The greatest scandal currently in British politics is currently under investigation and the media are barely covering it.
57 MPs are currently connected to the investigation, with 29 constituencies currently under investigation. All 29 constituencies were won by the Conservative Party at the 2015 General Election.
Evidence now shows that the Tories have been illegally supporting their local campaigns in each constituency with money from their national party, without declaring it (so as to avoid going over the £15,000 spending limit in each constituency).
John Rentoul goes into greater detail:
The Tory election expenses story started in January this year when [investigative journalist Michael] Crick discovered that the bills for a hotel in South Thanet were declared as costs of the party nationally, rather than as those of the constituency campaign. Spending limits for local campaigns are restrictive – £15,000 for the five-week election period – so the incentive to allocate the hotel bills, adding up to £14,000, to national spending is obvious.
From here, Crick’s investigation for Channel 4 has expanded hugely, discovering that the 29 constituencies may have all been won illegally by similar methods.
The Tories have been spending the money on their “battle buses“, hotels, staff costs and innumerable other areas where any spending could have given them an advantage in the 2015 General Election.
However, any average member of the public would be forgiven for barely knowing about it, such has been the almost total media blackout regarding this issue. Indeed, even seasoned elite politicians like Michael Portillo and Alan Johnson claimed “total ignorance” of this last year on This Week on BBC One:
Whilst extraordinary that two of the most connected members of elite politics in the last few decades could claim ignorance, this dubious stance has been given oxygen to flourish thanks to the genuine lack of attention the story has been given in the mainstream press. An illuminating point in the midst of a self-imposed media blackout.
But why does this matter?
The Tories working majority in Parliament is only 17. This is a very slim majority and if just 9 of the 29 MPs were found to have used “sufficiently illegal” means to influence their respective elections, that could mean the legitimacy of Conservative parliamentary rule and governance is shaken to its core.
In it’s most extreme possibility, it could mean the downfall of Theresa May’s government.
But don’t all parties fiddle their expenses? Why should we care?
It is true that now and then other parties have been caught in similar scandals. What marks this particular event out is the sheer breadth and coordinated nature of it.
Figures connected to the very top of the Conservative Party are intimately involved with the debacle, such as Theresa May’s top aide Nick Timothy:
[The reports] also appear to directly contradict a previous statement issued by the Party which, when asked about Mr. Timothy’s role in South Thanet, said Mr Timothy “provided assistance for the Conservative Party’s national team”.
The Conservative Party has consistently denied that Mr Timothy worked directly on Craig Mackinlay’s local campaign against Nigel Farage in South Thanet in the 2015 General Election.
But emails seen by [Channel 4] appear to show Mr Timothy devising strategy and campaigning messages that were used by Mr Mackinlay’s local campaign.
Among the documents seen by Channel 4 News is a “message sheet” written by Mr Timothy dictating crucial arguments used to persuade voters in South Thanet to vote for the Conservative candidate.
Incidentally, Craig Mackinlay’s chief of staff was recently arrested on suspicion of a rape alleged to have taken place within Parliament itself! Fine company to keep, indeed.
Nick Timothy was challenged today thanks to some excellent direct journalism from Michael Crick, pursuing Timothy and asking him questions regarding his illegal electoral position:
— Michael Crick (@MichaelLCrick) February 28, 2017
Timothy’s silence is revealing. This is clearly a man who is used to working behind the scenes, desperately uncomfortable that his unsavoury activities are being brought to the surface by excellent footwork journalism.
But one man isn’t an entire investigation…
If Theresa May’s closest advisor is so bound up in this affair, we have to be able to openly ask questions regarding this electoral fraud to anyone associated with the scandal. 57 MPs (and maybe more) will need to be interviewed by the police, Conservative staff members will need to be summoned for evidence and lord knows who else.
A handy database has been created which collates all the evidence to do with the Electoral Fraud scandal. This is worth checking out for specific information regarding the fraud.
But why aren’t the media more interested in this scandal? That’s scandalous!
John Rentoul (chief political commentator for the Independent) has said that the media haven’t made a big deal of the fraud for the following reasons:
This is the kind of thing that has been promoted on the internet by people demanding to know why the mainstream media, and in particular the BBC, has failed to cover the “Tory election fraud” story.
It has in fact been widely reported, Crick and Channel 4 News being part of the mainstream media. The reason it hasn’t been reported in the way that some people want is because nothing has been proved yet, and even if it were disqualifications and by-elections are unlikely.
However, Rentoul is being misleading. One swallow doesn’t make a summer and one mainstream source consistently reporting an news item doesn’t equate to full spectrum analysis (or full public awareness). Rentoul himself shows a curious lack of interest in the true ramifications of the electoral fraud:
Did the Conservatives steal the election by failing to declare local campaign spending? The short answer is no, but the longer answer is still interesting.
Why is the answer no? Surely if widespread and co-ordinated electoral fraud has taken place, a truly public spirited journalist would not only be interested in the minutiae of the case; they would want to explore the possibility that the ruling government’s legitimacy had been fatally holed beneath the waterline.
Media silence reigns
Rentoul’s reluctance to genuinely probe this issue isn’t uncommon; in fact it represents the “blanket of silence” approach assumed by the majority of the media. Claiming to be intimidated by Britain’s libel laws or silently avoiding responsibility due to their innate obsequiousness to power, barely any mainstream commentators have discussed it in any length. As Craig Murray puts it:
The Guardian briefly ran a story on the front page of their website – it was there only a few hours – explaining that legal restrictions made it impossible for them to publish. This is untrue, particularly when so much has been published by Channel 4. The Guardian also connived to make it appear that the only expenses in question were the costs of a bus. It is very much more than that.
The Guardian is only the tip of this deliberately useless media iceberg. Only Channel 4 and Michael Crick can genuinely claim to have been mainstream commentators that have consistently beaten this drum.
Why does it matter if the media do their job? Can’t we just rely on Twitter?
The reason the mainstream media doing their job matters is that, with just one journalist on one channel, the police have had their hand forced and have been forced to investigate this significant illegal activity. The potentially spectacular fallout could effect British politics for years.
Imagine what could happen if the entire media turned their gaze towards this, rather than obfuscating the issue with silence or “mea culpa” prayers of respecting the legal process.
If mainstream commentators such as Owen Jones, Ian Dunt or Tim Shipman (to pick just a few names out of many) applied significant time and column space to properly investigate this issue, we could expect public awareness to be far higher.
Where can we go to find more about this issue?
Social media has been hugely important in keeping this issue alive, thankfully. It has offered a crucial avenue for non-mainstream journalists and others who are keen to see justice done in this case. Below are a collection of some of the best links for updating yourself about this Conservative Election Fraud:
An excellent resource site for almost all of the information on the case (either commentary or direct sources) can be found here.
Guido Fawkes also runs updates on the election fraud. I’m not a huge fan of the ethos or politics at Guido but they do thorough muckraking.
And finally, Craig Murray runs infrequent updates on his site.