Dear Prime Minister
At Prime Minister’s Questions on the 22nd of March, I asked you about the Electoral Commissions record fine of £70 000 on the Conservative Party, the largest ever levied on a political party in the UK. In response you told me you could not answer as this was a ‘party matter’ before adding that you believed this was all simply an ‘administrative error’.
I write to you now confident that you will now be in a position to answer my questions as the Leader of the Conservative Party.
Firstly. I’m sure we can both agree that our electoral laws are a critical feature of our Parliamentary democracy and are designed so that our elections are conducted fairly and transparently? I am also sure you agree that any transgression of our electoral rules should be treated with the utmost seriousness? Can you therefore explain the cavalier manner in which the Conservative Party have flippantly dismissed these investigations and the way in which they have been nonchalantly explained away and excused in the media by people speaking on behalf of your party?
The Electoral Commission’s investigation found the Conservative party’s spending return for the 2015 general election was missing payments worth at least £104,765. Separately, payments worth up to £118,124 were either not reported to the commission or were incorrectly reported. In addition, it found invoices or receipts for 81 payments worth £52,924 in three by-elections were unaccounted for. Critically the commission found that Conservative Party apportioned national election spending when it in fact should have been accounted as candidate expenditure.
Throughout the course of the enquiry the Electoral Commission complained about the way the Conservative Party hindered its work accusing your party of “unreasonable unco-operative conduct”, which they claim delayed this investigation for a number of months. Is the Electoral Commission right in these assertions and, if so, why did the Conservative Party attempt to thwart the progress of these investigations? It is simply inconceivable that a political party as well resourced as the Conservative Party was unaware of our electoral rules and far from being an ‘administrative error’ do you agree that this is at best wilful negligence and at worst electoral fraud?
The Electoral Commission do not have the legal powers to take this further and have passed on their concerns about the role of the Conservative Party Chairman to the metropolitan police stating he “knowingly or recklessly” falsely declared the party’s 2015 election spending return. His investigation will join the 20 Conservative party candidates and agents currently being investigated by 12 police forces the length and breadth of England. If at the conclusion of these police inquiries there is shown to be any criminal conduct there could be custodial sentences, by-elections with the outcome of the 2015 election brought into question. Such is the seriousness of the complaints that the Commission chair, Sir John Holmes, said the Conservatives’ failure to follow the rules “undermined voters’ confidence in our democratic processes”. Will you now pledge to take this investigations seriously, end all talk of ‘administrative errors’ and co-operate fully with all the investigations?
I asked you at Prime Minister’s Questions about who was involved in organising all of this? Could you now tell me who designed this activity, particularly the battle bus and accommodation exercise? What did they know of our crucial electoral laws? Did this involve Government aides? Who along with the Conservative Party Chair signed off the accounts for the battle buses, accommodation and associated spending? Did anyone in the cabinet or Government know about what was going on? Were you personally aware of this activity?
If it is all merely a ‘misunderstanding’ I’m sure you will have no problem in disclosing this information and I am confident that you will want to be fully transparent in all of these regards.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Pete Wishart MP
SNP Shadow Leader of the House