Channel 4 News: Zac Goldsmith has “questions to answer” about election spending

Channel 4 News will tonight broadcast the results of an investigation which it claims show Conservative MP for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith, has serious questions to answer about the accuracy of his election expenses.

The total allowable expenses for the campaign for all candidates was £11,003. Zac’s official returns show he spent 98% of his limit, just £220 below the limit. Channel 4 News questions whether on three specific items – his spending on political signs, personalised jackets and campaign leaflets – Zac’s claims would have been higher if he had complied with both the letter and the spirit of the law.

Here’s how the Channel 4 News website are reporting (with very careful lawyer-approved wording) their findings:

During a closely fought and at times bitterly contested campaign Cameron made a point of promising a new, cleaner politics in the wake of the expenses scandal. So did Goldsmith stick to the letter and spirit of the law on election spending? …. when Channel 4 News and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism looked at his receipts in detail, there were some puzzling items.

They then look in turn at the claims:

… if the Goldsmith campaign was wrong to shift half the cost of the signs from his parliamentary campaign to the local council campaign, then he could well have breached his legal spending limit – and he could have broken the law. Just going over by one pound could amount to an offence.

if Goldsmith was wrong to leave the cost of the jackets out of his declaration, he would be over his legal limit.

The final big-spending item was the cost of Goldsmith’s campaign leaflets. He ordered 272,000 posters and leaflets which invoices show cost more than £14,000. This cost alone would have taken him over his spending limit.

But Goldsmith’s campaign reduced the costs in various ways. One that stuck out was his claim that he simply did not use 62,000 of them. This helped cut his spending declaration by more than £2,500.

In other words, he only declared what he claims he used, rather than what he ordered. Some other candidates also only accounted for what they used but in Goldsmith’s case the sums were large.

We should note that Zac Goldsmith’s election agent disputes any suggestion of sharp practice: “We were scrupulous in ensuring that all our election expenses complied with both the letter and the spirit of Electoral Commission rules.”

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17 Comments

  • Paul Griffiths 15th Jul '10 - 7:02pm

    There’s a lesson for us all here. I’m putting personalised jackets on my next G8 application.

  • David Langshaw 15th Jul '10 - 7:46pm

    Oh dear. I hope this is not going to be a repeat of the Pengelly/Slade affairs of the 1980’s, which nearly bankrupted some people.

  • Paul McKeown 15th Jul '10 - 8:13pm

    David Mundell MP is now subject to a police investigation regarding his expenses claims. £700 was wrongly declared to an earlier stage of his campaign. He says that this was an oversight and not an intentional attempt to subvert the law. Sounds like something about nothing, to be honest.

  • That man Goldsmith’s a genius!

    Next time round I’m only going to put the cost of the ink onto my expenses (after all, it’s only the words – formed by the ink – that’s promoting the candidate; the paper is neutral, and can be used for other purposes afterwards).

  • A point to note is that a lot of agents spend a lot of voluntary effort to ensure that the spirit of the law is unbroken. I think there should be a root and branch reform of the funding system. 11k is more than enough if you have an election address, one leaflet a week and posters.

    From what I gather from the C4 clip is that they’re saying the `vote Zac Goldsmith` posters had a small band at the bottom saying `vote Conservative` and it’s open to interpretation whether or not that could be interpreted as up to a quarter of the local campaigns and then which local campaigns? Is the apportionment on the other local returns? It could open up a whole can of worms where at least one local race might be challenged.

    @paul mckeown

    David Mundell MP is now subject to a police investigation regarding his expenses claims. £700 was wrongly declared to an earlier stage of his campaign. He says that this was an oversight and not an intentional attempt to subvert the law. Sounds like something about nothing, to be honest.

    No this is entirely wrong – when I think of all the volunteer agents that scrupulously ensure that undelivered literature before close of nominations is binned so that election expenses are honest your statement makes my blood boil. If they are delivered AFTER close of nominations then that has to go on the election expenses as an apportionment.

  • Paul McKeown 15th Jul '10 - 9:26pm

    @John

    Sorry to make your blood boil. Everyone can make a mistake: it doesn’t have to imply dishonesty. errare humanum est?

  • Paul McKeown 15th Jul '10 - 10:11pm

    @Sesenco

    The Mansion Tax went down like a bomb…

  • Andrea Gill 16th Jul '10 - 8:36am

    How was the £11,003 arrived at? Strange number.

  • @Andrea – the formula is a flat rate and then so many pence per elector so it does produce odd figures

    @John – the Mundell issue AIUI is that it was a genuine oversight not to declare something but when that item is added in correctly it takes him over the limit.

  • @Hywel – I understand what you’re saying but £700 of leaflets could cover at least half the constituency!

  • @paul mckeown – it does make my blood boil because I acted as agent at the last election and I had to ensure all the rules were complied with – sure it’s a mistake – how many leaflets were involved that cost £700! In Stockport you could cover half the constituency as a very rough rule of thumb.

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 16th Jul '10 - 8:34pm

    Just another trustafarian with that sense-of-entitlement that allows him to feel ‘busy-body’ rules don’t apply to him.

    Absolutely shocking performance on C4 news.

  • I watched Channel 4 Interview with Zac G this evening. He comes across as a rich, arrogant, ill-briefed crook. Are the Conservatives seriously suggesting that he will be trusted to promote the concept of Man-made global warming? It also seems highly probable that he totally usurped the election-expenses rules. Will they ditch him now, or later?

  • As a former Lib Dem Councillor I think there is a salutory lesson for all of us. We value the role that has been played by Election Agents when it comes to taking the greatest of care to make sure that the Election Expense return for Local Elections is accounted for to the nearest penny even ithough the expenses actually outlayed come no wher near the limit to what could be spent at a General Election.
    Having said that I have concerns about one element of Zac Goldsmith’s Election expenses namely his posters.In some L/A areas this problem has been solved. Street Posters are banned. I have some concerns for democracy and where there is no state funding, for even smaller political parties than the Lib Dems about banning posters. However I do not think for a moment under closer scrutiny that Zac Goildsmith can and should be allowed to say that the costs of his posters should be defrayed to Local Election expenses. Even allowing for the most creative of Election Agent accounting this arguement is not a runner.
    I think over this particular Election Expense item he does, and should have a problem for which he is going to hav e to answer. By the way please tell the Guru’s in the Coalition. Do not allow Zac to save his own skin now, or any Coalition MP in the future by saying the Lib Dems say it is alright to do what I have done as everybody does this and if they are not allowed to this this somehow the end of democracy!!! This reopens the MP’s Expenses issue and what’s more it is POLITICAL SUICIDE for the Coalition.

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