Tories for Trumpery? Drafting new law to protect MPs on party overspending

Tories draft law to protect MPs if parties overspend

Conservative ministers are drawing up a new law to protect MPs and party officials from prosecution if their national parties overspend during elections, leaked documents disclose.

It follows the conviction in January of Marion Little, a Tory party organiser from head office, and the acquittal of the MP Craig Mackinlay after they were accused of breaking electoral law as the party fought off a challenge from Nigel Farage in Thanet South. …

Transparency campaigners believe the government’s latest move is an attempt to avoid future prosecutions and would overturn a ruling by the supreme court.

Alexandra Runswick, the director of Unlock Democracy, said a “test of authorisation” would give candidates and party officials another level of defence from prosecution. “Such a move would not appear to be about reinforcing and strengthening electoral law. This would instead protect party candidates and open up the possibility of outspending rivals.”

Plans for a new law have emerged in correspondence seen by the Guardian and sent to cabinet ministers by Kevin Foster, the minister for the constitution.

“Legislation currently requires candidates to account for free or discounted goods or services that are made use of by or on behalf of the candidate. There have been calls to amend this legislation to include a test of authorisation by or on behalf of the candidate,” he wrote.

Foster told members of a cabinet subcommittee that the law on notional expenditure was tested in July when the supreme court ruled that the statutory requirement for an election candidate is to declare notional expenditure incurred on their behalf during a campaign. This might arise where a national party provided additional campaigning support in the constituency and was not limited to authorised campaigning.

Foster wrote: “There is a concern that candidates, their electoral agents and others acting on their behalf could be operating under legal risk. I am seeking the committee’s agreement to announce at an appropriate time that the government is exploring options to clarify the law on notional expenditure to alleviate the concerns highlighted. Any amendments in this area of law would require primary legislation,” he wrote.

Little, who had been employed by Tory campaign headquarters since 1974, was charged with three counts of encouraging or assisting an offence related to the filing of election expenses. …”

Citizens Assembly to tackle climate crisis?

“Oxford City Council is to be the first UK local authority to establish a citizens assembly to help address the issue of climate change, and consider the measures that should be taken in Oxford.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned that the current global target of 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050 is not enough to avert catastrophic temperature change. It said it’s essential that global temperature change is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius and that rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society are required to ensure this.

Next week the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) will publish its advice to the UK Government on tightening Britain’s carbon reduction targets. This will lead to new minimum requirements for us all.

In January, Oxford City Council members unanimously declared a climate emergency and agreed to create a citizens assembly in Oxford to help consider new carbon targets and additional measures to reduce emissions.

The citizens assembly will involve a randomly-selected representative sample of Oxford residents and will meet in September. It will be the first citizens assembly in the UK created to consider climate change.

The City Council will be commissioning research to develop options and timescales for carbon reduction in areas such as housing and transport, which will be put to the citizens assembly. In addition, it will hear from a range of independent contributors. The citizens assembly’s recommendations will assist the City Council in its final decisions on adoption of carbon abatement measures and targets. …”

“Rewild a quarter of UK to fight climate crisis, campaigners urge”

Rewilding would (according to the Environment Secretary) focus on:

Native woodlands
Salt marshes
Peat bogs
Ponds and lakes
Meadows and grasslands

all of which we have in abundance in East Devon.

Perhaps it is now time to revive the idea of a Jurassic Coast National Park (West Dorset would be an already-enthusiastic partner) which was squashed by the previous council because they feared losing their cosy relationship with housing developers …

And, as part of our climate emergency, make rewilding an integral part of all future neighbourhood, district and Greater Exeter development plans.

Change at Grenadier – developer of Exmouth seafront

Peter Quincey – who was in charge of operations for Exmouth seafront and the long-stalled St Margaret’s School site in Exeter – has sold his shares and left the company on 29 April 2019. Quincey had previously worked for Devon County Council. He had resigned from another Grenadier company last June:

Pauline Stott and John Mark Williamson are still shown as active directors of Queen’s Drive Exmouth Community Interest Company along with Glenn Woodcock of Grenadier, who replaced Peter Quincey on 29 April 2019 and who holds 16 directorships, mostly in Grenadier companies:

though Owl assumes Mrs Stott and Mr Williamson will be replaced by current independent councillors, perhaps as early as tomorrow, as they are no longer councillors.

Owl suspects that – with the seafront still a building site – new Councillors may be inheriting a bit of a mess. And do recall that, as part of their contract, Grenadier must commence their seafront project within 4 days of the Queen’s Drive road completion and sign-off.