The inside story of the Tory election scandal

Carlisle Conservative parliamentary candidate John Stevenson, Penrith and Border candidate Rory Stewart with fellow Conservative supporters with the Conservative Battle Bus in Carlisle SATURDAY 2nd MAY 2015. DAVID HOLLINS 50076509F023.jpg

The unexpected Conservative election victory of 2015 transformed British politics. Now an unprecedented Electoral Commission investigation has raised the question of whether it was even a fair fight.

by and Guy Basnett

A few hours after dawn on 8 May 2015, the morning after his unexpected victory in the general election, David Cameron delivered a celebratory speech to the jubilant staff of Conservative campaign headquarters, at 4 Matthew Parker Street, Westminster. “I’m not an old man but I remember casting a vote in 1987 and that was a great victory,” he said. “I remember 2010, achieving that dream of getting Labour out and getting the Tories back in, and that was amazing. But I think this is the sweetest victory of them all.”

The assembled Tory campaign staffers cheered and whistled as Cameron declared: “We are on the brink of something so exciting.” The election result would indeed change British politics, although not in the way that Cameron intended: the obliteration of the Conservatives’ Liberal Democrat coalition partners cleared the way for the referendum that set Britain on a path to leave the EU and ended Cameron’s political career. As a result, Theresa May is now the prime minister, while Cameron is on a speaking tour of US universities and George Osborne is moonlighting as a newspaper editor.

Until recently, Britain thought it knew how the Conservative party had defied expectations to win the election. After the initial shock that predictions of a hung parliament had proved incorrect, a new narrative was soon established. Commentators explained that the Tories had prevailed by successfully emphasising the threat of a Labour coalition with the SNP and deploying the “pumped-up” prime minister for a spurt of decisive last-minute campaigning. Several newspapers reported that the Tories had spent less to win their 12-seat majority in 2015 than they did to win 24 fewer seats in 2010.


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