Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

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Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by sassy on Mon Feb 08, 2016 10:45 pm

Channel 4 News has obtained evidence of tens of thousands of pounds of spending by the Conservatives during key by-election campaigns which appear not to have been declared.

Hundreds of pages of receipts obtained by this programme seem to show undeclared expenditure by the party in three crucial parliamentary by-election campaigns in 2014.

The documents appear to reveal a pattern of undisclosed spending and link directly to Conservative HQ and senior figures within the party.

Campaign spending in each by-election is subject to a legal limit of £100,000 to ensure fairness, so contests are not skewed in favour of richer political parties.

If all the receipts had been declared, the party would appear to have flouted spending limits in all three by-elections in Newark, Clacton, and Rochester & Strood during 2014.

All three by-elections were seen as crucial battles to halt the then-growing popularity of UKIP, which was increasingly threatening to steal support from the Tories.

Our investigation obtained copies of receipts for six hotels across the three by-election areas showing stays by large numbers of Conservative campaign workers, including senior party figures.

In all, the hotel bills show 1,401 nights of accommodation, with the total cost of rooms, food, and additional spending amounting to £113,030.63 across the three campaigns.

Of this 1,182 nights with costs of £94,112.19 fell within strict campaigning time limits, known as regulated periods, where spending must be declared by law.

This includes £56,866.75 undeclared hotel bills in Rochester, which would have taken them £53,659.83 over the £100,000 spending limit; £26,786.14 in Clacton, which would take them £10,835.36 over the limit; and £10,459.30 in Newark, which would mean a £6,650.28 overspend.

Under the name "Mr Conservatives"

In each of the three by-election campaigns, we found the same pattern with two hotels booked for Conservative campaign workers -- one upmarket for senior staff, and one budget Premier Inn for more junior campaign members.

Receipts for the all of the six hotels do not appear to have been declared in the material submitted to the Electoral Commission.

The vast majority of these hotel stays - 734 in the regulated periods - were booked under the home address of Marion Little, a senior staffer at Conservative Central Office awarded an OBE in this year's New Year's Honours List for her work during the campaigns.

Some rooms were booked under the name "Mr Conservatives".

Senior Conservative Party figures from the Tories' "Ground War Team", also feature among the bookings including Stephen Gilbert, who was then political secretary to Prime Minister David Cameron, and Simon Glasson, now adviser to Chancellor George Osborne. Stephen Gilbert has since been elevated to the House of Lords following the General election.

Lengthy room stays were booked for specialist senior campaign staff, including the then by-election co-ordinator Richard Piper-Griffiths, and then deputy head of press Richard Holden.

Some of the rooms were paid for from the Conservatives' Premier Inn business account, but Channel 4 News understands that others were paid for in person by Marion Little, in installments.

The scale of the army of campaign workers on the ground - peaking at 42 rooms booked on one night - also call into question staffing costs declared by the party.

If staff were working on the by-election campaigns then the associated costs including all hotel stays and salaries should have been declared.

Any party expenditure for campaigning during the strict time limits, known as the regulated period, should be declared to returning officers by law.

Channel 4 News has also found that at least two campaign centres were also not declared; while the precise costs involved in renting these venues is unknown, it could mean thousands more in campaign spending does not appear on the books.

Rochester & Strood By-election


The Channel 4 News investigation uncovered £72,594.82 in bills at two hotels in Rochester & Strood, of which £56,866.75 fell within the by-election regulated period.

This contest was the last before the General Election, and triggered when sitting MP Mark Reckless defected from the Conservative Party to UKIP.

In response, the Tories threw their weight behind young candidate Kelly Tolhurst.

The largest apparently undeclared receipt obtained by Channel 4 News was in Rochester & Strood, at the four-star Bridgewood Manor hotel in Chatham, Kent.

The receipt includes 19 pages of accommodation costs along with food, drinks, tips, and conference room and equipment hire, totaling £50,228.15.

Five other receipts for the hotel add up to £963.01 - making a total £51,191.16 bill.

Of this, 446 nights' stay and £38,112.83 fell within the regulated period of 24 October 2014 to 20 November 2014, and should have been declared.

At the peak, on the night of the vote, the Conservatives had 25 rooms booked in the hotel, housing members of their "Ground War Team".

It included by-election co-ordinator Richard Piper-Griffiths, and deputy head of press Richard Holden who stayed for 36 nights, including 28 in the regulated period.

Prime Minister David Cameron's then political secretary Stephen Gilbert stayed for one night on 23 October, the day before the regulated period began.

The Conservatives also booked rooms at the Rochester Premier Inn with receipts showing 226 nights in the regulated period, totalling £18,753.92 in accommodation and other costs.

All of the rooms were registered using Marion Little's home address.

Spending returns signed by candidate Kelly Tolhurst, who is now the MP, and her election agent Julian Walden, declare they spent £96,793.08 of the £100,000 campaigning limit.

However, the declaration includes no receipts for hotel stays.

Our investigation also calls into question the amount that was declared for staff costs, which should reflect the salaries of the Conservative workers and was valued at £23,724.

Our findings show a total of 672 hotel nights for workers within the regulated period. If each one represents a day's work, it would work out as a day rate of £35.30, or £4.41 an hour.

Channel 4 News has also found that two Conservative campaign centres in Rochester were not declared, including one in an expensive retail mall.

The centre, Unit 67/68 of the Dockside Outlet Centre, consisted of 3,100 square feet of space in the busy shopping mall on St Mary's Island next to the River Medway.

A quote obtained by Channel 4 News shows the cost including rent, rates, service charge and marketing cost would have been approximately £67,052 per year.

For the 28 days of the regulated period, this would work out as £5,143.71, not including any additional expenses such as utilities and telephone costs.

There is no receipt for the unit in Ms Tolhurst's spending return.

The campaign also used an office on the High Street, Rochester where rent, rates, and phone receipts for the campaigning period would amount to £1,387.91.

Again, no receipt was declared.

It means the full value of undeclared expenditure in Rochester could be even higher.

The Rochester by-election was held on 20 November 2014 with Mark Reckless retaining the seat, which he then lost to Ms Tolhurst in the May 2015 general election.

Clacton By-election

Channel 4 News has uncovered £26,786.14 of undeclared hotel spending in Clacton.

The by-election was triggered when the sitting Conservative MP Douglas Carswell defected to UKIP becoming the party's first MP amid a political furore.

In retaliation, the Conservative Party waged a huge effort to unseat him on 9 October, with the party machinery called on to promote candidate Giles Watling.

Our investigation found the Tories booked 290 rooms at the luxurious Lifehouse Spa and Hotel, near picturesque Frinton-on-Sea, of which 258 fall in the regulated period from 12 September to 9 October 2014.

At a conservative estimate of £80 a room, it equates to a bill of £20,640.

Again, all of the rooms were booked using Marion Little's home address.

The list of Conservatives staying at the Lifehouse Spa & Hotel include members of the party's "Ground War Team", with George Osborne's special advisor Simon Glasson staying for 28 nights in the regulated period, elections co-ordinator Richard Piper-Griffiths staying for 23 nights, and deputy head of press Richard Holden for 20.

Prime Minister David Cameron's press secretary stayed for the night of the vote, on 9 October.

The party also reserved 71 rooms at the Clacton Premier Inn, of which 68 fall inside the regulated period, with total bills of £6,146.14.

Spending returns signed by candidate Giles Watling and his election agent Victoria Goff declare they spent £84,049.22 of the £100,000 campaigning limit.

However, they make no mention of any hotel receipts, and if the hotel costs were added in the spending would appear to exceed the limits by £10,835.36.

Ms Goff was among those named on room reservations at the Lifehouse Spa & Hotel, with 32 nights booked in her name, of which 28 fall inside the regulated period.

Newark by-election

Channel 4 News found an estimated £10,459.30 of undeclared hotel bills in Newark, where suspicions were raised about Tory overspending on the night of the vote, on 5 June 2014.

The election was called after the resignation of Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, and saw the party's replacement candidate Robert Jenrick elected.

But after the count, UKIP leader Nigel Farage questioned whether the Conservative campaign had kept within the strict £100,000 spending limit.

He said: "It is difficult to believe, given the number of paid, professional people from the Conservative Party here... their returns are going to come in below the figure."

Our investigation uncovered undeclared receipts showing the Conservative Party booked 63 rooms at Kelham House Country Manor Hotel, with 59 falling in the regulated period, from 2 May to 5 June 2014.

The total spend at the hotel in the period came to £4,209.30.

Of the 59 rooms booked during the regulated period, 57 were booked under Marion Little's home address, with the hotel housing senior members of the "Ground War Team".

It included Simon Glasson, now Special Adviser to George Osborne, who stayed for 12 nights during the regulated period, the then deputy head of press Richard Holden, who stayed for four nights in the period, and election co-ordinator Richard Piper-Griffiths, for one night.

Prime Minister David Cameron's political secretary Stephen Gilbert stayed for a total of five nights in the regulated period, including four nights in the run up to the vote, and one night on 21 May, where he enjoyed a three course meal including Devon crab brulee and a bottle of Escondido Malbec.

The party also booked 125 nights at the Premier Inn Newark, all in the regulated period, and all under the home address of Marion Little.

At an estimated cost of £50 per room, the bill comes to £6,250.

Again rooms were booked under the names of the Conservatives senior "Ground War Team", including 18 nights for deputy head of press Richard Holden, 18 nights for election coordinator Richard Piper-Griffiths, and three nights for Simon Glasson.

Spending returns signed by Robert Jenrick and his election agent Stuart Wallace declare they spent £96,190.98 of the £100,000 campaigning limit.

Again no hotels were included in the declarations.

The total of £10,459.30 undeclared receipts would take them over the limit.

Channel 4 News has approached all individual candidates and agents for comment, as well as the Conservative Party.

In a statement a party spokesperson said: "All by-election spending has been correctly recorded in accordance with the law."

A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said:

"We have been made aware of the allegations of spending breaches at three parliamentary by-elections. Alleged breaches of the rules around candidate spending at by-elections or parliamentary general elections are matters for the police to investigate under the Representation of the People Act 1983.

"The Electoral Commission only has powers to consider possible breaches of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act at general elections, which is the legislation we regulate. We will be considering whether any of the allegations made tonight also come within the Commission's remit or are strictly matters for the police to investigate.

"In 2013, prior to the last General Election, the Electoral Commission recommended that we should be provided with investigative powers and sanctions for offences relating to candidate spending and donations at specified elections. We have not had responses from either the previous or the current Government to this recommendation."

Investigation by Paul McNamara and Guy Basnett.


http://www.channel4.com/news/conservatives-appear-to-have-overspent-on-three-by-elections




As treasurer of our local CLP I'm so ruddy careful we don't overspend, and at the General Election, had to be really careful that the General Election spending and the Local Election spending were kept meticulously separate.   What's the betting they will get away with this.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by Raggamuffin on Tue Feb 09, 2016 11:23 am

Too long as usual.

I read the first bit though. £100,000 just to get elected. You can buy a whole house for that in some parts of the country!

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by nicko on Tue Feb 09, 2016 11:29 am

C@P OVERLOAD.
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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by sassy on Tue Feb 09, 2016 11:51 am

You have the attention span of a gnat.  Most of that is copies of invoices.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by Raggamuffin on Tue Feb 09, 2016 12:01 pm

sassy wrote:You have the attention span of a gnat.  Most of that is copies of invoices.

You have all day to sit there reading this stuff - others don't.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by sassy on Tue Feb 09, 2016 12:12 pm

I don't have all day, and to read that took about 2 minutes, if you don't have 2 minutes, don't come on a forum. 

PS, considering I've only just come on and you appear to have been hear most of the day, your post is quite funny.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by Angry Andy on Tue Feb 09, 2016 12:32 pm

It was discussed on Bbc Politics today this lunchtime. Channel 4 have a huge damning dossier ready for the police and Parliamentary Standards Commission.
The torys as usual,remain tight lipped.
Corrupt to the core.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by Raggamuffin on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:21 pm

sassy wrote:I don't have all day, and to read that took about 2 minutes, if you don't have 2 minutes, don't come on a forum. 

PS, considering I've only just come on and you appear to have been hear most of the day, your post is quite funny.

It's not enough to just read it though is it? One has to check your sources, probably follow several links, and then decide what you're complaining about.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by sassy on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:21 pm

It's called Fraud, with a Capital F, and there are really strict rules that you have to follow.  It seems they didn't overspend by a few pounds, but by thousands.  It could end up with the election is those areas being recalled.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by sassy on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:22 pm

Raggamuffin wrote:
sassy wrote:I don't have all day, and to read that took about 2 minutes, if you don't have 2 minutes, don't come on a forum. 

PS, considering I've only just come on and you appear to have been hear most of the day, your post is quite funny.

It's not enough to just read it though is it? One has to check your sources, probably follow several links, and then decide what you're complaining about.


Don't be ridiculous, it was Channel 4 News and copies of actual documents.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by Raggamuffin on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:24 pm

sassy wrote:
Raggamuffin wrote:

It's not enough to just read it though is it? One has to check your sources, probably follow several links, and then decide what you're complaining about.


Don't be ridiculous, it was Channel 4 News and copies of actual documents.

Look, you don't just read something, you have to think about it and check it out. You post threads on here and then run - you often don't bother to stick around and actually discuss the issues you raise.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by sassy on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:25 pm

Then the more information you have to think about and check out the better, gives you something to do lol


PS, it was all on one link, sorry if that was too much for you, because if the info I put on was too much, what is on the link would be too much as well, wouldn't it.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by Raggamuffin on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:28 pm

sassy wrote:Then the more information you have to think about and check out the better, gives you something to do lol


PS, it was all on one link, sorry if that was too much for you, because if the info I put on was too much, what is on the link would be too much as well, wouldn't it.

I had to follow several links the other day on your thread about 9/11, and you'd given up on it by then. There's no point starting these threads if you don't want to actually discuss the issues. Just pasting a ton of stuff isn't debating.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by sassy on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:38 pm

I hadn't given up, I have Dodge on ignore.  If you think that could have been cut down, you wrong, it would have left out stuff that was relevant and the rest did not make sense without it.  It was FACT, written by unpeachable sources and all the waffling that Dodge was probably doing could not make a dent in it.  The fact that Obama is STILL complaining about Israeli espionage is also fact.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by sassy on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:39 pm

Now would you like to stick to THIS thread instead of diverting.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by Raggamuffin on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:43 pm

sassy wrote:I hadn't given up, I have Dodge on ignore.  If you think that could have been cut down, you wrong, it would have left out stuff that was relevant and the rest did not make sense without it.  It was FACT, written by unpeachable sources and all the waffling that Dodge was probably doing could not make a dent in it.  The fact that Obama is STILL complaining about Israeli espionage is also fact.

I don't mean that thread, I mean the one on 9/11 and the alleged Israeli involvement.

However, re the Israeli "art students" thread, you posted a huge amount of text and then didn't even say anything about it. There was no commentary, no opinion, no nothing. Anyone can post huge amounts of text and then get arsy that others don't read it.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by sassy on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:44 pm

There was no need to say anything about it, it spoke for itself.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by sassy on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:45 pm

Now can we stop with the diversions?

The Conservative's frauid to win elections is rather important.

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Re: Conservatives appear to have overspent on three by-elections

Post by Raggamuffin on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:46 pm

sassy wrote:There was no need to say anything about it, it spoke for itself.

So does Wiki, but people don't just copy and paste huge swathes of text from it and then say nothing about it. You didn't even offer any kind of opinion.

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