Lib Dems in new probe

Cllr Thomas (L) has a quick word

Local Lib Dems were showing signs of strain last night as it emerged that further complaints regarding the party election expenses have been made to the electoral commission.

Pressure group the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics have written to the Commission claiming they have discovered irregularities in MP Chris Huhne’s expense returns in the form of undeclared spending.

Sunlight COPs had previously sent a letter to Party Treasurer Anne Winstanley – who is also Party Agent for Mr Huhne – expressing concerns over election spending but had met with no response.

This latest development follows the release last week of an audio recording which Independent councillors allege shows evidence of an election overspend.

Lib Dem councillors attending closed door Local area committee meetings last night were reluctant to talk to the press regarding the latest allegations surrounding Mr Huhne and remained tight-lipped with the exception of Cllr Roger ‘100%’ Smith– who was distinctly cheery – and Cllr Chris Thomas who did stop to speak to hacks.

Cllr Thomas was adamant that there was nothing untoward about the meetings and that allegations regarding expenses or Mr Huhne were not discussed.

The party loyalist added he was ‘laid-back’ about the expense allegations and was confident they would stand up to scrutiny.

When asked about the Independent Councillors who had made the expense allegations he said that the Independents has chosen not to attend the meetings that evening and his own personal opinion was that making secret recordings of private conversations was ‘sneaky and underhanded’.

Cllr Thomas refused to respond to questions about Chris Huhne but paid tribute to the MP’s work in the constituency saying that the last time he had seen Mr Huhne, the MP had appeared to be his ‘usual self’ and was continuing with his local casework despite everything that was going on.

Cllr Mike Thornton, who represents Bishopstoke West with Anne Winstanley, also made a brief statement to say that the expenses allegations had not been under discussion at the meetings.

The press waited to speak to Ms Winstanley in order to give her the opportunity to respond to the latest complaint however she gave reporters the slip – clearly having nothing further to add to her previous statement released to the press:

“The general election expenses were as declared to the Electoral Commission. Additional expenditure in this period was for the local election campaigns, or not attributable to the campaign.”

Elsewhere it was revealed that both Mr Huhne and his estranged wife Vicky Pryce have both made statements to the Police regarding a speeding offence which occurred in 2003.

Photo: Matthew Myatt

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  7 comments for “Lib Dems in new probe

  1. May 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Interesting that Cllr Thomas thinks that secret recordings are ‘sneaky and underhanded’ but that secret, closed door, track covering, Lib Dem meetings aren’t.

  2. wavatar
    Eastleigh Xpress
    May 26, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Well Vicky at least Cllr Thomas has the bottle to stand up for his local party.
    He expressed his confidence in Anne Winstanley and the election expenses and spoke in support of Chris Huhne both on and off the record.
    Unlike his colleagues who were invited to do so but preferred to make no comment.

  3. wavatar
    Eastleigh Xpress
    May 27, 2011 at 12:08 am

    Of course avoiding questions and stonewalling just makes Journalists suspicious.
    There is nothing to come of claiming the phone is all crackly or by sticking your fingers in your ears and going La-La-La.

    They have obviously been taking advice on dealing with the media from an expert:

    httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQlgzGvjj3Q

  4. Peter Stewart
    May 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    This is an attempt by Tory and other hostile forces to destabilize the LibDems.

    Consider this! Election agents are LEGALLY liable for expense returns and it is a CRIMINAL offence to overspend. The more agents over spend, the more culpable they are.

    A massive overspend would certainly invalidate the election. Nobody wants to go THERE!

    As for expenses returns, money COLLECTED is irrelevant. What counts is money SPENT and only during the “qualifying period”.

    Furthermore, the election agent is entitled to calculate what proportion of the leaflets is spent promoting the BOROUGH COUNCILLOR, the MP and the PARTY. These are three separate spends.

    For instance, I have analysed a Chris Huhne promotional leaflet from the 2010 General Election. It is an A4, double sided leaflet produced on a Risograph. The total cost would be around £300 for the Constituency!

    Around 65% of the printed area is devoted to promoting Chris Huhne and 35% to promoting the LibDem Party. That means the expense attributable to Chris Huhne is only 65% of £300, i.e. £195 while the remaining 35% (£105) is attributable to the LibDem Party.

    The MP is allowed to spend around £39,000. That is equivalent to TWO HUNDRED double sided A4 leaflets as above! Did YOU get TWO HUNDRED LibDem leaflets?

    I realize there are other expenses, but even if we said only half the budget went on leaflets, did you get even ONE hundred LibDem leaflets?

    Or let’s say only a quarter of the budget went on leaflets, did you get FIFTY LibDem leaflets?

    £39,000 gets you a lot of publicity. With all this evidence, I believe it is unthinkable that the LibDems with all their years of experience, would slip up on something so basic.

    • May 28, 2011 at 10:56 pm

      Gosh Peter, it sounds like you’ll soon be leaving UKIP to join the Lib Dems

      • wavatar
        Eastleigh Xpress
        May 29, 2011 at 12:55 am

        He would be following in the footsteps of Sam Snook!

  5. wavatar
    Eastleigh Xpress
    May 28, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    “This is an attempt by Tory and other hostile forces to destabilize the LibDems.”

    Sorry Pete, the Lib Dems have no one other than themselves to blame for their current predicament.

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