Our current Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, was election agent for MP Kevin Foster [Torbay] who took the seat from Lib Dems with a majority of 3,286 at the last election with just over 40% of voters choosing him.
“A Conservative MP has been interviewed under caution as part of an ongoing police inquiry into whether the party overspent in its campaign for South Thanet in the 2015 general election, when they were up against Nigel Farage.
Craig Mackinlay, the MP who won the seat against the former Ukip leader, is said to have spent about six hours speaking to police about their investigation, which has been going on for about a year.
Asked about the interview, a Conservative spokesman said: “We are cooperating with the ongoing investigations.” Mackinlay did not reply to a request for comment.
There is growing panic in the Conservative party about the scale of police probes into election spending, which could affect dozens of MPs. A separate investigation by the Electoral Commission into whether the national party broke election spending limits is also under way and expected to come to a head within weeks.
The allegations, first uncovered by Channel 4 News, are that spending in marginal seats on a battlebus tour and teams of party officials was wrongly recorded as national, rather than local spending.
The penalties for wrongly declaring local elections are steep, with possible criminal charges for MPs and their election agents, and results can be declared void.
It is understood police could meet the Crown Prosecution Service as early as 21 March to discuss bringing a possible charge in relation to South Thanet, where Farage was narrowly beaten by Mackinley.
Nigel Farage says he would stand for election again in South Thanet
Farage, the former Ukip leader, has already said he may be interested in rerunning in the Kent coastal seat if it there were to be a prosecution and byelection.
Kent police said: “The investigation into this complex matter is ongoing and officers continue to follow lines of enquiry. Therefore it would not be appropriate to comment further.
“Officers from Kent police continue to work with the Electoral Commission as the investigation continues.”
Separately, a group of Conservative MPs under investigation over their election expenses are growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of support from the party’s headquarters.
One has sent an email to Tory HQ accusing the party of keeping secret a draft of the Electoral Commission report from MPs whose local spending returns are under investigation.
In an email seen by Sky News, Karl McCartney, a Tory MP [Lincoln] under investigation who is helping other MPs, accused party officials of trying to save themselves rather than help those who were elected.
He wrote that his colleagues “feel completely cast adrift by CCHQ/whips/the parliamentary party and left to fend for themselves”.
He added: “At what stage do you think you (the party) might inform us that another media s***storm is coming? We didn’t create this mess, the clever dicks at CCHQ did, and I don’t see their professional reputations being trashed in the media much.”
“The initial cock-ups, ‘strategy’ and ineptitude with regard to this issue that has so negatively impacted our: lives, standing in our communities, standing amongst colleagues, families and our regard for particular parts of the party centrally, and were all of CCHQ’s making … need to stop.
“We are the ones who are now (and since the beginning as individuals have been) in the media spotlight and it might have been a little more reassuring and collegiate if the powers that be in our party perhaps tried to be a little bit more supportive and less interested in covering their own backsides.”