Tory MP 'overspent on campaign to beat Farage'

By Aubrey Allegretti, political reporter
A Tory MP overspent on his election campaign to beat Nigel Farage and "see off" the then-UKIP leader's parliamentary ambitions "forever", a court has heard.
South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay, 52, along with his election agent Nathan Gray, 29, and party activist Marion Little, 63, are alleged to have been complicit in submitting false expenditure declarations.
Southwark Crown Court heard the Conservative Party put extra resources into the campaign to win the Kent seat in 2015 because UKIP's support was on the rise."Nigel Farage indicated he would step down as UKIP leader if he failed to win South Thanet, so it was clear this was not going to be any ordinary election campaign," prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee QC told jurors.He said the election became a "two-horse race" won by Mackinlay with a majority of around 2,800 in an electorate of 70,000.
Tory MP 'overspent on campaign to beat Farage'

The Conservative Party put extra resources into the campaign, the court was told
The court heard Gray called the victory a "truly magnificent election campaign" in an email to Little.Mr Jafferjee said expenditure is "tightly regulated" over two stages - a short and a long campaign - and includes the costs involved to get the candidate elected.This includes putting up posters, printing leaflets, and staff costs, such as the employment of Gray as an election agent, he explained.In South Thanet, the limit for the expenditure in the long campaign was just over €37,000. For the short campaign it was just over €15,000.Declarations made by Mackinlay and Gray came in below the limit, at €32,661 and €14,833 respectively.

Tory MP 'overspent on campaign to beat Farage'

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But Mr Jafferjee said: "It is the prosecution case that neither of these declarations as to expenditure - the long return figure of just over €32,000 and the short return figure of just under €15,000 - were true, and by some considerable margin, though that does not matter."Each of these three defendants were complicit in advancing those false declarations."He told jurors a signature purporting to be Gray's in relation to the long return had been "forged".The court also heard Little, along with a press officer, was sent from Conservative central office to stay in a hotel in Ramsgate, arriving on March 23, 2015.
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