Saturday, 28 January 2017

'Fact Checking' service launched by Organisation which falsified Electoral Accounts

Would you trust a ‘Fact Checking’ service run by an organisation which falsified its accounts?

Hope not Hate chief Nick Lowles announced yesterday that they are starting a ‘fact-checking’ service called 'Dispel' to "challenge, probe and analyse the growing threat, and lies, posed by and from the radical and populist right". Perhaps they should begin with a less grandiose ambition and start by looking at the accounts they presented to the Electoral Commission following the European Election in 2014.

Under electoral law, as a registered third party Hope not Hate were permitted to spend a total of £195,759 across the UK. They declared a total spend of only £129,894.04[i], and yet somehow this included an 8-page wrap on 761,000 copies of the Daily Mirror.

Their invoices which are filed with the Electoral Commission show they paid only £ 54,434 for this - £ 30,434 for printing[ii] and £24,000 for distribution[iii]. And yet the Daily Mirror’s rate card for advertising shows that the normal price for a 4 page wrap is £ 220,000 plus VAT[iv] (£264,000 total), which equates to £68,241 more than their total permitted electoral spend just for that single item or £209,566 more than the declared cost.

Under the terms of Schedule 11 Section 2(a), (c) & (e) of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000[v] the £209,566.00 should be regarded as a gift or donation (goods or services provided below market rate) and should have been registered with the Electoral Commission at the £ 264,000 figure.
According to UK VAT legislation, VAT on donations is still liable at their standard market rate. By the Daily Mirror issuing invoices for only £54,434 including £ 4,000 of VAT, they helped Hope not Hate evade a VAT liability in the order of £34,000 - VAT on £220,000 is a further £ 44,000, although the printing is VAT free.

That is bad, but it is not all. Hope not Hate also ‘forgot’ to include their monthly consultancy fees paid to US campaigners Blue State Digital in January and February which amounted to a further £8761.74 + VAT, or a total of £10,514.09 (as per their invoice for May[vi]). When these figures are added to Hope not Hate’s declared expenditure of £129,894.04, they give a total expenditure of £ 349,974.14 for an under-declaration of £220,080.10 contrary to Section 94 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000[vii].

This figure also raises another point. Controlled expenditure over £250,000.00 requires a report prepared by an auditor in respect of expenditure reports submitted under Section 96 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. This has not been done, and the submission of unaudited accounts for sums exceeding £250,000.00 is contrary to Section 97 of the same Act[viii].

To prevent this getting too long, we will return another day to various other offences contained within their accounts. Failure to Appoint Auditors, Exceeding Spending Limits for Registered Third Parties, VAT Evasion and False Accounting will do for today.

The only question which remains to be asked is “would you trust a fact-checking service run by  people who are guilty of these criminal offences?

Labour announce new policy on EU for Stoke by-election

Friday, 27 January 2017

Snell begins Stoke campaign with Hope not Hate funding scandal


Snell begins campaign with funding scandal

Gareth Snell, Labour’s PPC for the Stoke-on-Trent Central seat vacated by Tristram Hunt, is set to begin his campaign facing questions about election expenses after it was revealed a leaflet attacking UKIP candidate Paul Nuttall was funded by an organisation run by a close colleague and fellow Labour councillor.

The leaflet – “6 reasons to vote against UKIP” – bears the imprint of Hope not Hate and local
The Hope not Hate/NORSCARF leaflet
delivered with Labour leaflets
campaign ‘Norscarf’ (North Staffordshire Campaign Against Racism and Fascism), proving there’s nothing like self-interest to bring together the Progress and Momentum funded wings of the Labour Party. The leaflet is helpfully printed in Labour’s red and yellow colours.

The registration of the Norscarf website lists a single contact phone number – 07563245515. A quick Google of that number reveals it is the personal mobile phone number of Councillor Chris Spence, a colleague of Snell’s on Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council, which neighbours the Stoke Central constituency. Spence originally put his own name forward to be the candidate, but failed to make Labour’s long list.

Our source reveals that he received the leaflet – alongside a Labour one – on Saturday evening (the 21st January). Which is interesting, as Gareth Snell tweeted a photograph that evening of Spence delivering Labour leaflets in the same area of Stoke under the caption ‘What better way to spend your evening after a hard day at work than campaigning for @Stoke_Labour and our #NHS. If you look at the picture, you can see the ‘6 reasons’ leaflet sticking out of the top of the Labour one, which may explain the ‘winky face’ Spence finished his Tweet with.

Snell's colleague Cllr Chris Spence delivering Labour
leaflets - the HnH/NORSCARF leaflet can be seen
sticking out of the top of the Labour one
The participation of Hope not Hate – funded by the anti-Corbyn ‘Progress’ wing of the Labour Party – with the decidedly Corbynite ‘Norscarf’ is perhaps less surprising that it appears. Stoke North MP Ruth Smeeth is a former General Secretary of Hope not Hate, while Tristram Hunt, Stoke’s outgoing MP, is a member of the Labour Friends of Israel, one of the few groups in the Labour Party which stood by Smeeth after she was subjected to anti-Semitic abuse by Labour members when it announced the outcome of its investigation into anti-Semitism. Snell – a former leader of Newcastle Borough Council who lost his seat to UKIP before regaining a different seat at a by-election - is on Hunt’s staff.

A senior UKIP source said that it was "rare for expenditure scandals to begin before the candidate had been selected but was a clear indication of just how worried Labour were about losing the formerly safe seat to the new UKIP insurgency."
UKIP insiders say that they expect Labour to include the cost of the Hope not Hate leaflets on their expenditure returns as they are clearly published with a view to aiding Labour's faltering chances of retaining the seat. A UKIP source close to the campaign said, "They are required to account for all expenditure. The active participation of two organisations with close links to the Labour Party using Labour councillors to deliver the leaflets alongside official Labour literature with the clear approval of the candidate makes it difficult to pretend these are anything other than Labour leaflets in disguise. Hope not Hate have considerable form for this sort of thing, which has gone unremarked and unpunished for too long. It simply allows Labour to effectively double its election spending without having to account for it."

A poll for Labour Leave published on Wednesday showed Nuttall 10% ahead of Labour, while on Thursday bookies shortened the odds on a UKIP victory to make the party the odds-on favourite, with Labour slipping to evens ahead of the also-ran Tories and Lib Dems on 33-1.