Sunday, April 02, 2006
Labour To Face Election Expenses Inquiry
Richard Gibbs' blog Thinking Aloud seems to have disappeared, which is a pity. It was he, you may remember, who wrote in the Mail on Sunday a few weeks ago about Labour's dirty tricks during the General Election campaign. He was a Labour Party regional organiser at the time but has since defected to the Conservatives, I believe. Today he make more allegations, which on the face of it look quite serious. He alleges that 19 Labour Party members of staff were drafted in to work on the South Staffs By-Election in June. This wasn't really a by-election as the poll was held over from the General Election due to the death of the LibDem candidate during the campaign. Sir Patrick Cormack went on to win the seat again. Because it wasn't a by-election in the normal sense, the usual election expenses rules applied (max £10,000). In a by-election it's £100,000. So under electoral law, if anyone is paid by a Party it has to be declared in the election expenses. Labour only declared salary costs of £2,000. Indeed, Gibbs tells the MoS: "We were not to tell anyone that we were Labour staff. The staffing bill alone would have breached the statutory limits. The party manegement decided early on that the only way to ensure that the election was contested in the way they wanted was to draft paid members of Labour staff into the region to run the whole effort. Staff were to answer any questions by saying we were voluntary. They were frightened our salaries would have to be declared, blowing a huge hole in the budget. All of this lent a covert feel to the campaign." Something else for Inspector Knacker of the Yard to investigate.