The Conservatives try hiding information on electoral fraud, then the watchdog bares its teeth

Support us and go ad-free

The Conservative party is acting very cagily over allegations of electoral fraud in the 2015 general election. Despite two statutory notices, time extensions and a legal obligation, the party withheld information from the Electoral Commission relevant to its investigation.

But now the watchdog has applied for a High Court order for the Conservatives to hand over the material.

The Electoral Commission stated:

Using its powers under PPERA, and in line with its Enforcement Policy, the Electoral Commission may issue a statutory notice requiring any person, including a registered party, to provide us with specific documents and/or information as part of an investigation. This places the recipient under a legal obligation to provide the required material. However, if the recipient does not comply with this statutory notice, the Commission may apply to the High Court for a disclosure order which if granted would be the court compelling the Respondent to release the required documents and information to the Commission.

It continues:

The Commission issued the Conservative and Unionist Party with two statutory notices requiring the provision of material relevant to its investigation. However, the Party has only provided limited disclosure of material in response to the first notice (issued on 18 February 2016) and no material in response to the second notice (issued on 23 March 2016). That follows the Commission granting extensions of time to comply.

Let’s take a moment to consider what an innocent Conservative party would do. It would want the investigation over quickly and therefore would maximise transparency in order to achieve that. Yet what we are seeing is the opposite – the withholding of relevant material.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

A Conservative Party spokeswoman said:

We advised the Electoral Commission on 29 April that we would comply with their notices by 13:00 today – and we will do so. There was no need for them to make this application to the High Court

After the party disregarded two statutory notices, its legal obligation and time extensions, the Electoral Commission clearly felt a High Court order was necessary. This is the first time the Electoral Commission has had to resort to the High Court to retrieve information from a political party.

The story so far

Aside from the Electoral Commission, at least 11 police forces have confirmed they are currently investigating the findings from Channel Four News and The Mirror.

As The Canary’s Bex Sumner previously summarised:

Dozens of Tory MPs face accusations that they illegally overspent in the 2015 general election campaign by failing to declare costs associated with the Conservative campaign “battle buses”. If the allegations are true, the MPs and their agents could face a year in jail and/or an unlimited fine, as well as a three-year ban on holding elected office – potentially triggering by-elections across the country and losing the Conservatives their majority in parliament.

David Cameron’s skinny majority means that his government hangs in the balance over these allegations:

Cheshire police, Derbyshire police, Devon and Cornwall police, Gloucestershire police, Greater Manchester police, Northamptonshire police, Staffordshire police, Warwickshire police, West Yorkshire police, Somerset Police and Lincolnshire Police are the forces undertaking criminal investigations so far.

And it appears the Electoral Commission is not giving the Conservatives an easy ride.

The Canary will continue to investigate and report on this story as it develops.

Get involved!

Correction: An earlier version of this article mentioned Chippenham as one of the constituencies visited by the battle bus. Michelle Donelan MP has since informed us that the battle bus did not visit her constituency and Wiltshire Police have closed their investigation. This article was updated at 1330 on 5 May 2017 to remove a call to action urging readers in Chippenham and other constituencies to contact their police forces.

Featured image via Twitter.

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