UK

Tories 'Telling Lies' About How Crucial General Election Seats Were Won, Whistleblowers Say

'It’s wrong. Very wrong and it’s a huge betrayal'.

09/03/2017 20:15 GMT | Updated 10/03/2017 13:33 GMT

The Tories are “telling lies” when they deny having “cheated” election law to win crucial seats in the General Election, two whistleblower ex-activists have said.

Gregg and Louise Kinsell were on the Battlebus campaign that took activists to crucial seats around the country to boost the candidates’ local campaign.

The couple came forward after a Channel 4 News investigation into how these local campaigns failed to declare expenses of the Battlebus campaign, such as accommodation and transport, which could have pushed their spending above the legal limit.

Channel 4 News
Gregg and Louise Kindell

The programme’s reporting has led to more than a dozen police forces launching investigations into up to 27 sitting MPs.

The Tories deny activists helped local candidates, with former Prime Minister David Cameron insisting they only put out national messages.

But the Kinsells told Channel 4 News that Battlebus volunteers’ efforts had a local focus and were not simply echoing national commitments. 

Louise Kinsell said: “When you hear that they’re saying that we went down and we were just giving the central government message, no, no we weren’t.

“I’m not going to lie about that. No we weren’t... They’re telling lies about what we did. We duped people on the doors. It feels like cheating and I don’t like that...

“We were on the bus, we know what happened. We know what we were doing, and they know what we were doing.” 

Press Association
MP Neil Carmichael (right) is one of the candidates the Kinsells campaigned for

She said the Battlebus volunteers had leaflets and rosettes with the local candidate’s name on.

She added claiming they were part of a national campaign was “rubbish, absolute rubbish... We were definitely canvassing for the local candidate... I will absolutely swear on anything”.

The Kinsells say they campaigned for Neil Carmichael, the candidate in Stroud.

Gregg Kinsell said: “We were given a run-down on Neil Carmichael, who was the potential candidate for Stroud area. So we were told all about him, background, concerns of the residents in the area, what the general vibe was, what Stroud was concerned about - supermarket being built or whatever it was.”

He added: “I think even, that phrase was used, we were like ‘the hit squad’ coming round coming to targeted areas on behalf of that MP, on behalf of Neil Carmichael.”

They campaigned between May 2 and May 5, 2015, travelling from their home in Shropshire to the South West, where the Battlebus was held to be particularly effective in winning seats for the Tories as the Lib Dems’ support collapsed.

In all, the Battlebus operation visited 29 marginal constituencies in the South West, the Midlands and the North during the last 10 days of the election.

The Kinsells were put up at hotels in Taunton, Plymouth and Hayle but none of these hotels appear to have been declared by any of the candidates in those seats, Channel 4 News reported.

The Kinsells also accused the party of a “cover-up”.

That’s it. They’ve cheated and formed a government that, that affects the whole of the country, money, education, NHS everything and they’ve cheated, how does that make them right to form a government? It doesn’t.

Louise Kinsell added: “That’s it. They’ve cheated and formed a government that, that affects the whole of the country, money, education, NHS everything and they’ve cheated, how does that make them right to form a government? It doesn’t. It doesn’t and it wouldn’t matter what party they were, that stands.”

Gregg Kinsell said: “If people are saying, and the MPs concerned in these areas are saying it was part of a greater expense nationally for the Conservatives, that is a lie and an obvious falsehood.

“In that case I feel especially motivated to go to the police and go to the Electoral Commission.”

He described in detail locating for North Cornwall candidate - now MP - Scott Mann.

Gregg Kinsell said: “I’ve got a picture of me with Scott, canvassing with Scott. We had a great time in the High Street. I was saying he’s the new Poldark, he’s very handsome. He can change your life. So I was obviously working with Scott. That was obvious.”

Peter Nicholls / Reuters
David Cameron has defended the Battlebus campaign. 'Lots of political parties have these bus tours. You know, buses that go round different constituencies. This is a national expense'.

”There’s definitely a code of silence going on and there’s definitely a lot of ignorance and a lot of ‘let’s cover this up’,” Gregg Kinsell said:

“I feel like there’s been a betrayal. We were unwitting participants in a huge betrayal. That’s how I feel … Now we know the Conservatives are saying it was a national expense. No it wasn’t. We were the hitsquad for those MPs. We were the hitsquad coming round in the big bus.”

Louise Kinsell added: “We’ve taken part in their cheating. That’s not on. It’s wrong. Very wrong and it’s a huge betrayal... And we know we swung those seats.”

The couple are no longer members of the Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party have previously insisted that the Battlebus tour was a national campaign and that costs did not need to be declared by local candidates.

They also previously said that hotels were left off the national spending declaration due to an “administrative error” and they had informed the Electoral Commission of this.

Cameron said last year: “Lots of political parties have these bus tours. You know, buses that go round different constituencies. This is a national expense.”

Following the Kinsells allegations, a party spokesman told Channel 4: “We are cooperating with the ongoing investigations.”