Sunday, 19 March 2017

For Want of a Nail

For want of a nail, a shoe was lost.  For want of a shoe, a horse was lost.  For want of a horse, a knight was lost.  For want of a knight, the battle was lost.  For want of the battle, a kingdom was lost.

The Tories have just been fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission for their activities during the last General Election, and three by-elections.  The Electoral Commission criticised the Tories not just for the scope and nature of their activities in failing to report and misreporting their election expenses, but also for trying to frustrate the Commission's investigation into those activities, including the Commission having to get a Court Order to force them to hand over information.

The Electoral Commission's fine and report, gives some idea of what the Police in 12 different authorities have been investigating, which has now resulted in files being passed by the Police to the Crown Prosecution Service.  The background to the investigations is now fairly well known as a result of the work done over the last year by Channel 4 News.  Basically, it comes down to the fact that in a number of vulnerable seats, across the country, Tory Central Office, used its national resources to pay for campaigning work within the constituency.

Election rules separate out national election expenses from local election expenses.  The former should cover only activities related to the national party's general campaigning work.  Any activity specifically related to supporting a local candidate should be accounted for as part of the local expenses.  In a number of these cases, it appears prima facie that the Tories did not do that, and that expenses to cover national figures campaigning on behalf of local candidates were set against national expenses rather than local expenses.  In a number of cases, had the expenses been properly accounted for, it appears that the limit for local expenses would have been exceeded, potentially invalidating the election of the candidate.

Part of the problem the Tories faced was that in a number of seats they faced the potential of having their vote squeezed, by UKIP.  The other problem is that as a party on the ground, the Tories are effectively moribund.  They have few local activists, and those they have are largely old people, who are not able to get out and do a great deal of active campaigning.  To make up for that, the Tories had to ship in via their battle bus, younger activists, and national figures to undertake such campaigning in those seats where they were possibly going to lose.

Given the extent to which the government majority was slashed at the last election from around 70 for the Tory-Liberal government, to just 12 for the current government, the importance of winning these marginal seats is quite clear.  David Cameron, of course, never expected to win an outright majority.  He expected that he would continue to have cover from the Liberals in a new coalition government.  It was on that basis that he thought he was safe buying off the UKIP Fifth Column inside the Tory ranks, by offering an EU Referendum, and its also why he and Osbourne thought that they were safe trying to ambush Labour with the proposal to free Taxes and National Insurance rates.

But, of course, the Liberals had destroyed themselves by their coalition with a right-wing Tory government, and with their betrayal over Tuition Fees.  By pushing the Liberals into a corner over austerity, over Tuition Fees, over the Bedroom Tax, and thereby exposing the true conservative nature of the Liberals, Cameron helped to destroy them, and thereby to destroy his own left cover against his nationalist ultra-right wing.

But, had the Tories not won those handful of seats by means that now look to have been at the very least questionable, if not illegal, Cameron would not even have obtained a majority at all.  Moreover, having destroyed themselves the Liberals would not have been able to have come to his aid.  The scenario that Cameron tried to scare the electorate into rejecting of a Labour government, supported by the votes of the SNP,  would then have come to pass.

But, in that case, its unlikely that the EU Referendum would have taken place, and even if it had, the terms under which it would have been fought would have been quite different.  A referendum on the EU under a Labour government would have stressed the importance of staying in the EU, not for the reasons that Cameron proposed of weakening workers rights, and international solidarity, but the opposite, of the need to join with other EU workers to transform Europe.  As with the experience on Thursday in the Netherlands, where the pro-EU, pro-immigration D66, and Green Left parties secured significantly improved votes, whilst the right-wing governing party, lost seats, and the Labour party which had sucked up to it was crushed, following the experience of depasokification elsewhere.

If, the Tories MP's are disqualified following an investigation, it raises the question of the legitimacy of everything else that has happened since the election.  If those MP's were actually illegitimate then the Tories had no majority, and was itself not a legitimate government, which means that all of the legislation it has passed since, including the referendum legislation, and the Brexit legislation is also illegitimate.

No comments: