Police drop investigation into MP Barwell’s election expenses

WALTER CRONXITE reports on how the forces of law and order have decided not to investigate a government minister

It seems that the police haven’t bothered to read Gavin Barwell’s election memoir.

Gavin Barwell: has he done the decent thing? Or been told to do so?

Gavin Barwell: his admission in his own book is not enough evidence for the police

They will not be unique in that respect, although at least they would have been paid for their efforts if they had bothered.

This week, in a short statement, the Metropolitan Police detective co-ordinating the wide-ranging, national investigation into allegations of election fraud, said that “on this occasion there will be no further action taken due to insufficient evidence” in the case of Barwell, the Conservative MP for Croydon Central.

The Met is running the investigation into serious allegations involving more than 30 Tory MPs from 2015. The Tories have a working government majority in parliament of 16, so potentially it would take only eight cases of alleged fraud to be well founded and prompt by-elections in the seats in question for Theresa May to have no majority.

The investigation into Barwell’s election spending began in April. In July, he was promoted to a position as Housing Minister in Theresa May’s government.

The 2015 campaign was the second successive General Election in which Barwell’s extravagant spending was brought into question. After the 2010 election, Barwell’s agent, Ian Parker, was hauled before a judge for a stern talking to, over failure to declare spending on office rentals, though no further action was taken.

On this occasion, the police received a complaint suggesting that the MP may have broken the law by under-declaring his campaign spending. Under the terms of the Representation of the People Act 1983, inaccurate declarations of election expenses are illegal and can attract a range of punishments, including jail time.

Investigations led by Channel 4 News and the Daily Mirror into spending on the Tory Battle Bus and hotel bills prompted Conservative Central Office to concede that there may have been breaches of the strict limits on election spending in other constituencies. In those cases, the Tories blamed “an administrative error” – a similar form to the excuse offered up by Parker, on behalf of Barwell and his erstwhile Croydon colleague, “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway, five years ago.

Gavin Barwell's book, in which he claims, repeatedly, to have delivered all the leaflets his election expenses claims submmited said he did not

Gavin Barwell’s book, in which he boasts of delivering 50,000 election leaflets

This time round, the complaints over Barwell’s election spending once again revolved around the amount he declared as having paid for his campaign office rent. Also under scrutiny was the amount Barwell claims to have spent on his carpet-bombing of Croydon Central with leaflets.

Given that Barwell clung on to his parliamentary seat by just 165 votes, such otherwise esoteric issues as spending on leaflets can be seen as being far more critical to the outcome.

The law permits election candidates to spend only limited amounts during what are called the “long campaign” and the “short campaign”, with those periods defined (for the 2015 General Election) as running from December 14 2014 to the day before a person is formally nominated as a candidate (the long campaign), and from the date of nomination to election day (the short campaign).

The Electoral Commission defines candidate spending as “any expenses incurred, whether on goods, services, property or facilities, for the purposes of the candidate’s election during the regulated period”. The spending limits for Croydon Central, determined by the number of constituents, were £35,288.62 for the long campaign and £13,287.48 for the short campaign.

In Barwell’s recently published election memoir, he boasts of campaigning from June 2014 – that is, well before the “long campaign” required him to account for his expenses – and of staging “the glitziest launch of an individual constituency campaign British politics has ever seen” in September 2014.

In July 2014, he had the support of a visit of around a hundred activists through the now notorious Tory “Road Trip” organisation. None of the spending on these events will have had to be declared under election law.

In his book, Barwell writes that he managed to raise £90,000 for his campaign fund: nearly twice the amount which the law allowed him to spend in the long and the short campaigns combined.

“We were determined to deliver more literature than Labour,” Barwell boasts in his book.

Barwell’s election accounts claim he spent a total of £13,035.74 during the short campaign – just £251 inside the limit.

The local MP has been out campaigning with members of a Tory youth group under investigation for some serious allegations

Barwell campaign leaflets: he wrote that he delivered 50,000, but accounted for only 42,500

But in a closely fought marginal seat, fine margins may have become a little blurred for gaffe-prone Gav.

In his expenses return, Barwell claims that he did not manage to deliver all the leaflets that his campaign had printed. He has therefore declared a reduced amount of spending, helping to bring his spending just inside the legal limit.

It also presents anyone wishing to challenge Barwell’s accounting with a problem: how do you prove a negative? How can it be proved that Barwell failed to deliver the leaflets that he says he did not deliver?

In this case, it should have been straightforward, even for the Sherlock Holmeses working on the MPs’ expenses fraud causes, because a few months after the dust had settled on the General Election, and with a good deal of hubris, Barwell produced another version of the election, in his book, with his first-hand account of events which contradicts the official accounts he and his agent signed off and submitted.

In his official expense returns, Barwell claims that a batch of 50,000 leaflets (invoiced on April 15, 2015) were only “85 per cent delivered”.

Yet in How to Win a Marginal Seat, Barwell writes that with the help of 200 activists, “…we delivered a leaflet through every one of the just under 50,000 letterboxes in Croydon Central in just over three hours”.

Who to believe? Barwell? Or Barwell?

In the book, Barwell repeats his claim of delivering all 50,000 leaflets, “to every home in the constituency on the morning of Saturday 18 April” in the appendix, accompanied by pictures of the front and back of the leaflet in question.

Barwell's own account of his campaign contradicts his official declaration on his election expenses

Barwell’s own account of his campaign contradicts his legal declaration on his election expenses

Elsewhere in his official returns, there are another half-dozen leaflets that Barwell claims were not all delivered. So although his campaign will have had to pay its printers’ bills in full, he declared a lesser spending figure on his election accounts.

Taken together, the full costs of all the leaflets will have taken Barwell well over his legal spending limit.

Yet none of this, apparently, was enough for the Boys in Blue. Nothing to see here, guv’nor, move along quietly please…

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2015 General Election, Crime, Croydon Central, Gavin Barwell, Ian Parker, Richard Ottaway MP and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Police drop investigation into MP Barwell’s election expenses

  1. timbartell says:

    OOO what a surprise,just yer usual fit up by a tory as all the charges for the rest of them will be dropped too.

  2. Contrast this with the recently announced investigation into the soldier who mentioned the (mercy) killing of mortally wounded Taliban in a book. Written (authored) confessions are viewed as insufficient evidence is some cases yet in others convictions are pursued and achieved on much less robust evidence.

  3. davidjl2014 says:

    Complete and utter waste of police time and public money. Politicians have been overspending and not declaring it for years and years and years. So What! Barwell may be hiding a few thousand pounds worth of money he shouldn’t have spent on printing a few extra leaflets. What should be pointed out that since 2007/8, and as a direct result of the recession-induced collapse in tax revenues and surge in public spending on benefits, the national debt has doubled from roughly 40% of GDP to 80% of GDP. It’s an national scandal but, will P.C. Plod be investigating that? I doubt it, they probably think that GDP stands for Greatly Depleted Policeforce.

  4. derekthrower says:

    At least out of this Gav has found another reader of his election memoir in Walter Cronxite.

    Wonder how many of this masterpiece were ordered from the printers, but have never made it into anyone’s hands to read?

    A pulped fiction.

  5. davidjl2014 says:

    Well, what dear old Walter has failed to report is that it’s been a bad week for the Labour Party. An absurd eight-and-a-half-foot limestone slab from the 2015 general election that was inscribed with Ed’s election pledges has cost the party a massive £20k fine. It appears that officials had failed to declare two payments totaling £7,614 for the stone in the party’s election expenses! How many leaflets could you print with that I wonder?

    • You’ve missed the title of this site, David: Inside Croydon. The Ed Stone, despite its vast potential for satire, has no obvious Croydon line or relevance.

      Yes, £7,614 is a terrible offence, and has been properly dealt with.

      Wonder what happened to the rest of the £90,000 which Barwell boasted as having raised for his campaign fund, which amounted to more than double what he was allowed to spend under the legal limits? Now that is a Croydon story which we have reported, and which the Electoral Commission has declined to investigate.

      • davidjl2014 says:

        Fair comment. But if you look at my previous observation, I did mention that politicians had been fiddling election expenses for years, so nothing new to report really, unless you hate Gavin Barwell.

        • 1, No you didn’t.

          2, In any case, that’s no reason to ignore any subsequent and egregious instances of similar examples of the same behaviour.

          3, You have a warped notion of what constitutes news, worthy of the sort of servile, “nothing to see here” attitude which engenders cover-up and apologia for the Establishment. Are you gaffe-prone Gav’s love child?

  6. Pingback: Tory Election Fraud. #toryelectionfraud | L8in

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