Craig Mackinlay, the Conservative candidate for South Thanet, has been charged with fraud – for the so-called ‘battle bus’ campaign overspending of the 2015 general election. His election agent and a Conservative party organiser were also charged. The three men are due to appear in court on July 4th 2017, charged with offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983.
Makinlay won a majority of close to 3,000 against Nigel Farage, who at the time was the leader of UKIP, and involved in a fiercely contested electoral race. Mackinlay will remain on the ballot for the election, simply due to the fact that nominations have now closed.
The Tories claim the allegations are “unfounded” – but their campaign overspending is now public knowledge. The Conservatives routinely spend beyond limits deliberately put in place to prevent parties with wealthy donors unfairly gaining over those of more modest means.
The Crown Prosecution’s recent investigation of over twenty Conservative MPs ruled that although there was clear evidence of Conservative party spending declarations being inaccurate, insufficient evidence existed to prove dishonesty leading to a criminal case.
Now it seems evidence might have come to light, despite the apparent conclusion of the CPS investigation. Nick Vamos, the head of ‘Special Crime’ said:
We have concluded there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to authorise charges against three people
Vamos also stated that due to the ongoing investigation and criminal proceedings, it was important for people not to speculate or comment on the case. Such is the rule in any criminal trial, to avoid prejudicing the result – and thankfully we still live in a country where we are all innocent until proven guilty. Mackinlay is no exception.
And yet it’s also highly pertinent to this General Election, now in less than a week’s time. Which is exactly why the public must be informed.
Mackinlay has since launched a legal challenge in attempt to stem the investigation from proceeding. The maximum sentence is one year in prison or a fine. This news will not bode well for the Conservatives, who have recently been under scrutiny for receiving ten times as much funding as Labour in a single week.
Donors to the Tories include the founder of Egerton Capital (£500,000), Jersey House (Developments) Ltd (£250,000) and John Gore who gave £1.05m, the director of the famed musical The Phantom of the Opera. (The show’s writer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, also happens to be a big Tory supporter too – and a Tory Lord in the House of Lords no less.)
No smoke without fire?
Oliver Colvile, another Tory MP originally cleared by the CPS, has since had a private prosecution brought against him by Plymouth Magistrates Court regarding the 2015 election expenses. If the case progresses, Mr. Colvile will be summoned to court next Wednesday at 2pm: less than 24 hours before voting in the General Election begins.
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