The official line is that Theresa May called the general election on June 8 to win a stronger hand in Brexit negotiations. But some political observers have suggested she has an ulterior motive – burying the Tory election expenses scandal.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is currently investigating claims that up to 20 Tory MPs broke constituency spending limits at the 2015 general election.
The Tories are alleged to have committed “election fraud” by registering spending on a national bus tour, accommodation for activists and staffing costs, as national spending rather than local spending – meaning many candidates may have gone over spending limits.
The CPS are due to give their verdict on the allegations at the end of next month or the beginning of June – a coincidence that hasn’t escape Channel 4 journalist Michael Crick, Guardian’s Rowena Mason and Sky’s Jon Craig:
Election could put CPS in difficulty over whether to prosecute MPs & agents over 2015 election expenses. Deadlines late May, early June!
— Michael Crick (@MichaelLCrick) April 18, 2017
CPS says charging decisions on Conservative election expenses mid to late May. So what happens if 20+ Tory candidates on the hook?
— Rowena Mason (@rowenamason) April 18, 2017
Here's my general election conspiracy theory: PM warned CPS is closing in on prosecutions for election expenses breaches in Tory marginals.
— joncraigSKY (@joncraig) April 18, 2017
As the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire, the Mail on Sunday’s Dan Hodges and the FT’s Sebastian Payne point out, a new general election avoids the need for any by-elections in affected constituencies – even if the CPS declare the 2015 general election result void:
Conveniently an early General Election avoids by-elections which could've been triggered by police inquiries into 2015 Con election expenses
— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) April 18, 2017
Another advantage of early election. Tory expenses scandal just disappears.
— (((Dan Hodges))) (@DPJHodges) April 18, 2017
Things that may be resolved with #election2017:
– Tory expenses scandal
– Tory backbench power
– Corbyn's leadership
– Extent of LD revival
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) April 18, 2017
The scandal has been snowballing in the past few weeks. First the Tories were fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission over “significant failures” in the declaration of their 2015 general election spending.
That was followed by news last week that Tory Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez, who was agent for Tory MP Kevin Foster at the last election, could face criminal charges for her part in the scandal.
With judgement day looming, it seems as if Theresa May has followed in the foot steps of David Cameron by calling a vote to sort out the Tories’ problems…