The Conservatives have been accused of breaking the law during the 2015 general election.
First, there were reports that they spent over the legal amount in three key by-elections in 2014, and they now face allegations that dozens of Conservative MPs broke the law to win their constituency seats in the 2015 election as well.
They’re now facing calls for an investigation almost a year on, but will they be held to account?
An investigation by The Mirror suggested that 24 Conservative candidates who were helped to win marginal seats by the party’s ‘RoadTrip 2015’ campaign failed to declare the cost of the buses, along with other expenses in their election campaign spending.
To make it even worse, David Cameron himself told the now disgraced head of RoadTrip: “We quite simply could not have done it without you.”
It seems he wasn’t wrong. They hold a majority of only 12 MPs, and if The Mirror is accurate with their investigation and candidates did break the law, it might mean the result of the general election would have been very different.
It’s believed 20 Conservative candidates are likely to have exceeded the strict spending gap, with its limit aiming to ensure a level playing field between political parties and candidates.
The Conservative Party has since denied any wrongdoing, saying that their costs did not need to be declared on a local level, as it was part of their national campaign overall spend.
CCHQ [Conservative Campaign Headquarters] campaigned across the country for the return of a Conservative Government. Such campaigning would be part of the national return, not local return.
— Roadtrip2020 (@RoadTrip2020) April 30, 2015
— Roadtrip2020 (@RoadTrip2020) May 4, 2015
And it seems the candidates themselves thought they were being promoted on a local level:
— Craig Mackinlay (@cmackinlay) May 7, 2015
But UKIP have taken the allegations even further, after a Channel 4 News investigation discovered evidence suggesting the Tories overspent in three key by-elections against the anti-EU party.
More evidence has since emerged showing that Craig Mackinlay failed to declare over £20,000 in expenses, including accommodation and buses as part of his campaign, after beating Nigel Farage in Thanet South in the 2015 election.
The Electoral Commission has now launched an inquiry into Tory party spending, but as they’re unable to prosecute, UKIP have now asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate the party over Thanet South and the three by-elections.
However, there’s now a race against time for them to face prosecution, as there’s a 12-month limit on prosecuting election expense related crime.
That has already passed for the by-elections and is almost up for any offences during the general election, which was held on May 7th 2015.