It emerged last week that the Tories are once again, for the second general election in a row, set to face a police inquiry into illegal behaviour surrounding their election campaigning. These continuous scandals and flouting of the law illustrate the deep underlying fragilities of a Conservative Party facing crisis and decline.
It emerged last week that the Tories are once again, for the second general election in a row, set to face a police inquiry into illegal behaviour surrounding their election campaigning.
The Tories were already embroiled in scandal earlier this year regarding their election spending in the 2015 general election campaign, with one Conservative candidate charged with election fraud and dozens of other Tory MPs facing investigation by the Crown Prosecution Service.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, it was then revealed that the Tory Party had employed a polling company to canvas voters in marginal seats in the most recent general election – yet it is illegal to pay someone to canvas on behalf of a political party.
These continuous scandals and flouting of the law illustrate the deep underlying fragilities of a Conservative Party facing crisis and decline.
This latest illegal campaigning activity by the Tories was discovered after a reporter from Channel 4 News went undercover and was hired by Blue Telecoms in Neath, south Wales. The alleged polling company working on behalf of the Conservatives was run by a failed Welsh Conservative council candidate, Sascha Lopez.
The undercover reporter was asked to cold call voters in marginal constituencies and to ask leading questions to voters in marginal constituencies that were seen to be favourable to Theresa May. Questions that were consistently and repeatedly asked regarded Brexit talks and immigration, areas in which the Conservative Party were seen to be stronger with the electorate.
Questions regarding the NHS, education, and housing, meanwhile, where the Conservatives were clearly weaker, were simply not asked.
An example of such a script that was used for undecided voters included the following:
“The election result in your marginal constituency is going to be very close between Theresa May’s Conservatives and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party…So does knowing that you live in a marginal constituency that will determine who is prime minister for the Brexit negotiations, does that make you a lot more likely to vote for Theresa May’s Conservative candidate or a little more likely to vote for Theresa May’s Conservative candidate, or are you still unsure, or does it not make a difference?”
As the election loomed closer, phone-bank workers were told that they were calling from Axe Research, claiming to be independent market researchers from Cardiff. No such organisation exists. Calls were also made to people who had opted out of nuisance calls.
Both of these practices are illegal, as organisations have to state truthfully where they are calling from and what they will do with the data they are gaining.
On the election day itself, individual candidates were openly promoted; and on the day of the election Conservative voters were encouraged to get out and vote, whilst this was not the case for those who said they would be voting Labour.
Openly promoting individual candidates and getting out the vote for a particular party – essentially canvassing – is illegal if you are paying someone to do so and is a clear breach of the law.
The office in South Wales was also ironically based in an area with a high unemployment rate, with workers employed on zero-hours contracts. On some occasions, hired workers were even bribed by the management to inform on other staff members. Staff members were told not to talk about the company and to keep their conversations secret.
Surprisingly – or perhaps unsurprisingly – this scandal has had very little mainstream media coverage, being buried under the news of the shock election results, the Grenfell disaster, and the chaotic Brexit negotiations. Nevertheless, this latest police investigation will only add fuel to the fire in terms of the crisis engulfing the Tory Party as they attempt to maintain the broken status quo.
In contrast to the Tories, the Labour Party is on the rise, following the inspiring Corbyn-led campaign in June. The Party now has a membership of well over half a million people, many of whom are young, diverse and energetic. Such is the energy behind Corbyn’s Labour that the Party’s campaign organisers were even turning people away in marginal seats on election day, such as in Croydon Central, as they had too many volunteers coming to help.
The Conservative Party on the other hand are an ageing party (with a membership of no more than around 150,000) that represents a decaying, rotten system. Despite almost the entire Establishment backing them, they are chronically weak and cannot buy members (legally at least) or pay them to be enthusiastic – hence the string of election scandals emerging.
We can therefore expect further flouting of laws as the Tories are plunged into further crises: a weak and unstable government being torn to pieces in these times tremendous turbulence and uncertainty.