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

Thanks to all who voted, talks of the future and takes the weekend off!

Owl says thank you to EVERYONE who voted, however you voted. Those who did not vote cannot now moan!

It may surprise some to know that Owl will continue to hold the new council to account in the same way as the old one! Rest assured!

In the meantime, an exhausted Owl is flying away to pastures different for the weekend – back on Monday refreshed and beady-eyed bright!

FINAL RESULT Sidford Sidmouth – East Devon Alliance 2, Conservative 1

Sidmouth Sidford (three seats)
Stuart Hughes (Conservative) – 1,089 ELECTED
Dawn Manley (East Devon Alliance) – 1,303 ELECTED
Zachary Marsh (Conservative) – 721
Colin Mills (Labour) – 381
Marrianne Rixson (East Devon Alliance) – 1,326 ELECTED
Jenny Ware (Conservative) – 757
Ken Warren (UKIP) – 369

Budleigh and Raleigh – 2 Tory 1 Independent

Budleigh and Raleigh (three seats)
Alan Dent (Conservative) – 1,112 ELECTED
Pete Duke (Green Party) – 971
Brigitte Graham (UKIP) – 518
Patsy Hayman (Conservative) – 982
Paul Jarvis (Independent) – 1,187 ELECTED
Penny Lewis (Liberal Democrats) – 907
Thomas Wright (Conservative) – 999 ELECTED