Exclusive: The Mystery of Mass Mailings in East Dunbartonshire

UPDATE: Wednesday 29th August 2018 – 1:45pm

I now believe that this is the mailing involved and as you can see it is definitely local in nature:

Start of original article

Following a tweet from John Nicolson, the former MP for East Dunbartonshire, regarding income and spending of the Liberal Democrats in that constituency I decided to delve into the Party’s spending at last year’s General Election.

Following an election each candidate has to submit a return to the Electoral Commission detailing the amount they have spent on the campaign. There is a limit on candidate spending for each constituency and in East Dunbartonshire this is £14,619.03.

Jo Swinson, who won the seat for the Liberal Democrats, declared a total spend £14,409.44 (just under the maximum allowed). This spending included £9,842.70 on “Unsolicited Material” which is mainly the Campaign material you all receive through your doors.

As well as candidate spending a return also has to be submitted for party spending and in the case of mailings the Electoral Commission has this advice as to whether something should be classified as candidate or party spending:

“A leaflet and a local newspaper advertisement promoting a party’s policies on health are distributed in a number of constituencies. The leaflet and the local newspaper advertisement include no reference to any candidates or local issues. The full cost of the leaflet and the local newspaper advertisement should be treated as party spending.”

“If however the main purpose of the leaflet and the local newspaper advertisement is to promote the candidates in the relevant constituencies, the material should be treated as candidate spending. The same general principle applies to online campaigning.”  (Source: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/226518/UKPGE-2017-Factsheet-Splitting-spending.pdf)

I spent several hours this evening trawling through the Electoral Commission’s spending database and discovered something very interesting indeed, namely 2 invoices totalling £12,295.80 for items described as “Jo Swinson Mailing – Personalised letters x2 kinds plus inserting and outer envelopes”, “Jo Swinson Mailing – 6pp 1/3 A4 leaflet” and “Jo Swinson Mailing – Postage”. You can view the invoices at these links:

http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Api/Spending/Invoices/51124

http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Api/Spending/Invoices/51125

Now, the interesting point is that these were classified as 100% party spending as can be seen here:

http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/English/Spending/SP0356172

http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/English/Spending/SP0356173

Remember that for a mailing to come under party spending it must not mention the candidate or local issues at all. Given the description of the mailing (what sounds like a personalised letter to voters in an envelope) this certainly does not seem the case to me.

Given the high cost of this mailing (just £2k under the total candidate spending limit) I have had no option but to refer the details of my findings to the Electoral Commission as a possible breach of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 

I will be reaching out to East Dunbartonshire Liberal Democrats for comment and will update this article if received and also when I hear if the Electoral Commission plan to take any action or not.

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11 comments

      1. My postie in the NE of Scotland looks like that so doubt there is a English uniform, or else it would mean my mail comes from a sorting office in England, and a long way for the postie to come to deliver.

  1. I’m pretty sure the same thing happened here in Argyll with Alan Reid. Loads of ‘newspapers’ full of him grinning. Might be across the board with libdems?

  2. Well done there. A very fine piece of work. Keep it up! You put so-called “professional” journalists to shame.

    But then, there’s none so blind as a journo paid not to see.

  3. As I am not a bot I can comment and admire your tenacity! Can’t wait for next gripping installment of LibDems and their ‘work’ around rules.

    They were pretty desperate to get their man in our area a time back and the deluge of leaflets, brochures and pretend newspapers was startling. Sad to say I chucked them all out when he lost! 😀

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