Diary

ConHome Diary: The Electoral Commission Should Be Wound Up

13 May 2017 at 09:40

And so the CPS decided to take no further action against the 14 MPs the Electoral Commission fingered for allegedly filing inaccurate election expenses after the 2015 election. They’ve left Craig Mackinlay swinging in the wind, but I suspect he’ll be OK. I cannot imagine the CPS now making a decision on his case before polling day. If they do, it could be a ‘James Comey’ moment. When the election over some serious questions need to be asked about the conduct of the Electoral Commission. It is clear they have acted in a party-political manner. Both Labour and the LibDems filed their expenses in exactly the same way as the Conservatives did and yet no action was taken. They also only targeted Tory candidates who actually got elected. They did nothing about the candidates whose expenses were also supposedly inaccurate but failed to get elected.
Each time I have asked the Electoral Commission for an interview they have refused point blank. These people think they are accountable to no one.
I’ve said for a long time this organisation was out of control and not fit for purpose. I hope the whole bloody thing is abolished. Electoral matters used to come under the remit of the Home Office and it all worked perfectly well. There was little electoral fraud and the postal voting system wasn’t abused.
If Nick Timothy is reading this, I’d imagine he has a lot of sympathy with what I have said. Let me put this idea into his head… I hope the Electoral Commission (Abolition) Bill will be in Theresa May’s first Queen’s Speech. I suspect I will live in hope on that, but you never know.
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UKIP pretend that they are only standing down candidates where the Tory MP or Tory candidate has an impeccable record on Brexit. It’s simply not true. In Norfolk they’re not fielding a candidate against Chloe Smith in Norwich North, who was a devout Remain supporter, if I remember correctly. They’re also not standing in Norwich South, which could enable a big electoral surprise to happen. Clive Lewis, the Labour candidate, who won the seat in 2015 and is seen as a possible successor to Jeremy Corbyn, could be in a bit of trouble. My old opponent in North Norfolk may also be experiencing a sensation of the squeaky bum variety. Norman Lamb has a majority of around 4,500. UKIP’s vote last time was more than 8,000 there and they aren’t standing a candidate. The recently selected Tory candidate there, James Wild, may well find all his Christmases have come at once.
All this means that my prediction of a Tory majority of 130 may well have to be revised upwards depending on how many UKIP candidates are standing in Labour/Tory or LibDem/Tory marginals. Nominations closed at 4pm yesterday, so at the time of writing, the numbers are not yet clear.
It is in many ways shameful that UKIP aren’t standing in every seat. They’re supposed to be a national political party. Just like this fraudulent Progressive Alliance (commonly known as the ‘Anyone But The Tories’ Alliance) they won’t be giving their supporters a chance to vote for them. The LibDems are standing down in several seats too, so there are only two parties now who can genuinely call themselves ‘national’ parties.
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So, the CPS have decided not to charge anyone with regard to election expenses. Move along here, nothing to see? I doubt it very much. There will be consequences here for both the Electoral Commission and some CCHQ apparatchiks and procedures. I imagine MPs like Karl McCartney will see to that, assuming he is re-elected (which I predict he will be).
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Michael Crick tweeted a very serious allegation this week. He wrote: “What shocks me is reporters collaborating with May press team by agreeing to reveal their questions to them in advance.” I responded by asking him to provide some evidence for that. He declined to do so. He can’t, because there is none. He’s impugned the character of people like Laura Kuennsberg, Faisal Islam and various print newspaper journalists. He should put up or withdraw. I know of no journalist who would ever consider giving details of their questions to politicians in advance. I have never been asked to do so, and nor would I ever do so. To suggest that others would is an absolute disgrace.
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I do sometimes wonder about some people who run for political office. Last Friday I was ambling to Charing Cross Station and encountered a government minister on his bike, seemingly cycling around without a care in the world. OK, he’s in a safe seat, but at 7 O’Clock on a Friday evening you might have thought he’d be out canvassing along with the poor bloody infantry. And then I see the Tory candidate for Natasha Ashgar trumpeting on Twitter about her music tour. “Tonight Leicester, tomorrow Manchester…”. Call me old fashioned, but I’d have thought if you’d just been selected in a highly marginal seat, which the Conservatives expect to win, you’d clear your diary, head down to Newport (assuming she knows where it is) and put your shoulder to the campaigning wheel. Maybe it was different in “my day”.

  • I had a text from a friend of mine in Norwich South yesterday. “OMG Labour canvassing on my doorstep and I told them I wouldn’t be voting for Clive Lewis as he was a tosser. Poor lad could only reply: “You’re not the first to say that today.” And my friend isn’t even a Tory!
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    Quote of the week from Nadhim Zahawi on my radio show: “Theresa May is not a Prime Minister for soundbites…”. He did say it is a very strong and stable way… without the hand of history on his shoulder.

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