Meet Christine Mary Forrest-Ottewill. She’s a Tory activist, and she lives in Scotland. But during the 2015 General Election campaign, she was south of the border, part of the Team 2015 effort, travelling up and down the country on those Battle Buses, visiting marginal constituencies, canvassing, cheering on candidates and party leadership … and all the while, not featuring on their local expense returns.
Ms Forrest-Ottewill helped out with the campaign in South Thanet, telling her Facebook friends “leafletting & canvassing for Craig Macinlay for South Thanet in Broardstairs.
Farage clearly dejected by this w/end's massive Conservative support from locals & from ourselves … Telecanvassing on the coach en route on Sat., & joined by Grant Shapps we worked yesterday & today for the critical seat & staying overnight at Margate”.
South Thanet has no locally billed transport costs, and the amount of overnight accommodation required would have bust Craig Mackinlay’s return wide open. And by her own account, Ms Forrest-Ottewill was canvassing, so at least some of the expense of transporting, accommodating and feeding her should be billed to the local campaign. But the most revealing part of her campaign was a five day tour just before polling day.
This set out from London to cover a whole swath of Midlands constituencies, with activists based in Tamworth for five nights. You guessed it, Team 2015 and their accommodation feature on hardly any of those local expense returns. So where did they start? “Monday am 27th. we went to Cannock Chase for Amanda Milling for door to door surveys, joined by Patrick McLoughlan & Stephen Hammond the Wimbledon candidate”.
Ms Milling’s expense return (see HERE) does have an entry for Transport, but it’s for renting a van. Nothing for the Battle Bus or Team 2015. Nothing for their food and drink. From there, it was on to Northampton: “Tuesday 28th. to Northampton North for Michael Ellis with Chris Grayling, joined for dinner by Conservative Chairmen Grant Shapps & Lord Andrew Feldman”. Anything on Northampton North’s expense return?
Michael Ellis shows a NIL return for Transport, and nothing for Team 2015’s food, drink or overnight stays. Still, there was always Tamworth itself: “We had a special celebratory Indian meal in Tamworth with special guest Tamworth candidate Kevin Anderson in which we all gave 30sec. explanations of why we wanted to go on Battlebus2015”. But there was nothing on Chris Pincher’s return either (not Kevin Anderson).
Still, the day after the “special celebratory Indian meal” they went to Broxtowe, where Anna Soubry did put an item for Team 2015 on her expense return. Which means that all the rest of those expenses should have featured as well. For the ten days before the General Election, there were Battle Buses crossing the country, racking up thousands of pounds in costs that mainly failed to be accounted for by winning candidates.
Thanks to Christine Mary Forrest-Ottewill, we now know the scale of the Tories’ deception.