Councillor Daniel Dewhurst, former UCLan student and Chairman of the Preston Conservative Association, has been accused of electoral fraud in Larches ward. Dewhurst won his seat in the 2015 Local Elections, where he beat Labour’s Lynne Wallace, and fellow UCLan student and Liberal Democrat Joe Young.
Larches, where Labour sources expressed their fear that the Conservatives would win the ward from them, has been previously considered somewhat a swing seat. In 2010, it was won by the Labour Party from the Preston Liberal Democrats’ incumbent Councillor Mark Jewell. The Liberal Democrats themselves won it from Labour previously, and the battle to control the ward was ongoing between the two until 2010, from which point it has been solidly Labour controlled.
Dewhurst, the electoral agent of the Conservative candidate Alice Buchanan, has been suspended from the Conservative Party pending investigation.
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said,
“We can confirm that we have received information regarding an alleged electoral irregularity and we are in the process of looking into the matter. These enquiries are on-going. Lancashire Constabulary works very closely with Returning Officers and electoral administrators to tackle electoral fraud and integrity issues, and ensure elections are delivered in an open and fair manner. Any allegations made will be investigated appropriately.”
A spokesman for the Conservative Party said,
“Following an allegation made against Councillor Dewhurst, Preston Conservative Association has followed Party guidelines in dealing with this matter and are awaiting the outcome of an investigation by the relevant authorities. We do not feel that it would be appropriate to comment further until the investigation has been concluded.”
This follows the allegations made against Alison Hernandez, which imply that in the investigation into alleged expenses fraud, the Conservative Battle Bus funded activists from Preston to campaign in the Torbay constituency.