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. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/21/tories-draft-law-protect-mps-party-overspend

MPs claiming expenses for adult children

“The Daily Telegraph says it has discovered that MPs – including Energy minister Claire Perry – are boosting their expenses by claiming for adult children dependent on them.

According to the paper, the age limit when claiming for children is 18, rising to 21 for certain exceptions.

Ms Perry says all her claims are made in accordance with the rules; two other MPs have told the Telegraph they will return money.

The paper’s leader column says the rules may have changed in the wake of the expenses scandal 10 years ago – but it is clearly going to take a long time to remake the culture in Westminster.

It concludes by advising politicians to listen to the words of Lord Tebbit – “If you wouldn’t be happy to read something about yourself on the front pages, don’t do it.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-the-papers-48235813

Has our Electoral Officer messed up again?

EDW comment:

I’d like to thank Mark Williams but I cannot. As we will be away for the European elections we applied for a postal vote. We had a letter on Tuesday from MW graciously allowing us our democratic right and saying that voting papers will follow.. Today’s post was the last opportunity but no voting papers have arrived. Thus we have been deprived of our vote. It seems that in his case past performance is a guide to the future! I wonder who will blame this time?”

Local Tories did NOT lose control of EDDC because of Brexit!

How does Owl know this?

Because the 31 Independents elected on Thursday did not mention Brexit at all when appealing to voters to vote for them!

VERY easy to blame national politics for local losses … no – you lost because you put your party (and your party’s donors) before your district.

Never mind, you have 4 years to work out what to do next time!

Claire Wright explains why she believes people should not vote Conservative in tomorrow’s local election

” … As a former East Devon District Councillor who stood down in 2015, I left because I could not bear the continued nastiness of the ruling group anymore. It was a hard, challenging and ultimately game-changing time, where I exposed underhand practices, culminating in a police investigation, worked tirelessly on planning issues and did my best to make the council more transparent.

Things changed massively on EDDC as a result of my time there and I’m glad I did it, but I view it as a period of my life where I was battling the forces of darkness. That may sound melodramatic but I can tell you that is how it felt. Fortunately, I had massive support from members of the public during that time, who came to meetings, spoke at them and generally provided me with amazing support.

To think that this group might now be on the verge of falling and allowing a new progressive, representative group to take its place makes me very happy indeed. …

Polling day tomorrow. Please go out there and vote!”

http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/conservatives_poised_to_lose_control_of_east_devon_district_council_tomorro?

“Why I’ve joined a new group of MPs trying to fix Britain’s futile adversarial politics”

Could you see Swire or Parish doing this for the sake of our district and our country? No. Could you see Claire Wright doing this? Yes.

“… A few weeks ago I was asked if I would be interested in joining the More United Network. One call with its leadership team and I was sold. The idea is simple really, a new platform for MPs who are willing, where possible, to work cross-party in the national interest, regardless of which party is in power.

I know it’s a cliche, but becoming a dad completely changed how I viewed the world. My outlook was different, less selfish and short termist. I began thinking more about the sort of country I wanted my kids to grow up in. And I could either be the guy who sits round the dinner table or down the pub putting the world to rights, or I could get out there and fight for the things I believe in. So that’s what I did, and two years later I was elected to parliament.

Most MPs enter politics for reasons like this, having been inspired by something or someone in their lives to make a positive difference. And going to work surrounded by a group of people with an immense breadth and depth of knowledge and experience means there’s always something to learn, and areas where common cause can be found.

What many people don’t know is that some of the best work in parliament happens in the All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), where MPs with a shared interest join forces to push for change. Sadly, this sort of positive cross-party cooperation doesn’t often make the headlines.

On the whole, MPs tend to agree on the destination we want to arrive at. We all want to make sure our NHS is at its best, that we’re giving our kids the best start in life and an excellent education so they can fulfil their potential, that people can achieve the dream of home ownership, that our high streets thrive, our environment is protected, and that we have the right transport and digital infrastructure in place.

What is true is that we don’t always agree on the path to get there. That is no bad thing either, we need a battle of ideas, and no side has a monopoly on good ones.

This is what the More United MP Network hopes to achieve; bringing people together in a space that allows consensual politics to flourish so we can find solutions. Seeking out differences and grievances just for the sake of it doesn’t help anyone.

Outside the Westminster circus, real life and real issues are affecting my constituents. Too many feel the deck is stacked against them. It is that pervasive sense of unfairness that threatens social cohesion, and has seen people lurching to populists on the left and right in search of scapegoats and easy answers.

It’s the job of serious MPs to tell it straight – that there is no silver bullet or magical solution to all the issues facing us as a nation. That whilst of course at times our political differences will be too big to bridge, where we can work together to make your lives better, we should.

And when it comes to those of us in the More United Network, we will.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-mps-more-united-network-parliament-commons-a8883656.html