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How a Tory Mayor spent nearly £1m on his election by bypassing spending limits

How did a Tory candidate for Mayor in a tight election get away by spending over 5 times the limit imposed?

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Sunny Hundal
12 May 2017
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Andy Street. BBC/Screengrab. Some rights reservedA Conservative candidate is reported to have spent nearly £1m to become the new Mayor of West Midlands. And yet campaign spending limits imposed by the Electoral Commission fall far short of that.

Andy Street narrowly beat Labour's Sion Simon in the hotly fought election and won despite expectations in the local elections held last week. The former businessman was managing director of John Lewis from 2007 to 2016

This is how Street justified his spending to the BBC's Today programme: "I haven’t spent quite a million, but I have spent a substantial amount more than my opponents and actually I think that’s OK, and I’ll tell you why. This is a very important election; a new start in democracy for this region. It is 2.5 million people and so it is absolutely appropriate. We have worked within the rules, which are that if you raise money you can spend it."

The rules are that candidates have a limit of around £130,000 for the final five weeks leading up to the Mayoral election.

But Street bypassed those rules by spending a bulk of the money before the five week limit technically started. This gave him a huge advantage over opponents.

The Guardian reported the Labour candidate is thought to have spent under £200,000 for the election.

Sion Simon told the BBC: " I think the rules are wrong. In general elections, the regulated period starts much earlier. No rules at all, a complete free for all, until six weeks before polling day – I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it."

There is no suggestion that Mr Street broke the rules. But it's clear the Electoral Commission rules are open to exploitation.

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