(UPDATE: See also my more recent post about how Guido Fawkes’s source confused an election expense return with a cycle path.)
After all the excitable tweets over the weekend and the dramatic rhetoric about having been researching the topic for a year, you might have thought that when Guido Fawkes blogged today about Chris Huhne’s election expenses there’d be some solid evidence and a plausible complaint.
In fact, the complaint is so riddled with obvious errors that one’s tempted to say a hacker has snuck into Fawkes Towers and put it up there to discredit Guido. After all, he’s certainly had some bona fide scoops in the past. But this isn’t exactly in that class.
Here’s a sample of the obvious blunders.
a. The complaint against Chris Huhne’s election expenses says that a bill from a firm which printed letterheads (for target letters) doesn’t include the cost of envelopes and therefore concludes that “so the cost of the … envelopes hasn’t been declared”. Unless of course the envelopes were purchased from a different supplier and on a different date. Just like in fact is extremely common practice across all political parties – you buy your letterhead from a printer, your envelopes from a stationery firm, your laser toner from someone else and put all three together to produce target letters.
b. The complaint against Chris Huhne’s election expense also says that some items were (rightly) partly charged against the national expense limit. It then goes on to claim that those items don’t appear on the party’s national expense return. Except that they do. Of course they don’t appear under a specific Eastleigh heading, but then they were items being produced across different seats and so what appears on the national expense return is the total spend across them all.
I could go on but you get the point. Not quite the finest hour of investigative reporting. Especially as they talked about how it’s a story that wasn’t put together in an hour but in a year.
But then we have been here before with Guido and Harry Cole ramping up claims against a Lib Dem MP over election expenditure only for them to fall flat when investigated.
As with the earlier claims over Chris Huhne’s election expenses, all that the evidence presented shows is that the law was kept to and those making the complaints either don’t know what they’re talking about or are deliberately hoping to fool people with arguments they know don’t stand up. I’m happy to take the more generous interpretation though…
(Update: for more on the flaws in the complaint see Paul Walter’s blog post on Chris Huhne’s election expenses.)