SUSSEX Police have become the latest force to investigate claims of electoral fraud by the Conservatives in winning last year’s election.
The force is investigating after Lewes Liberal Democrats made an appeal to Chief Constable Giles York to investigate possible election spending offences.
The complaints bring the number of forces nationwide investigating the alleged breach of spending rules to a dozen with calls from opposition parties for Scotland Yard to launch an nationwide investigation.
Former Lewes MP Norman Baker, who lost his seat to Conservative Maria Caulfield last year by 1,083 votes, said the complaints were “serious and substantive”.
Nationwide the allegations have focussed on separate national and local spending caps for parties and in particular who picked up the bill for a battle bus which toured key marginal seats during the campaign.
The Argus understands the complaint in Lewes was raised not because of similar investigations elsewhere in the country but because of concerns specific to Lewes district.
But the Tories' battle bus did not visit Lewes because it was not considered a target seat by the Conservatives with Mr Baker holding a 7,5000 majority.
This paper has also learnt that opposition parties are considering asking Sussex Police to widen their investigation to other Sussex constituencies.
As well as the shock victory in Lewes, the Conservatives were victorious in closely fought campaigns in Brighton Kemptown and Hastings and Rye.
Sussex Police is being urged to seek an extension with the Crown Prosecution Service as fraud allegations need to have been investigated within a one year deadline which will fall on June 10.
Mr Baker said: “A serious and substantive complaint has been filed by the Liberal Democrats in Lewes and I would expect the police to investigate this thoroughly.”
Councillor Sarah Osborne, Lewes Lib Dem group leader, said: “I have spent my life opposing the Tories but this is not about party politics, we would have raised this issue no matter who was being accused.
“I believe our laws do their best to ensure there is a level playing field which is really important for democracy.
“If there was a football match and you spotted it was 12 men against 11 you would cry foul.
“There is quite a big area of expertise being built-up over the country on this issue among different police forces so I would hope Sussex Police would contact them as well rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.
“All we can hope is that they take our concerns seriously.”
A Sussex Police spokeswoman said: “We have received an allegation of electoral fraud on Monday, May 23 and an investigation has been started.”