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Blow for Theresa May as Tory MP faces criminal charges over election expenses

The announcement of criminal charges comes a week before the election.

Image: Steve Parsons PA Wire/PA Images

THE CROWN PROSECUTION Service has charged three people, including one MP, with offences relating to the declaration of election expenses made by the Conservative Party during their 2015 General Election campaign.

The case centered on whether certain candidates broke the law by recording money spent on busloads of party activists sent to key areas as part of the party’s national spending, as opposed to the more limited local budgets.

It had been argued that labelling the expenses under the party’s national budget breached rules, and allowed the party to spend far more than its rivals to win key constituencies.

The figure of the “battlebus” became synonymous with the affair, with busloads of party activists sent to important locations to try to sway voters.

General Election 2017 Source: Danny Lawson PA Wire/PA Images

The CPS ruled last month that a number of Tory figures would not face criminal charges over the scandal, but said at the time that one file by Kent Police was still under consideration.

Today, the CPS said in a statement that evidence sent by Kent Police has led them to conclude that “there is sufficient and it is in the public interest to authorise charges against three people”.

Nick Vamos, head of special crime, said: “Craig MacKinlay, 50, Nathan Gray, 28, and Marion Little, 62, have each been charged with offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983 and are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 4 July 2017.”

The news comes as a blow for Prime Minister Theresa May, with less than a week to go until the general election. She had said that nothing improper had taken place.

One of those charged, Craig MacKinlay, is running again in the South Thanet constituency. He beat UKIP’s Nigel Farage, and comedian Al Murray, to the seat in the 2015 election and has served as an MP since then.

General Election 2015 aftermath - May 8th Source: Gareth Fuller PA Archive/PA Images

The Conservative Party is behind MacKinlay, however, with a spokesperson telling the Guardian: “We continue to believe that this remaining allegation is unfounded.

We believe that they have done nothing wrong, and we are confident that this will proven as the matter progresses.

Opposition parties had been sharply critical of the Conservatives throughout the controversy.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Our election laws must be enforced and must be adhered to. There are strict spending limits for a reason: so that money can’t buy power.”

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the Conservatives had “driven a battlebus and horses right the way through the spirit of [the law]”.

He added that the affair had left a ”cloud hanging over British politics”.

Comments have been closed for legal reasons.

Read: ‘A cloud over British politics’: Tories won’t face criminal charges for Battlebus expenses

Read: Jeremy Paxman had May and Corbyn in his sights last night but failed to land a knockout punch

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Sean Murray

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