Tory pay-per-mile leaflet during mayoral election ‘did not break the law’

Metropolitan Police confirms it will not be taking its investigation into the matter further, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

The 'pay per mile' image posted by Susan Hall's campaign
A ‘pay per mile’ image posted by Susan Hall’s campaign

Susan Hall’s mayoral campaign did not break the law, Scotland Yard has found, after Labour alleged that illegal tactics were used in the distribution of a Conservative leaflet.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that following an “assessment” of the complaint raised by Sadiq Khan’s campaign, they had found “no offences had been committed” by the Tories.

The leaflet in question was designed to look like a penalty charge notice, and claimed that Khan would introduce a ‘pay-per-mile’ system for London’s drivers if re-elected.

The Labour mayor denied that he would bring in any such road user charging system, and explicitly ruled the move out in his manifesto.

The leaflet’s design and wording prompted the fact-checking organisation FullFact to say it was “concerned”, adding: “Deceptive campaign practices can mislead the public during elections – and that’s not on.”

The leaflet did not mention the Conservative party or their candidate Hall, except for a small imprint which said it had been promoted “by Ian Sanderson on behalf of Susan Hall, both of CCHQ” [Conservative Campaign Headquarters].

This meant that the leaflet itself appeared to comply with election rules, which require that an imprint states who is responsible for publishing campaign material and who they’re promoting it for.

But Labour’s complaint focused on the alleged use of envelopes to deliver the leaflets.

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In a letter to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), lawyers acting on Labour’s behalf claimed that the leaflets were being “distributed in an envelope that closely resembles that which would ordinarily contain a fixed penalty notice for driving offences”.

The lawyers went on to say that these envelopes were Labour’s “principal concern”, as they argued that they helped to give the impression to Londoners that voting for Mr Khan could cause them “financial loss” – which they suggested was a “corrupt practice” as defined in the Representation of the People Act 1983.

Conservative sources said however that it was untrue that the party was using envelopes to deliver the leaflets.

In addition, the CPS does not investigate alleged offences, and is only able to refer those on to the relevant police force to consider whether to investigate. The CPS said that this is what it did after receiving Labour’s letter.

A Met Police spokesperson has now confirmed that the force does not believe an offence was committed. They said: “On Wednesday, April 17, the Metropolitan Police received a referral under section 181 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 from the CPS regarding a complaint received of an allegation under the Elections Act 2022.

“This referral was assessed and it was confirmed that no offences had been committed under this legislation.

“We have consulted with, and briefed, the CPS about this finding. The complainant has been informed.”

At the time of the complaint being raised, the Conservatives called it “desperate nonsense”. The party said it had no further comment to make following the Met’s conclusion.

Labour has also been approached for comment.

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