Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/949/25477
The Socialist 17 May 2017 |
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Tories escape election fraud charges
The Tory election fraud charges centre on expenses for activists on their 2015 battle bus, photo by Nic Gould (Creative Commons) (Click to enlarge)
Corbyn should attack May's hypocrisy
Ryan Aldred, Plymouth Socialist Party
Up to 30 Tories, including up to 20 MPs, have escaped prosecution for not declaring extra money spent on election campaigning. But the scandal highlights that the Conservative Party offers anything but the "strong and stable leadership" Theresa May keeps droning on about.
With a membership that is both falling and aging, the Tories have resorted to flooding elections with money and not declaring the true cost of their campaign expenses to cover for their lack of social base.
On the other hand, new members and supporters have flooded into the Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn's leadership wins and anti-austerity pledges.
Channel 4 News and the Electoral Commission have established that, for example, the Tories did not declare at least £22,000 of 'battle bus' activists' hotel bills in 2014's Clacton-on-Sea byelection. This would have taken them around £8,000 over the legal spending limit for a single constituency.
The Tories' approach in this and the other 2014 byelections - now past the time limit for investigation and prosecution - apparently became the model for their 2015 campaign in 80 marginal constituencies.
There is a separate budget limit for national party campaigning in the year before a general election. But the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) believes battle bus activists were involved in local rather than national campaign work, at least some of the time. And over £63,000 of their expenses didn't appear on the national books either.
So the issue is not whether or not incomplete election expense returns were made. The issue is that the CPS would have to prove local candidates or election agents knowingly submitted false returns to hide their breach of local spending limits.
The CPS claims it can't make a case because local Tories could have been misled by their national office about where expenses were being recorded. And Tory HQ claims the funds missing from the national return to be simple "human error" - a human error that just so happens to have taken place as a pattern across key marginals.
Would any such "human error" by Corbyn's campaign get the same generous benefit of the doubt?
Despite the unwillingness of the state to make an example of capitalism's preferred party, Jeremy Corbyn should make an example of the Tories - by highlighting not only their hypocrisy in relation to false expenses, but the hypocrisy of their entire campaign.
They are not, as they claim, the party for "hard-working people," but for the super-rich. By boldly championing socialist policies, Corbyn could sweep the Tories from power.