Tory Election Fraud has the potential to bring down the UK Government

Far from being a minor embarrassment for the Tories, the election fraud scandal could bring about the systematic collapse of the Cameron government. Yet without mainstream media coverage it’s entirely possible that this story could vanish without a trace.

There are currently 19 Police Forces in the UK investigating 28 Conservative MP’s for election fraud. It’s alleged that a number of Tory MPs benefited from having national campaign resources diverted to their local campaigns in the 2015 general election. This number has grown considerably over the last few weeks and may continue to grow.

Looking at the coverage this story has received from the mainstream media, you could be forgiven for thinking this was simply an administrative error on the part of the Tories. Their position (currently) is that this is a misunderstanding – specifically over whether a Tory campaign ‘battlebus’ (which shuttled campaigners around the county to whichever marginal seat needed supporters) counted as a local or national spend.

Critics argue that the battlebus is just one of several pieces of local campaign spending that was deliberately labeled as part of the national campaign in order to avoid going over the spending limits for local campaigning. The principle of the laws governing election expenses is that no one party should be able to outspend all the others in the run-up to an election and effectively ‘buy’ a victory.

If Tory MPs are found guilty of not having declared their full local campaign spending (which may well mean they broke the spending limit) the consequences could be severe. It is a criminal offence for candidates to fail to declare their campaign spending in full and can carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail, or at a minimum fines.

This alone could be explosive for the Tories and in particular any MPs who are found to have broken the law. But beyond the mere embarrassment of having politicians being fined/going to jail, this story has the potential to be the most devastating scandal a government has suffered in a generation. And this relates directly to the small, 12 seat majority that allowed the Conservatives to form a government after the 2015 General Election.

Consider if just 12 of those 28 MPs being investigated are found to have broken the law. That would mean that David Cameron formed his government based on fraud. The very mandate that the Tories used to enact a rash of unpopular legislation (including the EU referendum itself) would be in tatters.

There is no precedent in modern British politics for a governing party discovering that its mandate to govern is illegal. All legislation passed since the Cameron government’s formation in 2015 could be open to forms of legal challenge. The scope of this situation is enormous.

A slew of byelections followed by a vote of no confidence in the government could bring about a snap general election – well before the next one is scheduled to happen in 2020.

With all this potential fallout it’s clear just how serious this story is – and yet it is not making the headlines. Some stories have appeared in the press (especially in the Mirror and Channel 4 News) but it has not received anywhere near the level of coverage that similar stories have done in the past (Plebgate, MP expenses, Cash-for-questions etc.)

The Guardian called this “a very legally sensitive story” and said that it is “difficult to write reams and reams of speculation.” What that means is that any mainstream newspaper even alleging that an MP has broken the law could be taken to court for libel.

In fact, it’s unlikely the mainstream media will move on this story until there are actual charges made by Police Forces against MPs. However, by then it could be too late.

The Conservatives are trying everything they can to make this story go away before any charges are made. They have already sent top lawyers to block a Police request for a time extension needed to investigate these allegations. Though their attempt failed and the police were granted their extension, there can be little doubt that behind the scenes at Conservative party HQ, teams of paid staff and legal professionals are working tirelessly to bury this story.

The hashtag #ToryElectionFraud has been trending across social media for the last few weeks and though people are discussing it, this is merely within the confines of social media – which simply does not represent the wider reach that the mainstream media has.

So it’s the job of citizen journalists, bloggers and anyone willing to spread the word to keep this story alive and move it into the public consciousness – otherwise, without the mainstream media’s involvement, this story runs the risk of doing exactly what the Tories want – disappearing without a trace.

Britain was looking for for an alternative in 2015, not for English Conservatism

A conventional election strategy and a First-past-the-post voting system worked well for the Tories in 2015 and badly for Labour. To succeed in 2020, Labour must mount a new kind of campaign that speaks to those who want something different – not more of the same.

After Labour’s catastrophic defeat this year, the Conservatives continue to behave as if they won a landslide victory – rather than a slender majority of 12. And as Labour stumbles through a very public and increasingly embarrassing leadership contest, the Tories still act as if they are the benefactors of a modern day ‘divine right of kings’. Nothing encapsulated this better than Iain Duncan Smith’s fist-pumping glee during the announcement of a national ‘living wage’ at this year’s budget.

But far from a tale of overwhelming Conservative support, the real story of the 2015 General Election was the British public demonstrating that they were more willing than ever to vote for an alternative. The SNP, UKIP and The Greens took over 21% of the vote between them. In 2010, these smaller parties barely managed to get 5%.

And yet, the right-wing press has already constructed a self-gratifying narrative for the 2015 Election: That the Tories rode a wave of resurgent English Conservatism to a ‘landslide’ majority victory – and that the Labour Governments elected in 1945, 1964, 1974 and 1997 were merely blips in an otherwise unbroken run of Conservative rule. But this mis-reading of events could prove fatal for the Tories.

A genuine public shift towards the Tories in the UK would have meant a significant number of seats changing hands from Labour to the Tories in 2015 – and yet the Conservatives actually made a net loss of 2 seats to Labour.

Most of the Tories new seats in 2015 came from their old coalition partners the Lib Dems. But this had more do with the peculiarities of the First-past-the-post voting system than a shift to the Conservatives from former Lib Dem supporters.

Of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010, their 2015 vote roughly split into equal thirds: A third moved to Labour, another third moved to other parties (primarily Tory, Green and SNP) and a third stayed with the Lib Dems. Under proportional representation this would have benefited Labour, yet under First-past-the-post, the Tories gained 27 former Lib Dem seats compared to Labour’s 12.

This happened because two thirds of former Lib Dem seats had the Tories in second place already, so former Lib Dem voters shifting their vote to a third place Labour candidate simply bumped the Tories up into first place (leaving Labour second or third).

Without the 27 seats gifted to them by the Lib Dems, the Tories would have won 304 seats – short of the 326 needed for a majority in parliament and 2 seats less than they won in 2010. Conversely, with the addition of the 39 seats that Labour dramatically lost to the SNP, they’d have finished with 271 – 13 more seats than they won in 2010.

Take away the unprecedented SNP surge and Lib Dem collapse and the 2015 General Election would have been a rerun of 2010 – with a small loss of seats for the Tories and a small, but slightly more significant gain for Labour.

Fighting the 2015 election using conventional strategies paid off surprisingly well for the Tories and very badly for Labour, though it may not have the same result in 2020. The 21% of the electorate who voted for smaller parties aren’t going to change their minds if they are offered more of the same by the big two parties and the 33% who didn’t vote will remain largely unengaged without something new to connect with.

If Labour approach the 2020 election with a conventional strategy of winning over Tory swing voters in marginal seats, it’s likely to see a similar result to 2015. But under a new leader, Labour now has the opportunity to change its tune and reach out to a wider group of the electorate – especially the half of the electorate who are either already voting for an alternative or waiting for one to present itself. A Labour campaign of real hope and vision, offering a rejection of Tory austerity and a proper alternative could do that. By comparison, the Tory election machine has only one gear – shore up the vote with those who traditionally come out and vote Tory and ignore those who don’t. In 2015 that was enough to cross the finishing line but in 2020 it could fail dramatically.