Tories blast Labour with police complaints ahead of crucial local elections

Claims condemned as ‘shameful political game-playing’ as Tories face losing hundreds of council seats.

Kate Devlin,David Maddox
Thursday 02 May 2024 14:30 BST
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Police are looking into Conservative claims that Labour’s candidate in a crunch election on Thursday wrongly claimed to live in the area to stand.

West Midlands Police said it was “assessing” the allegations against Richard Parker.

It comes as The Independent can reveal that the Tories also claimed that they have reported a Labour council group to Thames Valley Police in Milton Keynes, a hotly contested bellwether seat ahead of the local elections there.

A spokesman for Mr Parker described the claims as “shameful political game-playing” while a Labour source added that the use of police complaints by the Tories ahead of the local elections “is becoming more than a habit”.

The double reporting of Labour to the police today follows Tory chairman pushing for an investigation into allegations over whether Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner broke electoral law over her former home in Stockport.

Richard Parker was joined by Angela Rayner on the campaign trail with both reported to the police.
Richard Parker was joined by Angela Rayner on the campaign trail with both reported to the police. (Jacob King/PA Wire)

Labour and the Tories are thought to be neck and neck in the race, which could prove crucial to Rishi Sunak’s future.

Current Conservative mayor Andy Street is hopeful of winning.

But a loss could encourage Tory rebels in their campaign against the prime minister.

West Midlands Police said in a statement: “We can confirm that we have received an allegation and are currently assessing it.”

The allegations centre on claims Mr Parker may have breached electoral law.

Gary Sambrook, the Tory MP for Birmingham Northfield, has written to the police over claims Labour’s candidate may have broken residency rules to get on the ballot paper.

Central to the row is the claim that on official nomination papers Mr Parker declared a rented flat in Birmingham as his address, but his main property is said to be outside the West Midlands Combined Authority area he wants to run.

Candidates have to be registered to vote and ”during the whole of the preceding 12 months resided in” in the area to stand.

Or candidates have to say that they have “occupied as owner or tenant of the following land or other premises” in the area.

Gary Sambrook has reported Parker to the police
Gary Sambrook has reported Parker to the police (Parliament UK)

In Milton Keynes, Tory MP Ben Everitt has told The Independent that he has made a police complaint over literature he alleged has come from the local Labour council group which he says is “misleading” and “breaches election law.”

The row focuses on the failure to open a new GP surgery.

In an email to Thames Valley Police, he wrote: “The Labour Group has been actively telling residents and the media that the proposals for the GP surgery in Olney were refused because the Conservative government failed to release the necessary funds.

“However recent revelations have revealed this to be a demonstrably false claim. Emails have now come to light that demonstrate that it was Milton Keynes Council that stopped the development, by advising against applying for planning permission.

“The decision not to progress the new surgery was made at a meeting of the region’s Primary Care Delivery Group, which is part of the Integrated Care Board. Milton Keynes Council had delivered advice to that meeting which was to not proceed with the surgery, leading to such an outcome at ICB level. “

Labour have dismissed the allegation with a spokeswoman saying: “The Milton Keynes Conservatives have clearly misunderstood. They are not being accused of blocking the new surgery. They are being rightly accused of, and held to account for, consistently failing to deliver the necessary funding for new infrastructure in Milton Keynes. Rather than wasting valuable police time and resources, the Conservatives should apologise to the people of Milton Keynes for letting them down for the last two decades.”

The police complaints have come as the Tories look increasingly desperate ahead of tomorrow’s local elections.

The Conservatives are predicted to lose up to 500 council seats in the local elections.

The party is also facing two key re-election battles, for the mayor of the West Midlands and the Tees Valley's Ben Houchen.

Polls suggest both could be very close contests.

Already senior Tories are moving in an attempt to shore up Mr Sunak. Home secretary James Cleverly has warned Conservative MPs considering a leadership challenge to after next week’s local elections that it would be a “catastrophic idea”.

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