The Electoral Commission has fined the Conservative Party £70,000 over “significant” election campaign expenses issues. Their investigation found the party’s 2015 General Election spending return was missing payments worth at least £104,765. Separately, payments worth up to £118,124 were either not reported to the Commission or were incorrectly reported.It said a portion of the amount should have been included in the party’s return, while another portion was put into the return when it was candidate spending. The Party also did not include the required invoices or receipts for 81 payments, with the value of £52,924.
The Conservative party has been fined £70,000 and its former treasurer reported to police after an Electoral Commission investigation found “significant failures” by the party to report its campaign spending. On Wednesday it was revealed that a dozen police forces have passed files to the Crown Prosecution Service over allegations that up to 20 Conservative MPs broke local spending limits at the last general election, in a separate criminal investigation. The commission, which has conducted its own inquiry separate to the police, concluded some election spending was wrongly apportioned to the national party rather than candidates – the crux of the police investigation into MPs and their agents. Prosecutors have to decide whether to charge the MPs or their agents, after a 10-month investigation into whether party spending on an election battlebus that brought activists to marginal seats was wrongly recorded as national spending.
THE Conservative Party has been fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission for failing to accurately report its election expenses. The independent elections watchdog said the party had made “numerous failures” in reporting its expenses for the 2015 General Election and three by-elections in 2014. Commission chairman Sir John Holmes said the Tories’ failure to follow the rules “undermined voters’ confidence in our democratic processes” and said there was a risk political parties were seeing such fines as “a cost of doing business”.
The Conservatives have been fined £70,000 after an investigation into its election expenses, the Electoral Commission has said. The investigation found “significant failures” by the party to report how much it spent on the 2015 General Election campaign – and three by-elections in 2014. The Commission has also reported the actions of the then party treasurer Simon Day to the Metropolitan Police for investigation.
The Conservative Party has been fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission for breaking election expense rules. The commission’s report highlights “numerous failures” in reporting spending on three by-elections in 2014 and the 2015 General Election. These included missing payments of £104,000 – and £118,000 that was either not reported or incorrectly reported. The Conservatives said they had accepted last March they had made “an administrative error”. A spokesman added that Labour and the Lib Dems had also been fined and “there needs to be a review of how the Electoral Commission’s processes and requirements could be clarified or improved”.
The Conservative Party has been hit with a £70k fine for breaking rules on election spending. It is the biggest fine ever dished out by the Electoral Commission. Apparently the Tories have fallen foul of allocating national spend for local campaigns. The real question is though, will there be by-elections? £70,000 for a party raking in millions isn’t exactly the end of the world for them.
MPs are set to debate scrapping Britain’s “First Past the Post” voting system and switching to a form of proportional representation. The debate has been put on the cards after a petition on the Parliament website calling for electoral reform reached 100,000 signatures – meaning the subject will automatically be considered for discussion by MPs. Petition founder Tim Ivorson, said that the Government’s original official response to the document had been “riddled with falsehoods” and that a debate would offer the opportunity “to correct some misunderstandings and for all MPs to explore the issue in more detail”. After the petition had hit 10,000 ministers had said that they were “concerned that proportional voting systems would weaken the direct constituency link which is a key feature of our parliamentary system, and under a proportional system the voting process is more complicated for the voter”.
THE European Union (EU) could force Britain to wait until June to start formal Brexit talks, thwarting Theresa May’s efforts to secure a deal within two years. EU officials say the 27 other member states are looking to June to officially open negotiations, despite Theresa May planning to trigger Article 50 by the end of March. Brussels’ eight week delay risks upsetting banks and businesses eager to seek clarity on the terms of Brexit. Crucially the plans for a summer meeting eat into the already tight two year leaving period under the Lisbon Treaty. EU officials, under condition of anonymity, told Bloomberg Politics government ministers could meet in Luxembourg on June 20, almost a year since the EU referendum, to open the talks. The time-wasting comes despite plans for the leaders of EU countries to draw up a framework for talks in April or May.
In another sign of the EU’s intention to deploy childish delay tactics in the upcoming Brexit negotiation, plans have emerged to kick off proceedings as late as June. EU officials have indicated the EU27 plan to kick negotiations off at a meeting of ministers in Luxembourg on 20 June, just shy of the first anniversary of the referendum and at least 81 days after Theresa May sends her letter to the European Council formally declaring the UK’s intention to leave the EU. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has already made it clear he plans to run down the clock on the two-year negotiating period in the hope of making the UK panic and either stay in the EU or accept a crummy deal.
The Queen will today give Royal Assent to the Article 50 Bill, clearing the way for Theresa May to trigger Brexit. She is expected to formally sign off the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, clearing the way for Mrs May to begin the two-year process of leaving the EU. It came as Brexit Secretary David Davis played down concerns about quitting the EU without a deal, saying it was ‘not as frightening as some people think’. The PM has declared her readiness to walk away from negotiations without an agreement, insisting that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. Appearing before a committee of MPs, Mr Davis played down the suggestion by Remain MPs that it would be a catastrophe. He said the Government had not conducted a formal economic assessment of the consequences of leaving without a deal. That sparked accusations that ministers were ‘driving towards a cliff-edge with a blindfold on’.
THERESA May will be allowed to begin Brexit from 11am today when her new powers become law. The Queen signed the bill that authorises the PM to trigger Britain’s EU departure last night. It formally receives Royal Assent to become an act when it is read out in both houses of Parliament late this morning. But Mrs May has already taken the decision to hold back on the landmark move until the last week of March. No10 sources say she doesn’t want to anger the EU’s other 27 members ahead of two years of difficult negotiations. They warned her that triggering ‘Article 50’ talks now would overshadow the run up to the 60th anniversary celebrations next weekend of the EU’s foundation.
EFFORTS to protect British taxpayers from having to cough up for European Union projects long after the country leaves the bloc failed today after being voted down by Labour. An amendment proposed by Ukip which would have altered the wording of the upcoming EU budget was defeated at the parliament in Strasbourg this afternoon. The alteration, which explicitly called for UK contributions to be excluded from Brussels’ financial planning for the post-Brexit period, was defeated by a landslide 558 votes to 83. Ukip said the move showed that left-wing MEPs were not committed to properly pulling Britain out of the EU project and claimed it could cost “billions” in future contributions. But Labour insisted the amendment would have severely weakened Theresa May’s negotiating hand and also blocked the UK from continuing to take part in popular European programmes, such as the Erasmus scheme for students.
UKIP donor and Leave.EU founder Arron Banks has hinted at setting up a new political movement called ‘The Patriotic Alliance’. Mr. Banks tweeted a logo for the organisation Wednesday afternoon with the comment: “No nonsense policies that will knock the skin off a rice pudding!” He has previously spoken of plans to set up a movement of that name, based on Italy’s populist anti-establishment Five Star Movement, to bring Brexit supporters together across party lines. Earlier this week, Mr. Banks said he had been “suspended” from UKIP on Twitter, speculating the move was “apparently for saying current leadership couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding!” Hinting at a new project, he added: “UKIP 2.0, the force awakens.”
Geert Wilders’s promise to bring a populist “revolution” to Europe fell flat on Wednesday night after his anti-immigrant Party for Freedom failed to live up to supporters’ expectations in a closely-watched Dutch general election. The possibility that the far-Right firebrand could become the largest party in the Dutch parliament had sent tremors through Europe’s political establishment in recent days fearing yet further destabilisation following the UK vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. In the event Mr Wilders won just 20 seats, according to several exit polls, and was soundly beaten by Mark Rutte, the incumbent centre-Right Dutch prime minister, whose VVD Party was on track to becoming the largest party in the Netherlands 150-seat parliament with 33 seats. The CDA and centrist Democrats 66 tied for third with 19 each, data provided by the ANP news agency showed.
Right-wing Dutch MP Geert Wilders has accused the country’s victorious Prime Minister Mark Rutte of treating his supporters like ‘semi Nazis’ after his party lost the General Election. Rutte’s VVD party won with a predicted 32 seats in the 150-seat parliament, while Wilders’ populist PVV party is joint second with 19 seats, alongside the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and the Democracy party (D66). The anti-Islam politician has previously promised to deliver a Nexit, a Dutch version of Brexit from the EU, and a ‘patriotic revolution’ to the Dutch people. The loss represented a decrease of nine seats for Rutte and an increase of seven seats for Wilders. Speaking after exit polls predicted he had won his third term as Prime Minister, a jubilant Rutte said: ‘This is an evening where the Netherlands, after Brexit and Trump, said ‘That’s enough of the wrong sort of populism’.
GEERT Wilders has vowed to win the next Dutch election after already jumping from third place to second in this year’s polls to fall behind Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Up to 13 million people in the Netherlands voted in yesterday’s Dutch election which was seem as a face-off between Geert Wilders and the current Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Mr Wilders, the leader of the anti-Islamist Party for Freedom (PVV), took on Mr Rutte, from the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), in the knife-edge election race. The blonde populist cast his vote in the election yesterday after a fiery election campaign in which he pledged to shut the country’s borders, ban the Koran and close mosques. After the people of the Netherlands went to the polls, here is a look at the latest news and updates on the Dutch election.
Dutch voters turned out in huge numbers to thwart the anti-Muslim leader Geert Wilders yesterday and halt the wave of populist successes that delivered Brexit and President Trump. Mark Rutte, the centre-right prime minister, emerged from a bitter election campaign with the highest number of parliamentary seats, according to exit polls. However, he lost nearly a quarter of his MPs and may struggle to form another coalition quickly. Labour, his ruling partner for the past five years, lost 28 of 38 MPs. With 93 per cent of votes counted this morning the VVD party led by Mr Rutte, 50, was in front with 33 seats after a late surge in support attributed to his tough stance on Turkey and a ban on President Erdogan’s ministers.
Wednesday’s Dutch general election saw a collapse of support for mainstream parties including the conservatives (VVD) and their coalition partners, Labour, but not enough to hand victory to insurgent movements like Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom (PVV). After polls closed at 9-pm Dutch time and in the early hours as half the votes had been counted, it was clear that Mr Wilders had not made the breakthrough polls just a fortnight before the vote he would, and that the Dutch incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte would likely be staying on. Yet despite the position of Rutte’s VVD remaining the largest party, the election has seen a dramatic change in fortune for the traditional parties, which beyond a five-point drop for the conservatives saw the vote for the Labour party crash from 26 to 6 points.
Travel chaos looms for train passengers over Easter weekend as Network Rail deploys 13,000 workers to fix tracks. Services in and out of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow and Edinburgh are among those that will be disrupted by the £70million upgrade. The engineering works will take place from Good Friday to Easter Monday, April 14-17, with many trains subjected to speed limits and diversions. The repairs – part of a £50billion project to upgrade the creaking Victorian rail network – will also cause disruption for those heading abroad for Easter. Services to the UK’s two biggest airports, London Heathrow and London Gatwick, will be affected. The biggest disruptions will include the closure of the line between London Liverpool Street and Essex, hitting operators such as Great Anglia and TfL Rail. Elsewhere, bus replacement services will be used on several key services into Bristol Temple Meads, and on a number of lines in the West Midlands, affecting Birmingham New Street.
A fresh deal has been struck to end chaos on one of Britain’s busiest rail lines after company bosses made a new guarantee over staffing levels on trains. Southern Rail has reached an agreement with Aslef, the train drivers’ union, after a long-running dispute over modernisation of the network used by 300,000 passengers a day. The Department for Transport is believed to have stepped in to force through the new deal after anger over continuing mayhem on the line, which runs through Tory heartlands between London and the south coast. It is the second time in little over a month that the two sides have made an agreement aimed at ending one of the worst industrial disputes since the privatisation of railways two decades ago.
Many thought PMQs would be a bloodbath, with Labour landing most of the punches, after Philip Hammond and Theresa May were forced to perform an about-turn over the disastrous National Insurance hike policy minutes before the weekly session started. However, they forgot one thing: that Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the opposition. People across the political spectrum expressed their disbelief and anger as he failed to challenge the Prime Minister over the NICs about-turn.
Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of “incompetence” by some of his own MPs after he gave a lacklustre response to the Government’s U-turn on National Insurance at PMQs. The Chancellor released a letter 20 minutes before the start of Prime Minister’s Questions announcing that the rise, announced just a week ago in the Budget and opposed by Labour, would not be going ahead. With little time to prepare, the Labour leader was judged by many to fail to land a blow on Theresa May in the House of Commons, inviting ridicule and disdain from his own party on social media. Labour MPs Tom Blenkinsop and Mike Gapes shared footage from football matches consisting of open goals being missed. Mr Gapes added: “Great question by Yvette Cooper, pity she couldn’t have had six today.” Leaders of the opposition are given six questions to ask the Prime Minister while backbenchers must jostle to ask one.
A Royal Marine was cleared of murdering a Taliban insurgent yesterday following a Daily Mail campaign. Judges downgraded Alexander Blackman’s conviction to manslaughter after accepting expert evidence he had combat stress. The sergeant – known as Marine A when he was jailed for life at his trial – said a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He could walk free within days. More than 30,000 Daily Mail readers helped fund the £800,000 legal challenge that led to yesterday’s triumph at the Court Martial Appeal Court in London. Sgt Blackman’s loyal wife Claire beamed at the verdict. But there was a deafening silence from the military commanders who let Sgt Blackman down on the battlefield then hung him out to dry at his court martial. The judges reduced his conviction to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, saying he had been subjected to exceptional pressures in the lead-up to the incident.
JAILED Royal Marine Alexander Blackman could be free within weeks after his murder conviction for killing a wounded Taliban fighter was reduced to manslaughter. Appeal Court judges ruled the “exemplary” soldier — known as Marine A — was suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness when he pulled the trigger and that his conviction should be of the lesser charge by reason of diminished responsibility. Blackman is expected to be handed a new sentence next week, but has already spent three years behind bars, sparking hope his time in jail is coming to an end. His wife Claire hailed the “victory” on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Emerging to cheers, she said: “We’re delighted at the judges’ decision to substitute manslaughter by diminished responsibility. “This is a crucial decision and one that much better reflects the circumstances that my husband found himself in during that terrible tour of Afghanistan.
Patients could be denied access to new medicines for up to three years after they have been approved for NHS use. A plan to cap the annual cost to the health service of any new drug at £20million – no matter how good it is – was approved yesterday by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Currently 20 per cent of new medicines breach this, meaning eight or nine drugs a year would be affected. In future NHS England will be able to delay or phase in the introduction of these drugs to ease budget pressures. Health charities warned that the measure could have a ‘devastating impact’ and some patients might die waiting for treatments. They accused the Government of breaching the NHS constitution and breaking an election pledge to increase access to medicines. Any drug approved by Nice, the health service watchdog, currently has to be made available by every NHS hospital within 90 days of approval. But the new rules, which come into force next month, will allow officials to delay access to expensive drugs for three years in an attempt to ease pressure on the stretched NHS budget.
Patients will have to wait three years for many life-extending new drugs as health chiefs press ahead with controversial rationing despite widespread opposition. Cancer Research UK was among charities warning that the changes could cost lives after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) yesterday approved plans to allow even cost-effective medicine to be delayed if the total yearly bill to the NHS exceeds £20 million. The Conservatives denied that the plans broke a manifesto pledge to speed up access to cutting-edge medicines. At present patients have a legal right to any deemed good value for money by Nice. From next month, the NHS England measure is expected to affect one in five new drugs.