Zac Goldsmith's election expenses
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?