Former councillor caught up in MP election scandal

What the garden looked like before

Nathan Gray, 29, is on trial alongside the 52-year-old South Thanet MP and party worker Marion Little, 63, after being accused of breaching electoral spending limits.

It is alleged they ‘simply abandoned’ expenditure rules set by law to beat the divisive UKIP leader during a time when the Eurosceptic party seemed poised to make a significant electoral breakthrough.

Mackinlay, an accountant by profession, was elected to Parliament for the first time on May 7 2015 after he won the seat with a majority of about 2,800 in an electorate of 70,000.

Declared spending on the campaign came in under the strict £52,000 limit set for the Kent constituency, but prosecutors allege up to £66,600 was not declared. Southwark Crown Court heard that Gray, of Hawkhurst, was employed by Conservative campaign headquarters (CCHQ) as Mackinlay’s campaign manager from November 2014.

Gray was a councillor for Hawkhurst and Sandhurst between 2014 and May this year.
Experienced Tory campaigner Anthony Salter told jurors he did not know how the former councillor had come to take on the responsibility of acting as election agent and agreed that the role was ‘totally beyond him’.

“I didn’t consider he had the appropriate training, skills and expertise,” he said.
“I wanted somebody with the proper training and expertise to oversee (the expenditure returns) and make sure we didn’t make stupid mistakes.”

Trevor Burke QC, defending Gray, suggested his client was ‘regarded in the office as an idiot’ by colleagues, who talked about him behind his back.
“For some in the office there was a general perception he couldn’t put his trousers on in the morning without the help of someone else,” he said. Mr Salter agreed it had been expressed to him later, but added: “I do think it is unfair he’s been pilloried for not being up to the job he’s got no qualifications for.”

Prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee QC told jurors on Wednesday: “This was a very important seat for the Conservative Party to win and Mr Mackinlay had to be elected.

“In seeking to ensure the success of the Conservative Party’s candidate and the defeat of Nigel Farage, we submit that proper regard to the limits of expenditure imposed by law was simply abandoned.

“Each of these three defendants were complicit in the means deployed to achieve that end.”

Gray denies one charge of making a false election expenses declaration and a further charge of using a false instrument under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981. Mackinlay, from Ramsgate denies two charges of making a false election expenses declaration under the Representation of the People Act 1983.

Little, of Ware, Hertfordshire, denies three counts of intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007.
The trial continues.

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter