The CPS has announced that no charges will be brought against Conservative party candidates or agents relating to election expenses during the 2015 General Election campaign. The CPS accepted that local returns were inaccurate due to the omission of candidate spending on the ‘Battle Bus’ but concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove that persons involved acted dishonestly. Allegations in relation to South Thanet remain under consideration.
In contrast to the view taken by the CPS the Electoral Commission noted in their report on their investigation into Conservative electoral expenses that the spending in relation to the battle bus was targeted at marginal seats. They concluded that candidate campaigning by battle bus activists was foreseeable and that evidence from social media demonstrates that it did take place across a number of constituencies. Furthermore the report stated that “there was a realistic prospect that this enabled its candidates to gain a financial advantage over opponents.”
Responding to the CPS’ decision not to take any action on allegations of election expenses fraud, Unlock Democracy’s Director Alexandra Runswick said:
“As with the expenses scandal voters are left feeling that there is one rule for politicians and another for the rest of us. This case raises serious questions about whether electoral law can stand up to the influence of big money dominating our politics.
Free and fair elections underpin our democracy, and when there is the perception that the outcome is determined by who can spend the most money, public trust in our political system is critically undermined.
Overall, there have been paltry repercussions for those who have flagrantly disregarded the law. Earlier this year the Electoral Commission handed out the largest fine in its history to the Conservatives for violating election expenses rules, but this fine paled in comparison to the millions they receive in donations and spend in elections. It is deeply concerning that political parties may see breaking the law as a price worth paying to win an election.
“We also urge those in affected constituencies to use their victim's’ right to review to call on the CPS to reconsider its decision to drop some of its cases.”
To organise an extended interview or comment with Unlock Democracy’s Director, please contact Alexandra Runswick on 07739586666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.