The Tories systematically cheat in elections, says their own campaign manager

Katie Woodland speaks out about Conservative electoral fraud
Support us and go ad-free

In an extraordinary investigation for Channel 4, Michael Crick has uncovered repeated electoral fraud by the Conservative party in the run-up to the 2015 general election. While the rest of the broadcast media largely ignores the story, the party’s own workers are speaking out, calling for an investigation into the Tories’ “systematic” breach of election rules.

If you don’t watch Channel 4 News, this may be the first you’ve heard of the Tories’ criminal efforts to buy elections, although The Canary covered it here. So here’s a quick outline:

It was 2014, the year before the general election. David Cameron was fighting off “the Ukip threat”. He had already pledged to hold an EU referendum to keep eurosceptic voters happy. Then one of his MPs resigned, triggering a by-election in Newark – which Ukip thought it could win. Within months, two more by-elections were triggered when the Conservative MPs for Clacton and Rochester & Strood, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, both defected to Ukip.

The Conservatives threw everything they had at fighting the by-elections. David Cameron visited Rochester five times, and MPs and Conservative Headquarters’ staff flooded all three constituencies to do whatever it took to win. Now it seems that included breaking the law.

Channel 4 has uncovered hard evidence that the Conservatives spent more than the legal £100,000 limit in each of the three by-elections. Not just by a few pounds, or by a few thousand pounds, but by well over £90,000 across the three elections.

Then, instead of declaring their overspend, the party submitted misleading expense returns to returning officers – a criminal offence. It kept well over 1,200 nights of local hotel accommodation off the books. Many of those nights were signed for in a personal capacity by Conservative HQ Campaign Specialist Marion Little, who was later awarded an OBE for her by-elections work.

Confronted with this evidence, Conservative members were horrified by their party HQ’s behaviour. Delyth Miles, chair of the Clacton Conservative Party Association, immediately called for an investigation. Katie Woodland, then a paid Conservative party campaign manager for Telford who was asked to help with the Clacton by-election campaign told Channel 4:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

The fact that it happened in three by-elections, one after the other, it’s systematic. And they know the law. They’ve been running elections for years … To do it three in a row, and to do it pretty big in a couple of places, means there was full intention behind it.

The Conservative party broke the law. It overspent on at least three by-election campaigns and made “a false declaration as to election expenses” – in breach of the Representation of the People Act 1983. The aim of that law is to protect democracy by ensuring a level playing field between political parties. But, thanks to a 12-month time limit on prosecuting the offence, the party will probably get off scot-free.

Despite Tory corruption, Ukip won in Clacton and in Rochester & Strood. But the Conservatives won a comfortable majority in Newark. And Labour, realising it would be outspent, barely bothered to campaign in the elections.

The questions this raises for our democracy couldn’t be more serious. If our governing party is systematically engaging in electoral fraud, what kind of democracy do we live in?

Get involved!

Join the Electoral Reform Society.
Follow Michael Crick and Channel 4 News on Twitter for the latest on the electoral fraud scandal.
Support The Canary so we can keep holding the Conservative government to account.

Featured image via Channel 4 News/YouTube.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed