Chris Huhne election expense allegations: nothing to see here, move along

Two former Liberal Democrat councillors in Eastleigh (one deselected, the other left the party following the deselection) have been making allegations to the media that Chris Huhne overspent on his general election expenses.

However, the allegations are extremely threadbare – to be generous.

The claim is that the local party spent more on the elections than was declared in the limit. To someone who knows nothing about election law, that sounds a serious, credible allegation. But if you know something about election law…

For somewhere such as Eastleigh with local elections on the same day as the general election last year, campaign activities could have had to count against the constituency expense limit (Chris Huhne’s), the council ward expense limits, the general election national expense limit and even – in a few cases – the law says that expenses would not have counted against any of those limits. So not only is it possible, it’s quite normal for the amount spent on campaigning to exceed what is in the constituency expense return.

Even if you exclude campaigning for the local council elections, there is a wide range of activities which in non-legal speak could be called “local campaigning” or similar which actually are not required to be recorded on the constituency expense return (either for the long or short campaign period).

On the basis of the evidence that has been published, the two ex-Liberal Democrat councillors have either demonstrated their own ignorance of election law or their desire to join the list of people who make threadbare public allegations because they’re motivated by personal animosity.

UPDATE: The Electoral Commission did indeed subsequently reject this complaint about Chris Huhne’s election expenses.

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