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Zac Goldsmith's election expenses

Michael Crick | 10:24 UK time, Monday, 19 July 2010

Having watched Thursday's report on Channel 4 News raising serious questions about Zac Goldmsith's election expenses, and seen most of Goldsmith's extraordinary interview with Jon Snow on Friday, I must say the ITN investigation is highly persuasive.

I've been saying for years that candidates have been fiddling the election expenses system - since I first did an item on the subject for Newsnight back in 1997. And I once gave evidence on the scandal to the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Indeed, I reckon that most serious contenders in close contests end up spending more than they are legally allowed to. But election agents have learnt the art of massaging the books, and hiding real spending. What's more, the major parties never complain about each other as they all know they're up to the same thing somewhere or other.

In the mid 1990s the problem got so serious that in big by-elections parties were sometimes spending ten or twenty times the legal limit. It was one of the great unreported scandals of British politics.

Anthony Barnett's report for Channel 4 News showed how Goldsmith's campaign in Richmond Park spent £14,000 on 272,000 election leaflets, an expense which in itself should have taken Goldsmith £3,000 over the £11,003 expense limit in that seat.

Goldsmith's excuse seems to be that not all that sum should be included since 62,000 of those leaflets weren't ever distributed.

That's seems an extraordinary excuse.

And in any case, why was a prominent environmentalist like Goldsmith printing so many extra leaflets, and destroying so many trees, when, according to his own evidence, he knew he could never legally distribute them?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Like father like son...it must be in the genes...cheating that is!

    Free-market anarchists just don't give a fig for the rules...because they play the game as though there were NO rules. They truly know the meaning of the word 'unfettered'.

    They all exhibit classic NPD characteristics to a T.

    Only 'jaded jean' has sussed them out as far as the Beeb's blogsites are concerned.

  • Comment number 2.

    I know one shouldn't mention a rival channel but Jon Snow tried to ask legitimate questions on C4 News last Friday and was met with rebuttal after rebuttal, something to hide, Zak? Goldsmith was supposwed to be so transparent with his dealings with the media and yet he was like a third world dictator. I would love Jeremy to get his chance as he doesn't usually let them get away....

  • Comment number 3.

    I think for political journalists Michael both you and Jon Snow are just showing your ignorance as to how local political parties fund their campaigns.

    Don't look at the spending: look at the funding! I wish you did that all the time as there would be a far greater appreciation of the taxpayer in the country at large as we keep the whole show on the road.

    That apart, in my experience, albeit a long time ago, local constituency parties not only have to fund their own activity and campaigning, they also have to fund elections from the pockets of the membership and their friends and associates. They get no help from the central party who tend to hinder and disrupt local campaigns.

    There is a lot of double use of posters and leaflets. It can be Overprint City betimes. Also a lot of stationery is purchased between elections. Financially accounting for all of this is a nightmare. I think the authorities understand this and only get involved if there has been serious and blatant breaking of the rules.

    I hold no brief for Goldsmith but I do feel he is right when he says his expense declaration is no different from that of anyone else.

    I don't think the shouting match between Snow and Goldsmith last Friday was particularly useful for either party. To me it looked just like a bear-garden. Snow only made himself look stupid so my friendly advice is that you keep well away from it.

  • Comment number 4.

    Wow that was amazing - just like his dad.

    Less like new politics more like rich fascist trying to intimidate a journalist. And John 'white as' Snow at that!

  • Comment number 5.

    Start as you mean to go on.
    When it comes to creative accounting and expenses "manipulation" they have to start somewhere you know.

  • Comment number 6.

    But, surely, when it comes to expenses, Labour are the biggest culprits ?

 

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