It has emerged that the Conservatives may have placed covert advertisements for roles in their 2015 General Election campaign.
Dover Councillor Peter Wallace recently reported one such case to the police, recalling a conversation between a member of staff at the Phoenix Youth Club and an activist during a Conservative campaign in South Thanet a month before the election:
The activist replied that she wasn’t a supporter of the Conservative Party but was actually unemployed and was recruited in her local job centre in London to campaign for the Party.
She was paid to travel on the bus, hand out leaflets and take part in the campaign while wearing a blue rosette.
It is claimed the activist said:
I was at the job centre and saw this advert for a job with an unknown employer.
Allegedly, an unemployed woman was hired to pretend to be a Conservative activist after viewing a clandestine advertisement. This does not just betray an embarrassing lack of support for the Tories, but is also a matter for the police because the Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay did not declare it as a local expenditure. Campaign spending must be declared and there are separate strict legal limits for both national and local expenditure.
While this is the only account that has emerged so far, it is extremely unlikely that the Conservatives would just place one advertisement for one activist to campaign in one marginal constituency. This could just be the tip of the iceberg in a brand new Tory electoral fraud scandal spanning across a multitude of swing seats.
Considering the Coalition had already spent five years demolishing the welfare state, finding destitute unemployed people to campaign for the Tories would not have been too hard.
If the activist had been paid to solicit votes from electors through engaging with them that would be a criminal offence in itself, however there is nothing to suggest that was the case at present.
Mackinlay already faces an investigation into his election campaign expenses. The MP for South Thanet is one of dozens of Conservative MPs who allegedly did not declare costs associated with campaign battle buses.
A number of police forces have applied for or been granted an extension in the time they have to investigate alleged Conservative electoral fraud. However, when Kent police applied for an extension to investigate Mackinlay’s South Thanet constituency, Tory lawyers blocked the request and the application was adjourned.
Trying to inhibit a police investigation is not the first time the Conservatives have acted cagily about allegations of electoral fraud. Earlier this month, the party tried to withhold important information from the Electoral Commission. Only after the threat of high court action did they cooperate with the watchdog.
These are not the actions of a party with nothing to hide. The Tory electoral fraud scandal is growing and growing. Leaked emails show that senior Tories and Conservative HQ approved of and supported the battle buses. After all these allegations spanning across dozens of constituencies and MPs, a full investigation into systemic abuse as administered by the Conservative leadership is utterly warranted.
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