On Thursday, it was confirmed that UKIP leader Paul Nuttall was under police investigation for declaring a false address on his candidacy paperwork for the Stoke Central by-election. Mr Nuttall has been advised to discontinue his bid to win the seat because of the ‘uncertainty’ hanging over him.
Let’s be clear, that ‘uncertainty’ is the potential for jail time. Last August, Tory councillor Richard Smalley was jailed for two months for declaring a false address in a Derby council by-election:
Pronouncing sentence, the judge told Mr Smalley,
Two months jail-time for declaring a false address in a council election – so what does Mr Nuttall deserve for, as he has now admitted, doing the same in an attempt to gain a parliamentary seat?
Under the Representation of the People Act 1983, the maximum penalty for knowingly providing false information on a nomination paper is 51 weeks in jail – and it’s hard to imagine that he would not receive considerably more than the two months Richard Smalley received, given the greater importance of the election.
Mr Nuttall’s response? Apparently, to try to bluff his way out of it. After the exposure of his false declaration by Channel 4’s Michael Crick, he claimed that he was about to move in. Then, on Friday morning, he was pictured ‘leaving his new home’:
However, presumably unknown to Mr Nuttall, someone had taken a picture of ‘his’ house the night before:
The house is dark and appears to be completely uninhabited, just hours before Nuttall was photographed on its steps.
According to the property’s Rightmove listing, it was let unfurnished:
It’s very hard to imagine the UKIP leader spending the night in a still-uncurtained house with no furniture, as this appears to be when you zoom in on Thursday’s night-time image.
So it would appear likely that Paul Nuttall arrived at the property just in time for Friday morning’s ‘photo opportunity’ – but either way it makes no difference to the police investigation, as he was not living at the house at the time he declared he was on his nomination papers.
Ironically, Nuttall had no need to claim to be living in Stoke. Unlike the case of Richard Smalley, who declared a false address in order to qualify to sit on Derby city council, there is no legal requirement for him to have been living in Stoke before the by-election – or even after, for that matter.
It would appear that he made the false declaration purely in the hope of gaining electoral advantage – which is extremely stupid, but not surprising. The stakes are high.
If Nuttall loses in Stoke Central – especially after huge falls in vote share in this week’s council by-elections in Rotherham – it could well spell the end of not just his personal credibility. This was already rock bottom after claims of degrees and a professional football career he didn’t have, his being under investigation for huge alleged fraud relating to EU funds, questionable claims to have been at the Hillsborough disaster and the EU’s fraud unit looking even at the £10,000 ‘donation‘ he claims to have received for campaign expenses.
But the party he leads also faces its end as any kind of political force. UKIP is already irrelevant after the leave vote and is falling apart as more and more of its officials are convicted of sexual crimes and fraud. A humiliating defeat for Nuttall could be a death-blow.
So, desperate times, desperate measures, perhaps. But it’s to be hoped that Nuttall faces the full force of the law for his actions.
And that the eminently down-to-earth and sensible people of Stoke see through his transparent – and transparently illegal – attempt to fool them into thinking he has some credible connection with Stoke, rather than being a self-promoting chancer.
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