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Seven things we learned from the Craig Mackinlay expenses trial

Craig Mackinlay, the South Thanet MP, has been found not guilty of falsifying election expenses.

Yet the proceedings of the 10-week trial also revealed a number of interesting facts about the Conservative campaign to win the seat in 2015 against then Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

Here are seven things we learned from trial.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay
South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay
  • Former international footballer Sol Campbell visited South Thanet to back the Conservative campaign but arrived with no training shoes that he needed for an event later. Election campaign manager Marion Little was sent out to buy a pair but revealed that it had not been easy as Campbell had size 14 feet.
  • Nathan Gray’s signature was forged on a declaration document for expenses incurred in the long campaign, according to a prosecution expert witness but it was never conclusively proved who was responsible.
  • There was concern amongst South Thanet Conservatives about the view of Kent County Council leader Paul Carter over the future of the former Manston airport site. Emails disclosed during the hearing revealed that party managers had failed to “neuter” him - rather than “neutralise” him.
  • Election agent Nathan Gray was dispatched to Thanet council office for two weeks to oversee the opening of postal votes, something that election agents rarely, if ever, do. Asked why, he told the court that it was something that Marion Little had asked him to do.
  • Craig Mackinlay told the jury he was a small cog in the party machine: “If you’re a new candidate you have to understand the hierarchy in the Conservative Party. I was just a mere small cog in a gearbox.”
  • A row erupted when Conservative Central Office proposed creating a digital map “Where’s Nigel” - based on the “Where’s Willy” books. Constituency officials vetoed the idea, complaining that it was a waste of time.
  • Among the election expenses incurred by the party was £2,000 - charged for putting up poster boards for Craig Mackinlay. Election agent Nathan Gray queried the invoice, saying that it seemed a lot for “two blokes knocking nails in bits of wood".
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