A statement from Wiltshire Police brings the news that former Lib Dem MP Duncan Hames has been cleared of allegations that his election expenses did not properly account for the Liberal Democrat ‘battlebus’ during the 2015 general election.
As the police statement makes clear (but, ahem, Guido Fawkes has repeatedly failed to), the Lib Dem use of a campaign battlebus to carry the party leader around was very different from the Conservative battlebuses used to ferry campaigners around, and for which numerous Tory MPs are under police investigation.
Here is the Wiltshire police statement:
Wiltshire Police received an e-mail in the early part of 2016 from a member of the community who was concerned that Duncan Hames the Liberal Democrat Candidate for Chippenham and his Agent had misrepresented their expenditure in the 2015 General election.
This was in relation to the Liberal Democrat’s use of the ‘Battlebus’.
The circumstances were that the then party leader Nick Clegg visited Chippenham in his own bus, and there was a concern that this should have been included in Mr Hames expenditure return. This is not the case, and there was no requirement for him to include this visit. Party Leaders visit constituencies during elections and the cost comes out of central party funds. The Channel 4 News programme highlighted circumstances relating to the Conservative and Unionist Party’s use of a ‘Battlebus’ to bring party activists to marginal seats to support the local candidate, a completely separate issue and not a tactic used by the Liberal Democrat Party.
Wiltshire Police have investigated this allegation and are satisfied that the details as reported were in fact not present in Duncan Hames’s campaign.
Wiltshire Police have closed their investigation and conclude that Duncan Hames and his Agent were not in breach of any offences contained in the Representation of the Peoples Act 1983.
Duncan Hames has said,
It came as quite a surprise to me back in May to learn that concerns about my campaign had been reported to the police.
Evidently, since the independent police investigation into my campaign found the details as reported to them were in fact not the case. I welcome their conclusion therefore that neither my agent nor I committed any offences.
As a Member of Parliament, I always sought to be accessible and accountable to the public. All those they elect should expect to come under such scrutiny; our parliamentary democracy can ultimately be stronger for it.