Last week we heard that 12 English police forces have sent papers to the CPS, in response to concerns about electoral expenses matters in up to 20 seats won by the Conservatives at the 2015 General Election. Four other forces, including Kent Police, which is investigating what happened during the election in the Thanet constituency, have yet to say where their investigations have led them.
Thanet was won by the Conservative’s Craig McKinley, much to the disappointment of UKIP’s candidate, Nigel Farage.
So, and allow me to indulge in pure wishful thinking, what would happen if the courts said that some or all of these contests must be re-run? Would that not go straight to the heart of the legitimacy of the Conservative government and any legislation passed since that administration was formed?
Now, the Conservatives might win all or most of the by-elections ordered by the courts (or the Electoral Commission). But they may not and Mrs May’s majority, authority and legitimacy could evaporate.
Where would that leave the legal position of the EU referendum Act and the legislation passed just this week to enable Article 50? Indeed, how legitimate would any of the government’s post-May 2015 legislative actions be? If it were to transpire that power was won only on the back of electoral malpractice the government would surely fall? Some Remain groups would quickly knock at the door of the Supreme Court seeking constitutional and legal direction and resolution.
As I say, wishful thinking, but you never know.
Another consequence of by-elections or court actions, or both, would be to again put political party funding on the front pages. Lord Tyler’s House of Lords efforts last Friday to, once and for all, sort out party funding might yet turn out to be electoral gold for the Liberal Democrats.
* Martin Roche is a member of Canterbury Liberal Democrats