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8 May, 2017 12:52

Tory MPs could face criminal charges before general election

Tory MPs could face criminal charges before general election

Prime Minister Theresa May’s hopes of winning a landslide majority in the general election may be in peril, as dozens of Tory MPs could face criminal charges ahead of the June 8 poll.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is expected to announce whether a number of Conservative MPs will be charged over an alleged election expenses scandal from 2015 before the snap election.

Last year, more than 30 people were accused of recording expenses incorrectly as national rather than local spending two years ago. This number includes as many as 20 Conservative MPs and a raft of election agents. The exact numbers are yet to be confirmed by the CPS.

The CPS is expected to decide soon whether it will seek criminal prosecution over these claims and will inform the MPs before the June vote. The investigation could have a dramatic impact on the results.

The CPS is under pressure to make a decision quickly due to legal time limits, according to the Independent.

If the CPS decides to prosecute, MPs could face criminal charges and become ineligible to run for parliament. The PM could then be forced to find replacements at the last minute or risk failing to contest the constituencies altogether.

Commentators told the newspaper that the timing of the CPS action echoes that of FBI Director James Comey, who revealed that the bureau was conducting a second investigation into US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails just days before the 2016 US election.

Many former Tory MPs awaiting the decision are seeking re-election and have denied wrongdoing. The alleged expense errors relate mainly to the party’s campaign battle bus, which traveled the country to spread the Conservative message.

Candidates were accused of labeling their spending on hotels and campaign material as national spending rather than local, potentially allowing them to take advantage of a higher spending ceiling.

May has denied that she called the snap election in order to avoid the Tory fraud claim.

She says the election is in the “national interest” and to “unify Westminster” before engaging in two years of Brexit negotiations.

‘Rich List’ Tory donors 

While the spending saga rumbles on, light has also been cast on the origins of Tory dough. New analysis by the Sunday Times shows more than a third of the 100 richest people in Britain are also Tory donors.

Thirty-five people featured in the paper’s annual ‘Rich List’ - who have a net worth of £123 billion - have collectively given £19 million to the Tories since 2001.

Since the 2015 election, 12 have handed over more than £1.3 million. Since Theresa May entered 10 Downing Street, three have given more than £180,000.

Labour’s election coordinator Andrew Gwynne said the Rich List revelations cast doubt on the Tory PM’s campaign theme of “a country that works for everyone.”

“The Rich List reads like a Who’s who of Tory donors. That so many of the top 100 have donated so much to the Tories shows you that they really are the party of and for a privileged few, not the many,” Gwynne told the Huffington Post.

“While the Tories have been going cap in hand to the country’s wealthiest tycoons, they have slashed taxes for those at the very top and raised taxes for working people.

“Working people deserve better than Tory failure. Only a Labour government will stand up for you and your families.”