The ‘longest confession note in history’? ConHome admits what CCHQ want to hide

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Thanks go to a couple of people who coincidentally both pointed me to the same article. If they’d like to be named, I’ll edit accordingly.

Tory election fraud is big news at the moment – although not as big as it should be and not that new, as it has been bubbling for a year or more. Tory HQ has just been fined £70,000 for false reporting (and in some cases, the complete omission) of their spending on the 2015 General Election – and the Electoral Commission would have fined more – if that wasn’t the maximum in their power:

But that’s just the amuse-bouche – the main course is the continuing police investigation into Tory MPs, candidates and officials in 29 constituencies, which has already resulted in at least one sitting MP being interviewed, at length, under caution and a string of MPs being put on notice of possible criminal charges.

To date, 17 files have been passed by police to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Astonishing that it took so long for the Establishment media to pay attention, as Channel 4’s Jon Snow observed this morning:

The current line from Tory spokespeople and Tory-friendly media is that the matter hinges on the issue of ‘intent’ – did candidates know they were breaking the law and intend to break it (the legal term mens rea, ‘guilty mind’) – but, as this blog has shown, intent is irrelevant to the case. Only the facts of false declarations and breached limits matter.

The key issue is therefore the allocation of spending as either local or national. The Tories have attempted to argue that their ‘battle buses’ etc were national spending. If it was, there is no reasonable doubt that MPs and their electoral agents committed the offence of signing a false declaration of their local spending – and in some cases, that they exceeded hard legal limits on what a local campaign can spend, because the declared local expenditure was just below the limit and the misallocated spending would take them over it.

Former Cabinet Minister Oliver Letwin this morning described the matter to BBC News as ‘human mistakes’ and claimed ‘I don’t think there are any villains here‘, as if some Tory staffer just tripped and dropped a pile of receipts into the wrong file.

But, for a lengthy 2015 article on the Conservative Home website, the ‘ConHome’ author interviewed those at the heart of the Tories’ ‘Team2015’ campaign. Giddy with their unexpected success in the previous month’s General Election and, no doubt, oblivious to what might be happening a couple of years later, the interviewees appear to have spoken very freely.

Recklessly, in fact, since they give away information that suggests Letwin and his party are deliberately misdirecting with their ‘human error’ claims – and show plainly that the expenses currently under investigation were by design local and not part of a national expenditure that just ‘happened’ to be in certain constituencies on a given date. So clear and damning is this information that it’s astonishing that the article is still online – and, as it may not be for much longer, a PDF of the whole thing is available at the end of this post.

The article is long-winded, but the key ‘confession’ takes place across just a few paragraphs in sections titled Getting people there – and co-opting Road Trip 2015 and The campaign – and “The Survey”.

But before we launch into those sections, here’s a graphic that shows information given to candidates that shows what the Electoral Commission (EC) tells candidates they must include in their local spending return:

explanations

The current line from Tory HQ and Tory-friendly media about’intent’ – did candidates know they were breaking the law and intend to break it – is irrelevant to the case. But it’s a complete red herring – they knew, and if they hadn’t known they were responsible for knowing.

Now, to that ‘confession’ in the Getting people there section – and why it’s so damning:

target 1

As we can see in the EC graphic, transport costs of campaigners, staff salaries for time spent on a local campaign, leaflet costs – all must be included in local spending returns – and were all incurred. We’re not done yet.

target 2

Food expenses must be included – and were clearly incurred. Communications costs must be included – and were clearly incurred in calls and text message. More staff costs in the ‘chivvying team’. Accommodation for any who stayed overnight. But we’re still not done.

target 3

This small paragraph puts beyond doubt that the infamous Tory ‘Battle Bus’ was anything but a national campaign bus that just happened to visit Tory seats. They were carrying people to specifically targeted, local areas to participate in specific local campaigns. But we’re still not quite done.

In the Campaign section, the article discloses that the campaign was not only not a generic national campaign that could be counted as a national expenditure – it was in some cases even tailored to specific local voters and was always tailored to specific local issues:

campaign

Hyper-targeted communications‘, ‘crafted messages carefully targeted at each voter‘, ‘hand-addressed envelopes‘ with ‘a variety of different messages‘. It stretches credulity to claim that the costs of all these were generic national expenditure.

Not only that, but the candidate and campaign staff were directly involved and cannot claim ignorance. An earlier paragraph mentions cryptically:

it was made clear to [candidates for this targeted programme] that support from the 40/40 process would require them to follow new approaches, and agree to do things they might instinctively question

But by admitting that the campaigns were created in ‘close work with the candidate [and] campaign manager‘, any doubt over the complicity and knowledge of those individuals currently trying to offload all blame onto Tory HQ has to be considered as obliterated.

Every expense associated with the buses, the movement of people, the phonecalls, texts, research, letters, curries and anything else that formed part of this operation was unquestionably local – and those involved unquestionably knew it.

And by participating in the interviews that formed this Conservative Home article, they wrote ‘the longest confession note in history’.

This is by no means the limit of the matter. There are other campaign expenses at national and local level that the SKWAWKBOX will be examining over the coming days, which may not have been reported fully or at all and will, if so, implicate an even wider set of Tory figures.

But as far as the ‘Battle Bus’ campaign and other related activities are concerned, it appears to be ‘case closed’ – and those involved must be brought to book and face the decision of a jury in the matter.

PDF of the full article: The computers that crashed. And the campaign that didn_t. The s
Archived version of the original site here.

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19 responses to “The ‘longest confession note in history’? ConHome admits what CCHQ want to hide

  1. Pingback: The ‘longest confession note in history’? ConHome admits what CCHQ want to hide | Jaffer's blog·

  2. Despite their claims, it’s clear that the Tory #Battlebus2015 was anything but a national campaign; and as detailed here, was carefully tailored to local issues and specific groups of would-be voters. So that excuse must no longer be entertained. This part caught my eye:
    “Without a truly mass membership, the [Conservative] Party could be defeated by a more capable, forewarned and better-organised Labour Party next time round”

    -we must ensure that we are that Labour Party.

    Just for fun* I’ve been looking through the Twitter account @RoadTrip2020 (which also tweets a link to the ConservativeHome article); it details the #Battlebus2015 campaign in the run-up to the election and consistently presents the Tory activists as being there to support the local parliamentary candidates.

    * 2 May 2015: “Toasts to our new Princess over dinner are followed by rousing renditions of God Save The Queen on #Battlebus2015 up and down the land”… “We even had specially made blue #Conservative trifle”

    Like

    • Unfortunately under our terrible electoral system that’s enough to win; that’s the whole point after all, as they were targeting marginal seats, anywhere that was close enough to flip to (or away from) Conservative and thus cost them a seat.

      Like

  3. Sincerely hope a copy of the cached pages is winging its’ way to all the relevant investigating police forces & the EC, just in case they weren’t aware of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The ‘longest confession note in history’? ConHome admits what CCHQ want to hide | Declaration Of Opinion·

  5. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cambridge Analytica was involved with the Tory election win of 2015. They could of hoovered up Facebook data from users profiles and then supply the information to the Tories so they could send tailored letters to each voter.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: @ElectoralCommUK – ‘no evidence’ Tories ‘funded with intention’? Here you go | The SKWAWKBOX·

  7. Retweeted and posted on Facebook, Ignorance of the law is not a defence in law. Their vote share has been falling, how much further does it have to go before it disappears completely. Lets hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Imagine the clamour, tumult, faux outrage and unrestrained glee in the right whinge press if Corbyn had done this?

    However he’s the model, honest, principled politician, calmly and patiently taking the fight to the Tory cheats.

    Which the on message, salaried, billionaire-retained defenders of the crooked don’t like …

    So it’ll be Corbyn coming in for tomorrow morning’s creative brickbats, while the Tories get an easy ride, and Laura “mistakes” Kuenssberg goes unreported, dodges any social media bullets, continues consolidating her corner and chucking out diversionary chaff.

    It’ll be good to watch how her series of unfortunate “mistakes” … all 31 of them coincidentally done at the same time, will soon be exposed as concerted attempts to cheat the system and to defraud honest citizens who turned out to vote in good faith.

    I sincerely hope our overcrowded prison system can cope with the contents of Tory Head Office being emptied out into Wandsworth.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. And please forgive my cynicism, but the way in which the Tory MPs affected by these revelations have been leaking that they have been let down and abandoned by CCHQ must just be a ploy to get a senior operator within CCHQ to fall on his/her sword and claim it was all their fault and the MPs knew nothing about it so they can’t be forced to hold re-elections.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Unfortunately for them, they are responsible for submitting those expenditure accounts for their constituency spending & presumably signing something to the effect ‘I certify this is an accurate and truthful record of my expenditure’ otherwise the EC wouldn’t accept them- and we would never have had all the MP’s investigated in the first place.

      Also, if they were in any doubt about what constitutes national or local spending, all they had to do was consult the EC advice shown in other posts here, or consult the EC themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: The ‘longest confession note in history’? ConHome admits what CCHQ want to hide | The SKWAWKBOX | kickingthecat·

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