Decision expected today on Tory election fraud investigation

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Conservative MPs will today find out if they will be charged with electoral fraud by the Crown Prosecution Service after an investigation into the party’s spending during the 2015 general election.

The CPS has been studying submissions from 14 police forces, including Lincolnshire Police, centralising on allegations that spending on the party’s battle bus was under-reported and misreported to the Electoral Commission.

The commission previously imposed a fine on the party of £70,000 after the watchdog conducted its own enquiry into the allegations.

A decision, timed before the deadline for final nominations for the 2017 general election at 4pm on Thursday, is expected this week and is likely to come on the morning of Wednesday, May 10.

Any decision to prosecute Tory MPs would provide a significant twist in ongoing election campaigns, with more than 20 MPs facing potential charges under the Representation of the People Act.

Worst-case penalties could see those implicated jailed for up to a year and an unlimited fine.

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney has denied wrongdoing. He said previously: “I have made my forthright views clear privately to a number of senior representatives of the Conservative Party on behalf of my backbench colleagues at various times since the partisan decision by the Electoral Commission to examine only Conservative candidates’ election expenses was made.

“The Conservative Party advised us that the so called campaign ‘battle buses’ were, as at previous general elections and in keeping with the practice of both the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, a national campaign expense. This meant that they were not to be declared in our own election expenses.

“It seems odd that, even in the Electoral Commission’s reports on the Labour Party and Liberal Democrat’s conduct and national election expense return, there is no mention of any need for local candidates to declare campaign ‘battle buses’ on their own local election expense returns.”