South Thanet

Today’s big news is that Craig Mackinlay, who beat Nigel Farage to the Essex seat in 2015, has been charged with election offences. The Times says:

A Conservative candidate was charged over his 2015 general election expenses yesterday, but refused to withdraw from the election and branded the decision to prosecute him “shocking”.
The Crown Prosecution Service said that Craig Mackinlay was due in court next month along with his agent and another Tory organiser for alleged offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983.
The timing of the decision, six days before polling day, delivered a blow to Theresa May’s campaign.
Mr Mackinlay, 50, beat Nigel Farage in the Kent seat of South Thanet at the previous election in a bitterly contested battle. The winning Tory candidate then filed expenses of £14,800, just under the legal constituency spending limit. Police were asked to investigate claims that more was spent.

The Guardian reports:

The Conservative candidate for South Thanet, a member of his staff and a Tory election organiser have been charged over allegations of illegal election spending during the party’s 2015 campaign to win the seat.
The Crown Prosecution Service said there was sufficient evidence to charge three people, among them Craig Mackinlay, who was the MP from 2015 and is seeking re-election on 8 June. Nathan Gray, his election agent, and Marion Little, a party organiser, were also charged, the CPS said.
Mackinlay will remain on the ballot for next week’s election as nominations have closed and some postal votes will already have been submitted. 

The Mail reports that the candidate has criticised the CPS for the timing of the announcement.

Conservative charged with election expenses fraud has slammed the CPS for announcing his prosecution a week before the election.
Crag Mackinlay denied the two charges against him and insisted his re-election campaign would continue until June 8.
The Tory politician questioned why the CPS had chosen to make its announcement today when prosecutors have held the file on him since April and did not have to make a decision until June 11, after the general election.
Mr Mackinlay was backed by Prime Minister Theresa May today. She said the allegation was ‘unfounded’ and he was ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
He remains on the ballot paper as the Conservative candidate in Thanet South and the charges make no change to his status as a candidate.

And Sky News quotes the candidate claiming he is innocent.

Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay has insisted he’s “done nothing wrong” after being charged over 2015 General Election spending.
Mackinlay, who is standing to be re-elected as South Thanet MP on 8 June, is one of three people to have been charged with offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983.
It follows a Channel 4 investigation into the Conservative Party’s spending at the last General Election.
After being handed a file by Kent Police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said there was “sufficient evidence” to authorise the charges.
Mackinlay is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 4 July alongside election agent Nathan Gray, 28, and Conservative campaign organiser Marion Little, 62.

ITV News also reports the candidate’s denial.

A Conservative candidate facing charges over his 2015 General Election expenses has denied he did anything wrong.
Craig Mackinlay – who defeated Ukip’s Nigel Farage in South Thanet – has been charged with offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Mackinlay, 50, condemned the “shocking” decision to prosecute and said he was confident he would be cleared.
“Our justice system is underpinned by the presumption of innocence and I am confident that I will be acquitted as I have done nothing wrong and acted honestly and properly whilst a candidate in 2015, and as all candidates do, acted upon advice throughout,” he said.

The Morning Star also carries the story.

A TORY parliamentary candidate has been charged with fiddling election expenses.
South Thanet’s Craig Mackinlay has been charged with offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983 after an investigation into 2015 general election campaign expenses.
Two Tory party officials, Nathan Gray, 28 and Marion Little, 62, have also been charged and all three could face a fine or up to a year in prison if found guilty.
Ms Little is a “campaigns specialist” for the Conservative Party and was awarded an OBE by the Tories in 2016 for “political services.”
They are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on July 4.

The Sun claims he has been under investigation since 2015.

TORY candidate Craig Mackinlay has been charged over his campaign expenses during the 2015 General Election.
The 50-year-old, who is running for re-election in South Thanet on June 8, has been under investigation by police after defeating Nigel Farage two years ago.
The Crown Prosecution Service said this morning the Tory has now been charged under the Representation of the People Act 1983.
His election agent Nathan Gray, and long-time Conservative aide Marion Little have also been charged.
All three are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on July 4.

The Express quotes the words of our former leader.

NIGEL Farage has described the decision to charge his former Tory opponent in South Thanet as “a game changer” for Ukip in the election, adding, “There’s no reason why we can’t nick a few seats.”
The former Ukip leader gave the Daily Express an exclusive interview as he campaigned in the target seat of Dagenham and Rainham.
His return to the election trail came as the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would charge Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay over his election expenses in 2015, when he defeated Mr Farage.
Mr Mackinlay, a former member of Ukip, has denied any wrongdoing and questioned the timing of the CPS announcement just days before the election.

But the candidate will not stand down, says the Independent.

Craig Mackinlay will remain a Conservative candidate in the general election despite being charged as part of an electoral fraud investigation.
The Conservative politician argued his push to become the MP in South Thanet would be “unaffected” after the Crown Prosecution Service said there was enough evidence to bring charges relating to his 2015 election expenses.
The Independent understands Theresa May is backing Mr Mackinlay’s position. In a statement however, the Tory candidate went further, attacking the CPS and Kent Police for their handling of the case and questioning why the decision had come just days before the 8 June election.

And Westmonster claims there’s a link between the candidate and the Prime Minister.

Both Nigel Farage and his former adviser during the 2015 General Election Raheem Kassam have both queried the link between those around Theresa May and the South Thanet campaign of Conservative candidate, Craig Macklinlay.
Speaking today in Clacton after hearing the news of Mackinlay being charged, Farage said: “Perhaps worth mentioning Nick Timothy (Joint Chief of Staff to Theresa May) also spent most of the General Election campaign in South Thanet constituency.”
Raheem Kassam issued a statement and said: “We endured a lot during the 2015 campaign: death threats, assaults, and a huge, cross party, concerted attempt to keep Nigel Farage and UKIP out of Parliament.

UKIPs own website also quotes Nigel.

Following the announcement by the Crown Prosecution Service that charges are being brought against the former MP and current Tory candidate in Thanet South, Craig Mackinlay and others over electoral fraud in the last election, Nigel Farage has said: “Am I pleased that these charges have been brought? Yes, but I believe there should be more people being charged due to what looks like wholesale electoral fraud by the Tories in recent by-elections and during the last election.
“What it means now it will be a straight fight between Labour and UKIP and I will be in Thanet tomorrow to support our excellent candidate.”

Brexit

In other news, the EU’s Brexit negotiators are hoping that the Prime Minister’s mantra of ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’ is just a soundbite, says the Times.

Politicians and industrial leaders from across Europe hope Theresa May’s insistence that no Brexit deal is better than a bad deal is just election posturing and fear the worst if she really means it.
The main focus of the talks for Berlin is to defend the interests of the remaining 27 EU members and preserve the organisation’s fundamental rules, especially freedom of movement.
Brexit was a shock to Germany, which regards the EU as part of its national DNA, but the political class has reluctantly accepted the referendum outcome. It is now finding it hard to understand whether Mrs May really means it when she says she could simply walk away without reaching a negotiated settlement because it believes this would bring economic chaos.

But Reuters claims the PM is saying she means it.

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday that she was confident that Britain could get a good deal in negotiations to leave the European Union, but would be prepared to walk away without an accord on departure terms if necessary.
“I’ve said that I think no deal would be better than a bad deal. Now I’m confident we can get a good deal with the right plan for those negotiations, because I think a good deal is in our interests and in the interests of the rest of the EU,” May said in a question and answer session with voters on the BBC.
“But we have to be prepared to stand up for Britain. We have to be prepared to go in there, recognising that we’re not willing to accept a bad deal.”

The Independent claims Remainers will hope to affect the outcome of next week’s election.

Pro-Europeans will this weekend launch a final push to ensure as many opponents of a hard Brexit as possible become MPs in next week’s general election.
Open Britain, with 550,000 supporters the country’s biggest pro-European campaign group, will appeal to voters to back candidates keeping an “open mind” on Brexit in case public opinion changes. It is targeting thousands of voters through social media and grassroots campaigning in key seats.
The successor to the Remain camp in last year’s referendum, which now urges a soft Brexit, wants the UK to retain close links to the EU and argues against leaving with “no deal”, as Theresa May is prepared to do to avoid a “bad deal.”

Child grooming

More child grooming has been reported in Yorkshire by the Star.

AN MP fears “another Rochdale” as police investigate 180 child sex abuse cases in a northern English town dubbed the “grooming capital of the UK”.
Officers are reportedly looking into alleged sex attacks on more than 100 victims in Keighley, West Yorkshire.
The town, just outside Bradford, has a population of just 56,000 but has a very large Asian community – including more than 12,000 Muslims.
The local MP has warned Keighley is “top of the list” for Asian grooming gangs targeting vulnerable young and underage white girls.
It is less than an hour from Rochdale, Greater Manchester – where gangs of Asian men were jailed for sickening abuse of white girls in care.
The story of one gang was recently made into the BBC drama Three Girls.
The sick abuse is still going on in Rochdale, a top cop warned last month.

The Sun also has the story.

COPS in West Yorkshire are probing almost 200 cases of child sexual exploitation in one town where a teenager was reportedly gang-raped by a number of men.
West Yorkshire Police confirmed that officers in the Bradford district are said to have 179 crimes under investigation where child sexual offences are a factor.
The crimes involve 165 suspects.
Last year 12 men were jailed for more than 140 years between them for their part in the abuse of a single victim in Keighley in Bradford.
The girl was repeatedly raped by the gang in encounters arranged by a violent drug dealer over 13 months between 2011 and 2012, when she was 13.

Council homes

The Independent reports the Tories have scrapped a pledge to build council homes.

The Conservatives have U-turned on a flagship pledge to build “a new generation” of social housing announced in their manifesto just weeks ago.
Theresa May personally promised her policy would deliver “a constant supply of new homes for social rent”, but her housing minister has now admitted planned homes would be let at significantly less affordable rents.
The embarrassing admission represents the second about-turn on a Conservative manifesto pledge, after the damaging furore around the “dementia tax”.
Tory officials played down the reversal, but Labour claimed it showed one of the Prime Minister’s key pledges to help low-income families had “fallen apart”, while the Chartered Institute of Housing branded it “very disappointing”.

Islam

A prominent Muslim lawyer is quoted in the Times.

Islamist groups in Britain are undermining the fight against terrorism by peddling “myths” about the government’s key anti-radicalisation policy, according to the country’s most prominent Muslim lawyer.
Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor, warned that an “industry” of Muslim groups was spreading misinformation about the Prevent strategy.
Mr Afzal, who prosecuted the Rochdale sex-grooming gang, also condemned “self-appointed” community leaders whose sole agenda was to present Muslims “as victims and not as those who are potentially becoming radicals”.
He singled out the Islamist-dominated Muslim Council of Britain, saying he was staggered that in the agenda for its annual general meeting last year there was “nothing about radicalisation and nothing about the threat of people going to Syria”.

Social media

Several of the media report on attempts to contact voters via their social accounts. The Telegraph says:

Jeremy Corbyn has been urged to tackle Labour bots promoting his messages on Twitter by the former culture media and sport select committee chairman.
Damian Collins, a Conservative MP, said all parties should take the rise of fake social media accounts seriously and called on the Labour leader to take a “zero-olerance approach” to the bots.
It came as a Telegraph investigation revealed the party is being boosted by accounts set up to look like genuine users but whose purpose is solely to retweet and share messages of support for Labour during the election.
The practice “has the potential to distort the conversation, it’s megaphoning marginal viewpoints”, according to experts at Oxford University, who found over 20,000 supportive tweets for Labour were sent by automated accounts in just one week during the campaign. 

The Guardian reports on ‘fake news’.

Labour has accused the Conservatives of creating “fake news” after a Tory attack video that went viral was edited to show Jeremy Corbyn refusing to condemn the IRA, when in fact the Labour leader said: “I condemn all the bombing by the loyalists and the IRA.”
The 85-second montage of Corbyn’s quotes has been circulating online for the last week and has been viewed 5.3m times, three times more than any other political campaign video. The Conservatives are also paying Facebook to insert it into people’s news feeds. It is subtitled: “On June 9th, this man could be Prime Minister. We can’t let that happen.”
It includes a clip from Corbyn’s appearance on Sky News last month when interviewer Sophy Ridge asked whether he could “condemn unequivocally the IRA”. The Labour leader said: “Look, bombing is wrong, all bombing is wrong, of course I condemn it.” Ridge responded: “But you’re condemning all bombing, can you condemn the IRA without equating it to.” Corbyn said: “No.”

Breitbart says there are pro-Labour messages out there.

Labour’s social media election campaign is being amplified by fake accounts pumping out positive messages about the party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have invested heavily on social media promotion in this election, each spending in excess of £1 million to get their message out online.
But an Oxford University study into the use of automated web robots, or ‘bots’, to promote political messages found that as many as one in eight tweets about British politics are being generated by automated accounts.
Although it found that all the parties have bot accounts promoting their cause, those associated with the Labour Party were the most active in generating traffic. The bots, sometimes referred to as “sock puppet” accounts, can post up to 1,000 messages a day to the platform attacking the Tories or supporting Corbyn.

TV debates

The audience in the latest televised debate could have been biased, reports the Telegraph.

BBC audiences may have been hijacked by Jeremy Corbyn supporters posing as Tories, polling experts have warned.
It follows an admission from the head of polling company ComRes, which gathered the audience for a seven-way debate earlier this week, that Amber Rudd and the Ukip leader Paul Nuttall faced a tougher time than their left-wing opponents at the hands of the audience.
Senior polling experts have admitted privately that they are aware of groups of Labour activists, some led by grassroots Corbyn support group Momentum, encouraging his supporters to sign up for political debates posing as Conservatives in order to make it look like Labour has won the debate.

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