Craig Mackinlay: Tory MP charged over campaign spending

Candidate for South Thanet and two others will appear in court next month


A Conservative party candidate who is standing for re-election has been charged over allegations of overspending in the 2015 general election campaign.

Craig Mackinlay, who beat then-Ukip leader Nigel Farage to become the MP for South Thanet two years ago, is accused of violating the rules on reporting campaign expenditure set out in the Representation of the People Act 1983.

He stands accused alongside his election agent Nathan Gray and party activist Marion Little.

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Police had been investigating whether the Tories broke spending limits over the use of the party's campaign battle bus.

The case hinges on "whether MPs' agents should have filed costs for battle bus visits to constituencies under local expenses" rather than national expenses, says the BBC.

The Electoral Commission outlines guidelines and limits for a party's national campaign spending and local candidate spending, which are separate.

The Conservatives say the claims are "unfounded", arguing that they believe the visits were part of their national campaign.

Nick Vamos, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) head of special crime, says that the CPS first received evidence concerning the allegations from Kent Police in April. As a result, it asked the local force to carry out further enquiries.

"We have concluded there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to authorise charges against three people," he said.

All three will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 4 July.

Mackinlay will keep his spot on the ballot sheet as the Conservative candidate for South Thanet next week as nominations have closed and some postal votes have already been submitted, says The Guardian.

BBC South East Today political editor Helen Catt says Mackinlay would still be able to take his seat if he won, as being charged with a criminal offence does not prevent him from doing so.

Last month the CPS announced that most Tory MPs being investigated over breaches of expenses rules would not face criminal charges.

A Conservative party spokesman said: "Our candidate has made clear that there was no intention by him or his campaigners to engage in any inappropriate activity", adding that there was a "broad consensus" that current election laws are "fragmented, confused and unclear".

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