No criminal charges will be brought against more than 20 Conservative MPs over the national party’s failure to accurately declare campaign spending on a battlebus tour at the 2015 election. The Crown Prosecution Service said their constituency spending declarations “may have been inaccurate” but concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove dishonesty or bring a criminal case against the MPs and their agents. At issue was whether the costs of a Conservative campaign battlebus should have been accounted for by local campaigns where the legal spending limits are tighter at between about £11,000 and £16,000, depending on the size of the constituency.
Nick Vamos, the CPS head of special crime, said it was not in the public interest to bring charges. “By omitting any battlebus costs, the returns may have been inaccurate,” he said. “However, it is clear agents were told by Conservative party headquarters that the costs were part of the national campaign and it would not be possible to prove any agent acted knowingly or dishonestly,” he said.
The long-awaited decision provoked an immediate backlash from senior Conservatives, with party chairman Patrick McLoughlin claiming the pursuit of the complaints had been “politically motivated and a waste of police time”.
One Tory candidate, Karl McCartney, threatened to mount a campaign to get the Electoral Commission, which monitors campaign spending, abolished if it does not sack its senior management.