Let us be under no illusions, the #ToryElectionFraud could fizzle out into nothing more than fines all round and a couple of token by-elections.
The Electoral Commission has handed down a ‘record’ fine of £70,000, they have also referred a possible criminal offence – of whether Simon Day, the Conservative Party’s registered treasurer until April 2016, “knowingly or recklessly made a false declaration” – to the Metropolitan Police. Some may be disappointed with the Tories only being fined but the meat and potatoes will be in the criminal prosecutions (if they come). The EC has sent a clear message that the scale of election expense ‘irregularities’ not only warrants a record breaking fine but, also and crucially, criminal investigation.
It is probably not in the interests of the public for the EC’s investigation to overshadow that of the criminal investigations. The EC has not commented on whether the ‘irregularities’ were intentional, which is quite correct. It will be up to criminal investigation to determine intent.It is significant to look at what the EC can comment on and, for that, it is of great interest to look at the reasons the EC gives to justify the record breaking fine which it has imposed.
Firstly, the EC does say that:
So the scale of the Tories’ “irregularities” was of significant magnitude and not limited to just what individual MPs expenses were but of the Party itself.
The overspends did play a role in the campaigning of the MPs who benefited from them. In addition to that, the EC also says:
The Tories attempted to obstruct justice and it cost taxpayers money.
And the beat rolls on.
Yesterdays revelations on Channel 4 displayed the scale of the election fraud being investigated. Given the scale, intentional under-reporting would constitute a crime that would reach into the very heart of the Tories and the scandal would be enormous. It is no wonder that the majority of the media have had a virtual blackout of the scandal, presumably in the hope that it can be downplayed and swept under the carpet. It will be likely that those controlling the BBC’s ‘news’ output will be dervish like in their attempts to sugar-coat the scandal as it unfolds.
That the EC has released its findings and fined the Tories, expect pleas that they cannot receive a fair trial if it goes to court. The EC’s verdict and fine makes it impossible for people to not be biased. It’s nonsense, of course, but it will be a hail Mary attempt to quash criminal prosecution. Alternatively, the Tories may offer up some sacrificial lambs to take the fall, ‘to save taxpayers considerable legal costs of an expensive and drawn out trial’. I hope British law demonstrates that even governments can’t buy their way out of their crimes (if crimes they have committed).
The wider implications are of even greater significance.