Theresa May has announced a snap election on 8 June 2017. But as the country prepares for another election campaign, it’s important to remember that MPs in her party are being investigated for election fraud for the 2015 general election. And given the mainstream media’s reluctance to report the issue, we need to ensure it is kept firmly on the agenda.
Allegations of fraud
12 police forces have submitted files to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) over allegations that up to 20 MPs and/or their agents broke election spending limits in the 2015 election. The CPS is deciding whether charges should be brought. And a decision is expected soon – and is likely to come during the election campaign.
The allegations centre around the ‘battle bus’ campaign, and associated expenses such as hotel rooms. Many argue that the campaign promoted prospective local MPs in key seats. Under election law, any expenditure which promotes a local candidate should be covered locally. But the ‘battle bus’ and associated costs were declared nationally. Each constituency has a fixed amount of money it can spend locally. And including the ‘battle bus’ expenditure would have meant many candidates overspent.
Additionally, the Election Commission has fined the Conservatives £70,000 for multiple breaches in connection to election spending during the 2015 campaign.
And there’s more
But it isn’t just the ‘battle bus’ campaigns where the Conservatives have been accused of fraud. As The Canary previously reported, there are questions over how the party used social media and, particularly, Facebook, to target voters.
A report by the London School of Economics has also warned [pdf] that Facebook targeting opens the door to electoral fraud:
The ability to target specific people within a particular geographic area gives parties the opportunity to focus their attention on marginal voters within marginal constituencies. This means, in practice, that parties can direct significant effort – and therefore spending – at a small number of crucial seats. Yet, though the social media spending may be targeted directly at those constituencies, and at particular voters within those constituencies, the spending can currently be defined as national, for which limits are set far higher than for constituency spending.
Theresa May might think she is avoiding difficult by-elections if charges are brought in any of the constituencies. But she is equally taking a huge risk. There is a possibility that she will be running an election campaign while MPs are facing fraud charges. And then there’s the question of whether those MPs and their agents will run in this election.
Either way, the British public get to choose whether they want to vote for a party being investigated for fraud; and a party that’s already been fined £70,000 for election expenses breaches. But in order to do so, it is essential that we do not allow the issue to be swept under the table.
– Read more from The Canary on the 2017 general election.
Featured image via Wikimedia