I am the above named and I can confirm that I was a candidate for Nuneaton Constituency in the Parliamentary General Election 2015. I stood to represent the Green Party.
I wish to make a complaint in connection with the electoral expenses return submitted by Marcus Jones who was elected as the Member of Parliament for Nuneaton Constituency. He stood for the Conservative Party.
I briefly looked at the returns after the election but given the short return showed the candidate to be within the short period limit by around £1,300 I did not pursue the issue. However I have now been made aware that a Channel 4 investigation uncovered considerable spending that has not been reported against some candidates including Marcus Jones. I have conducted some on line research in this respect and I have been able to print off an article from the Channel 4 website which details their findings. I will refer to this as (KK01).
In relation to candidate spending this would include any expenses incurred on such items such as advertising, leaflets, transport, accommodation or administrative costs such as stationery or photocopying providing such expenses were for the purpose of the candidate’s election during the regulated period. For the short campaign the regulated period starts on the day upon which a candidate is officially announced and ends of polling day (for the Parliamentary General Election 2015 this mean the short campaign would end on the 7th May 2015). I am aware that the Acting Returning Officer published a statement of persons nominated on 9th April 2015. This statement showed that Marcus Jones was a Conservative candidate for the Nuneaton Constituency in the Parliamentary General Election 2015.
I have obtained an extract of the short campaign expenses return submitted by Marcus Jones MP and his Agent, which I had to pay for from Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council. I now produce this as (KK02).
From reviewing the expenses return in my possession my concerns include:-
- Only part of the cost of videos were booked to the short campaign period but the videos were published in several parts on You-Tube and are still freely available to view online. I can see that the relevant invoice is number 9 in the electoral expenses return bundle. The total invoice amounts to £1,195.00 and the invoice shows that it was to be paid in two instalments of £597.50, however, only one payment of £597.50 is recorded on the electoral expenses return.
- Again, for the short campaign period, for some printing orders, only part of the invoice total has been recorded on the elections expenses return where it would appear that the Agent has only claimed the number of items used, rather than the full value of the order. Clearly anything printed needs paying for in full even though some went unused. Such examples include invoices that are numbered 2, 3 and 24.
Invoice numbered 2 shows that the total invoice amounted to £77.11. The total invoice appears to be for an ‘A4 poster name and photo’ but handwritten onto the invoice is ‘only used 250 77.11 ÷ 2 = £38.56’. It is the sum of £38.56 that has been entered onto the election expenses return.
Invoice numbered 3 shows that the total invoice amounted to £63.60. The total invoice appears to be for an ‘A3 poster name only’ but handwritten onto the invoice is ‘only used 200 63.60 ÷ 5 x 2 = £25.24’. Is it the sum of £25.24 that has been entered onto the elections expenses return.
Invoice numbered 24 shows that the total invoice amounted to £365.00. The total invoice appears to be for ‘10,000 DL polling day leaflets’ but handwritten onto the invoice is ‘£365.00 ÷ 10,000 = 73. Only used 2,000’. The amount that then features on the electoral expenses return is then only £73.00.
- Balloons were only delivered on 2nd of April according to invoice numbered 14. It stands that the helium (invoice numbered 13) must also have been used mostly during short period. I cannot see any other use for helium other than to blow up the balloons. The Conservatives were in Nuneaton town most weekends with balloons – I personally saw this because I rented a market stall on a Saturday, for 4 weeks, in order to try and promote my own campaign. My stall was in the main pedestrian area and this is where most campaigners were promoting themselves. In fact I recall The Guardian newspaper filmed one afternoon and I have since been online and have viewed this – the Conservative balloons can clearly be seen as well as a young girl wearing a rosette. I have been able to print out a copy of the relevant page from The Guardian website which I now produce as (KK03). I believe all of the balloon costs should have been charged to the short period. In relation to invoice numbered 14 the invoice shows that the total cost for balloons should have amounted to £42.82, however, only £12.84 appears to have been declared for the short campaign. In relation to invoice numbered 13, the helium invoice, the handwritten notes on the invoice tend to suggest that the invoice had been split between the long and short campaign with only £58.50 being attributed to the short campaign from a total invoice value of £194.95. To me it does not make any sense that any of the helium costs were attributable to the short campaign if the helium arrived in January on a three month rental and it was collected on 31st March 2015 as stated on the invoice. All of the notes handwritten on the invoices have suggested that the short campaign was for 6 weeks and so in considering the election was on the 7th May 2015 this would mean that the short campaign period for Marcus Jones commenced on or about 19th March 2015.
Additionally, it is not clear how delivering all the leaflets and letters/postage was paid for as there are no costs recorded at all for postage/delivery. Residents had loads of advertising material delivered by commercial letterers and direct mailing. Although no such material has come through my own door, friends and colleagues have given to me leaflets that they received. I now produce an example of one such flyer (KK04). What I cannot be sure of, however, is whether such deliveries were made during the long or short campaign period albeit there are invoices for leaflets and letters (invoice numbers 17, 2, 23, 27 and 35 refer) that have been declared for the short period but where there do not appear to be any corresponding delivery costs unless they have featured in parts of the electoral expenses return that I have not obtained since I only bought an extract.
I am also aware that the so called Conservative ‘battle bus’ did visit Nuneaton in support of Marcus Jones and certainly I have been able to produce two significant photographs to show Marcus Jones’ use of the bus. I obtained these photographs from Twitter by searching @Roadtrip2020. This account features many articles about the ‘Battle bus’. In any event I now produce two relevant photographs (KK05) and (KK06) which show that Marcus Jones was using the bus to promote his own campaign rather than just the Conservative Party.
Additionally on Facebook an invitation was signed off by Marcus Jones in which an event was advertised at Hollybush House, Bond Gate, Nuneaton “a big action day alongside the battlebus on Friday 1st May”, “before heading out for an action packed campaigning stint including lunch and tea!” I have printed off this post and now produce it as (KK07).
Given that there must have been costs associated to the battle bus operation, such as hire, fuel and accommodation/refreshments for those supporters travelling on the bus, which do not appear on the electoral expenses return at all, it seems that the expenses for the short period have been significantly under reported.
Finally on 3rd May 2015 a Conservative Party meeting was held at Ambleside Club, Nuneaton. This was attended by David Cameron and a number of local, high profile individuals were invited. Involved in the meeting was Marcus Jones and to my mind this significant event was a joint venture to promote both the Conservative Party but also to encourage votes in favour of Marcus Jones. Certainly there was a lot of local media coverage which could only have assisted Marcus Jones’ campaign. I have obtained a copy invoice for this event which I now produce as (KK08). This invoice is featured on the Conservative National Party electoral expenses return (freely available to view on The Electoral Commission website) whereas I feel that it should have in part been posted to the short campaign period for Marcus Jones.