14 Mar 2017
Kent Police interviewed the Conservative Party’s Member of Parliament for the South Thanet constituency after months of investigations pertaining to election expenses.
The Sun and the Telegraph both reported on Tuesday evening that Craig Mackinlay — who narrowly defeated the former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage in 2015 — was interviewed under caution by police for six hours last week.
Police are said to be meeting with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the coming days to discuss a prosecution.
According to the Sun, a Conservative Party source said: “[The police] really put him through the mill, he was there for six hours.”
While the MP and his election agent deny any wrongdoing, a number of journalistic investigations have revealed the Conservative Party sent senior staffers, even some from 10 Downing Street, to the south east constituency in a desperate attempt to keep Nigel Farage out of parliament. The costs associated with these staffers, their accommodation, and more, were allegedly not disclosed as local election spending, and thusly kept Mr. Mackinlay’s campaign under the spending limit in the seat.
Specifically, the deployment of Nick Timothy, one of Prime Minister Theresa May’s chiefs of staff, to the constituency has raised questions about the campaign’s expenditure claims.
Even the former Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps appeared to acknowledge the matter, stating this weekend: “I remember discovering partway through the campaign, I think, that Timothy was actually down full-time in Thanet.
“The wider issue is, were election expenses bust, and you can’t hire a hotel without applying any of that to local expenditure.
“And it just happens that Nick seems to have been orchestrating a lot of the activity down there, and he’s definitely front and centre of it, unfortunately from his point of view.”
Shortly after the election, UKIP supporters and activists began a “#ThanetRigged” hashtag on social media, demanding an investigation into the election.
While most focused on ballot boxes and extraordinary counting procedures on the night of the election, the suspicions — that something was amiss in the constituency — may well be proved correct.
At the time, a number of commentators and news outlets sought to ridicule the #ThanetRigged hashtag, with the Huffington Post pouring scorn on the idea that something was wrong in the campaign, as did the Independent website.
Over the weekend, Mr. Farage — who has since stepped down as UKIP leader — announced that he “probably would” campaign again in the constituency if Mr. Mackinlay is forced to give up the seat.