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In Theresa May called a general election to bury Tory expenses investigation, says Dennis Skinner MP:

But Mr Skinner, who has represented the Derbyshire town of Bolsover since 1970, said he did not credit “this fairy story put forth by Tedious Theresa”.

[ ... ]

“It’s quite clear: [she called an election] because the Crown Prosecution Service are due to make a decision on Tory election expenses” he told the i newspaper.

How would the snap election literally have any impact on the expenses investigation?

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There have been claims that the "if any results of the 2015 contest are declared void, that won’t matter, as those results will have been overturned in any case" - hence holding an election would avoid the need for a by-election in affected seats.

But this is probably not true - if an elected MP is found guilty then they could be banned from holding office, leading to a by-election after the general election. This immunity idea seems more like an opposition party suggestion.

More generally it puts the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) under pressure to take no action, because they would have to announce charges during the 2017 election campaign period, which in turn would make the CPS appear politically motivated.

  • First of all, thanks for the answer. Would you be able to elaborate on the third point a-bit more. Has there been evidence in the past in regards to an investigation where CPS has been accused of being politically motivated? or any statements that they themselves have made to ensure that they remain neutral at all costs? – Bradley Wilson Apr 28 '17 at 7:05
  • @BradleyWilson - no explicit cases. This was a reference to Purdah, a period before elections where government employees are not meant to take actions within their work that would affect the outcome of the election. – Mobeer Apr 28 '17 at 9:11
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Most likely he is not meaning the legal consequences of the investigation (fines/jail/whatever the judges decide) but the political ones.

By timing appropriately the elections there are two possibilities:

  1. The decision is made public shortly after the elections. Whatever the PR damage, the next elections are still many years ahead and there is hope that the public will have mostly forgotten the issue by them.

  2. On the opposite, if the next elections are going to be seen as crucial and the public opinion is very polarized -think of Brexit-, some people might consider that in such a climate they will lose few voters if the decision is made public before the elections1. And, after the elections are won, claim that the victory legitimates the party actuation.

  3. A variant of the later is if the opposition is also in very bad shape; they may consider worth taking the electoral punishment now that they still hope to stay in power (even if with fewer votes) than once the opposition party regains its standing.

Of course, options 2 and 3 are somewhat riskier.


1The classic "the people in charge of my party are crooked but the others are worse" line.

  • Wouldn't there be a risk involved for the tories under investigation if they lost their seats (leaving them contested) if the snap election wasn't called? Thus, running the risk of losing a majority (at worst)? or would that be too outlandish to assume? – Bradley Wilson Apr 26 '17 at 18:44
  • Well, that risk would exist before and after, unless they are replacing those candidates at risk of being unseated with new ones in the next election. – SJuan76 Apr 26 '17 at 18:50
  • To me, that would be more than a valid reason to call a snap election from the perspective of the Conservatives. But, that would take some analysis of the local elections ballot coming up on the 4th of may in comparison to the tories under investigations (in their respective constituencies) to detemine that, right? – Bradley Wilson Apr 26 '17 at 18:53
  • Yes; but the problem with replacing "contaminated" MPs are not simple: you need a replacement for that constituency, MPs can be upset by that move and present themselves as independents (splitting the vote), and, if the accusations are true, they may opt to say what they know about the issue. As you said, to validate that option it would be needed to know which of them are going to be replaced. – SJuan76 Apr 26 '17 at 19:02
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One possible outcome - how probable it is we cannot say without insider information - would have been more than 30 by-elections in Conservative-held seats, and presumably in seats where the Conservative party's majority was quite slim, since otherwise they wouldn't have focussed campaigning resources there. With a majority of 17 that would leave a minority government for the duration of the by-election campaigns; and then a swing of merely 9 seats would leave it in minority, creating political pressure for a general election.

At the same time, polling suggested that a general election would give the Conservatives a much larger majority, sufficient that even if 30 MPs were subsequently forced to resign they would still have solid control of the House of Commons.

A possible additional complicating factor would be purdah. In the period before an election, civil servants are restricting in what they can do or say which might favour one candidate or party over another. Someone who knows more about the detail might be able to clarify whether this means that the CPS is forced to delay taking and/or publishing its decision over whether to act.

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