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Tory MP Craig Mackinlay claims he was ‘clueless’ about election expenditure

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A Tory MP accused of overspending in his election campaign has told a jury he was “clueless” when it came to his expenditure.

Craig Mackinlay, who is an accountant by profession, told Southwark Crown Court he did not know anything at all about what was being spent.

Mr Mackinlay is on trial with two others accused of exceeding the expenses limits during his 2015 election campaign.

The court heard how his seat of South Thanet in Kent was “arguably one of the most important” of the general election, after Nigel Farage, then UKIP leader, announced his candidacy there.

Mr Mackinlay said the “prospect of a legal challenge from Mr Farage” meant he and his colleagues were careful not to break the spending rules.

“Of any seat in the country, this was the one that would be looked at and pored over very carefully,” he said.

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage at the party's local office in Thurrock during a General Election campaign visit
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Nigel Farage ran for the South Thanet seat for UKIP

Mr Mackinlay says he had no involvement in budgeting or spending. He says it was the job of his campaign manager.

The politician also described the Conservative battle bus which transported high profile politicians and volunteers into his constituency as a “total waste of time”.

He said the national volunteers “didn’t know the area”, adding some were clearly “unmotivated” and only turned up “to climb their own ladder”.

Mr Mackinlay’s declared spending fell within the strict £52,000 limit.

But the prosecution claims an extra possible £66,000 of expenses were undeclared.

When asked whether his expenses returns were “incomplete and inaccurate”, Mr Mackinlay said: “That’s an impossibility. I would never sign anything that’s wrong. That’s not me.”

Mr Mackinlay and his then campaign manager, Nathan Gray, deny charges of submitting false expenses.

Experienced party activist, Marion Little, denies charges of encouraging and assisting an offence.

The trial continues.

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