Tories electoral commission fine: The official responses from the Conservative party and Ukip

 
Caitlin Morrison
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Nigel Farage Attends His Constituency Declaration
Tory MP Craig Mackinlay beat Nigel Farage to take the South Thanet seat in 2015 (Source: Getty)

The Electoral Commission announced this morning that it has fined the Tories £70,000 over missing and unreported payments

The sanction relates to the Conservative party's campaign spending ahead of the 2015 General Election.

The commission opened an investigation last February, after the Kent Police decided not to pursue an investigation into allegations regarding the Conservative candidate for South Thanet's spending return at the General Election. The constituency was won by Conservative Craig Mackinlay with a vote share of 38.1 per cent, ahead of Nigel Farage, who took 32.4 per cent of the vote.

The Conservative party treasurer at the time, Simon Day, could reportedly face criminal charges for his part in the mis-reporting, and the commission's findings could lead to a re-run election.

A Tory spokesperson said the party has complied fully with the Electoral Commission’s investigation since it began and will pay the fines they have imposed.

"This investigation and these fines relate to national spending by CCHQ, and the Conservative Party’s national spending return for the 2015 general election," the spokesperson continued.

"As we have consistently said, the local agents of Conservative candidates correctly declared all local spending in the 2015 general election.

"CCHQ accepted in March 2016 that it had made an administrative error by not declaring a small amount constituting 0.6 per cent of our national spending in the 2015 election campaign. This error was subsequently corrected and the Party has since improved its accounting practices, reporting structures and staff guidance. Even taking this into account, the Conservative Party still considerably underspent the statutory national spending limits for the 2015 general election.

“Political parties of all colours have made reporting mistakes from time to time. The Labour Party and Liberal Democrats both failed to declare sums of money which constituted a larger proportion of their national expenditure in the 2015 general election. Both have been fined by the Electoral Commission, and the Liberal Democrats are also under police investigation.

The spokesperson added: "This is the first time the Conservative Party has been fined for a reporting error. We regret that and will continue to keep our internal processes under review to ensure this does not happen again. Given the range of technical errors made by a number of political parties and campaign groups, there also needs to be a review of how the Electoral Commission’s processes and requirements could be clarified or improved."

UKIP Party Chairman Paul Oakden said: "As UKIP has always said, the laws are in place in order to ensure that big and wealthy political parties cannot buy British politics.

"The Electoral Commission has today shown that to be the case. Politicians complain that politics is seen in contempt by the people of this country. They have only themselves to blame."

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