Political

Electoral Commission rejects expenses complaint against Chris Huhne

The Electoral Commission earlier today rejected one of the complaints made over Chris Huhne’s election expenses. It was the complaint made by two former Liberal Democrat councillors who claimed the party had spent more than the legal limit.

However, as I pointed out at the time:

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.

Of course not quite everyone agreed with me on this site:

Guido Fawkes: Embarrassing, Mark, plain embarrassing. This is plain fraud. You are getting ridiculous…

But here is today’s verdict in a letter from the Electoral Commission:

The Electoral Commission takes all allegations seriously, and I have considered the allegation carefully in line with our assessment procedure. We will not be taking any further action in relation to the allegation.

The reason for my decision is that the allegation did not provide any specific evidence that Mr Huhne’s campaign expenditure was under-reported. The discussions at the meeting did not appear to have related solely to spending on Mr Huhne’s campaign and did not indicate any specific overspending in respect of his return

Generally the media coverage of the allegations was relatively muted, with coverage including significant prominence to the defence and reasons for disbelieving the claims. However, not all was – most particularly the Mail. We’ll see how much prominence the ruling is given in tomorrow’s papers, though I suspect it won’t be equal…

(In fairness to Guido, he did cover the ruling today fairly fully, though missing that “embarrassing” quote…, so it may be the case that his coverage of the complaint ends up being more balanced than that of some of the press, which would be a curious outcome to say the least.)

The second complaint is still outstanding; for reasons why that complaint is deeply flawed see both my post on Chris Huhne’s elections expenses and also the one from Paul Walter who points out further holes in the claims.

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