Thursday, 15 July 2010

Zac Goldsmith and the posters that will last 50 years - UPDATED

Hot on the heels of news that Scottish Tory MP David Mundell is being investigated by the Police over his election expenses comes a report by Channel 4 News that questions have been raised over the expenses of new Richmond Park Tory MP Zac Goldsmith.

The report claims that Goldsmith declared expenses for the short campaign (ie the 23 days leading up to polling day) of £10,783 - just £220 below the legal limit. There's nothing wrong with that. In order to maximise your chance of winning, a candidate will always try to spend as close to the limit as possible. But the report questions whether the real cost of the campaign wasn't actually a bit more.

In my experience the most damaging allegation is over Goldsmith's claim that a portion of the cost of his election posters should be attributed to Conservative local election candidates in his area. That would be entirely legitimate if the posters said 'Vote Conservative' or similar as he could argue that some of the benefit of these went to local candidates. Except that it is said that the posters carried his name and photo and therefore would have little benefit in promoting local candidates.

Goldsmith also claimed that much of the cost of the posters could be discounted as they could be used for other elections. This is a common tactic. A poster could - at least in theory - be used for more than one election. But claiming that they could be used for more than 50 years (ten elections) might be tough for him to prove.

Other claims concerned the use of 200 campaign jackets with 'I back Zac' on the back of them. Goldsmith has said that only the cost of the stickers should be attributed to his campaign expenses and has, once again, claimed that the stickers could be used for further elections. Perhaps it would be interesting to ask him to produce the reclaimed stickers and for him to show that they are in a fit condition to be used time and time and time again.

The final claim concerns leaflets which were ordered but not used. On this item, I think that Goldsmith is on firmer ground. If they did not contribute to his election campaign then they should not be counted. Proving that they were never delivered is a tough task. Perhaps Mr Goldsmith could produce the undelivered piles of leaflets to prove his case.

If his main opponent in the election - Lib Dem Susan Kramer - wants to challenge the result on the basis of overspending then she has only a limited time to do so. Mr Goldsmith's agent has stated that he believes they have scrupulously abided by the law.

UPDATE - The original details in this post were based on those listed on Channel Four's website. I have subsequently updated them and more details are on my later blogpost here.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

For a politician so concerned about the environment, the high number of leaflets (over 60k) never delivered seem rather stupid.