THE general election campaign has reached boiling point in Selly Oak where a Labour MP has been found to have unknowingly broke Parliamentary rules and his Tory rival found at risk breaching election regulations over the distribution of political leaflets.
The mud-slinging on the hustings has seen Hall Green Labour MP Steve McCabe and Bournville Tory Councillor Nigel Dawkins file official complaints over each other’s campaign material as they battle for the reformed Selly Oak seat at the next election.
Coun Dawkins called on the Parliamentary Commissioner to investigate a Labour Party leaflet distributed to the Selly Oak and Bournville ward appeared to have been paid for out of Mr McCabe’s Parliamentary funds, even though he is not MP for those areas.
And Mr McCabe’s allegation that an official community newsletter called Safer Selly Oak featuring a photograph of Coun Dawkins on the front, as well as another election candidate, Ladywood Liberal Democrat Ayoub Khan, has been upheld by city lawyers who say it should not be distributed until after the election.
The Parliamentary Commissioner said that Mr McCabe’s leaflet was correct, as he had sent out two versions, one for his constituency and an amended one for the area he hopes to represent.
But the commissioner found that printer had wrongly invoiced the House of Commons for both leaflets and they had also been paid by the Labour Party for the second one. Mr McCabe said he had to secure a refund and pay it back to the House Authorities.
Commissioner John Lyon said: “Mr McCabe was in breach of the rules of the House in that Parliamentary funds were used, albeit unintentionally, for non-parliamentary purposes.”
Mr McCabe said: “I am grateful to Coun Dawkins for raising the issue as we have managed to get £700 back from the printer. I don’t believe in that style of politics but if I were a litigious man I would be looking very carefully at some of the false claims Coun Dawkins is making about me.”
But Coun Dawkins replied: “It seems unbelievable to me that after all of the terrible stories of abuse that the expenses row has caused that Steve Mccabe is still making mistakes with his parliamentary expense claims.
“If we were being generous we could believe that this was a genuine mistake. However Steve McCabe made a similar mistake when he submitted the wrong invoices for his mortgage payments resulting in him having to pay back over £2,000.”
Meanwhile Coun Dawkins has called on the Hall Green MP to remove any threat of legal action over the taxpayer funded Safer Selly Oak leaflet because it could end up being pulped.The leaflets to promote anti-crime measures in the area features a photograph of Coun Dawkins, as chairman of the Safer Neighbourhood Partnership on the cover.
He said: “The intervention has led to a cautious response from our legal officers requiring that these leaflets be destroyed for fear of us having a legal challenge by yourself under election law.
“This intervention has so far already caused unnecessary legal costs to the city.”
Mr McCabe replied: “Clearly the council lawyer agrees that this is not appropriate during an election campaign.”