campaign activity that show activists from the coaches holding campaign material promoting individual candidates as opposed to the Party. Whilst the social media posts cannot show the true scale of the candidate campaigning that was taking place on the Battlebus2015 activity, viewed as a body of evidence they are consistent with candidate campaigning having been taking place across a number of constituencies.”

5. Co-operation with the investigation

What the Tories said: That it had “not been uncooperative during the investigation, and that the proposed sanctions were disproportionate in comparison with the penalties issued to other parties in respect of similar matters”

What the Commission found:

“The Party’s unreasonable failure to cooperate with the Commission caused delay to the investigation, as described in this report. In addition, when determining the sanctions the Commission considered the specific facts of this case, and its aggravating and mitigating factors, in line with its Enforcement Policy.”

A unanimous verdict…

  1. Chris Bergin says:

    These people are becoming a huge joke. Promoted beyond their ability just like the rabble destroying what used to be a civilised country.

  2. People that I have talked to watching the TV news just think it was a single bus but I believe there were 24 buses engaged in support of Tory candidates in key marginal constituencies. I hope few expensive collars will be getting felt shortly.

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