Tory battle-bus does a screeching U-turn; driver fined…

BACK in the days when the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn were more vocal than they seem to be now, you would often find complaints on social media that the media – and particularly the BBC ­­– was choosing to ignore the election funding scandal facing the Tories.

Such whinges were in part explained by the hard time the lovers of Corbyn felt their man was getting at the hands of the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg.

Now that story, which started with an investigation on Channel 4 News, is being widely reported this morning as the Conservative Party has been fined a record £70,000 and its former treasurer has been reported to police after an investigation by the Electoral Commission discovered “significant failures” by the party to report its campaign spending.

Yesterday, it was revealed that a dozen police forces had passed files to the Crown Prosecution Service over allegations that up 20 Tory MPs broke local spending limits at the last general election.

The row mostly centres on the use of an election battle-bus plastered in red, white and blue – and bearing the slogan: “A better future for you, your family and Britain” and finished off with David Cameron’s signature (the name rings a distant bell).

Presumably the slogan: “A ****ed up future for you, your family and Britain – and I’m off to earn tons of money talking about the Great Brexit Balls-Up” was ruled out for being too long. And too accurate.

The Tories generally have more money to spend at election time, so perhaps they just got carried away with themselves, throwing £20 notes around with abandon. The technical bit – rather than the satirical slight – is that the cost of the bus wasn’t charged to local candidates, but was passed off as a general national expense.

In the Guardian, a Conservative party spokesman said the party had complied fully with the Electoral Commission’s investigation, although the commission said Conservative campaign headquarters “did not cooperate fully” with its inquiries and “hindered and caused delay to the investigation”.

Ah, one of those quotes – “complied fully” being shorthand for “was as awkward and arrogant as you would expect under the circumstances”.

Labour and the Lib-Dems have in the past faced similar charges, although the scale seems larger in this case. As, too, is the desire among some of us for a quantity of shit to hit Mrs May’s fan.

Coming at the same time as Chancellor Philip Hammond’s screeching U-turn on increasing National Insurance contributions for some self-employed workers, this marks the lowest point yet for Theresa May’s Tories. And about time, too – especially as they seem able to carry on doing whatever they want without much in the way of obstruction from the Labour Party.

The U-turn was flagged up before Prime Minister’s Questions this week, giving Jeremy Corbyn an open goal. And you know what he always does with those. Takes a run at it, slips and misses. Sadly, Jeremy isn’t very nimble on his political feet, and prefers to stick with whatever is written in his script. If it doesn’t say “open goal”, he fluffs it.

Still, the shaming of Hammond is a cheering moment, especially when you recall the gruesome sight of his smug prancing on budget day, as he reeled off jokes like an undertaker who’d been at the sherry.

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