Hampshire constabulary are looking into claims that Royston Smith, the new Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen, handed the constituency’s Ukip candidate intelligence and a specially designed leaflet to help him target potential Labour/Ukip swing voters.
Former Ukip candidate Kim Rose claims that two months before polling day Smith handed him an envelope marked confidential containing about 55 pages with maps, local election results broken down by area and addresses for traditional Labour voters who had indicated to Tory canvassers they were likely to support Ukip.
Labour lost the seat to the Conservatives by 2,316 votes after holding it for 23 years. Rose says he used the detailed information to instruct his campaign and claims he can thank it for many of the 4,000 votes he took from Labour.
The former Ukip candidate also claims that the new Conservative MP, whom he has known for about 30 years, handed him a leaflet template attacking Labour’s record on immigration that he recommended Rose distribute in the areas of the constituency he highlighted as being home to potential Labour/Ukip swing voters.
Smith admits to giving Rose documents and advice for his campaign, but denies giving him canvassing data. He also denies giving the Ukip candidate the anti-Labour leaflet, though the Conservative party admits that the leaflet came from somebody working in the constituency’s Conservative campaign and said they were investigating.
“Royston discussed campaign progress as he would have done with any other candidate who asked,” said a Conservative party spokesperson. “There was no deal and the Conservative party does not do deals with other parties.”
The leaflet, seen by the Guardian, reads: “Labour let in one immigrant every minute. You can’t trust them with our borders.” On the other side, it reads: “Ukip will bring back control of our borders and ensure British jobs for British workers. We are on the side of the British working class. We will also increase spending on the NHS.”
Rose said he “drew the line” at the leaflet as he said it looked “more like [it was from the] BNP” and was “totally racist”. A space designed for Rose – who is Jewish and owns a jewellers – to include a photograph of himself is occupied by a photograph of the Oliver Twist character Fagin holding a jewellery box, something Rose said he found insulting.
The Conservatives admit Royston Smith was responsible for annotations written on the sheets of election results seen by the Guardian that Rose says the MP handed to him. On one of the documents, there is a calculation with the number 6,000 underlined. Rose claims this indicates how many votes he could win by targeting the Labour/Ukip swing voters identified in the documents he was given. Rose won 6,010 votes in the general election earlier this month.
A Conservative party source said Rose was “desperate to do some sort of deal with the Conservative candidate” and shared an email with the Guardian that appeared to be from Rose to Smith in which Rose writes: “Canvassed Thornhill today, all day. Labour vote diminished. Royston don’t listen to polls, you will be king and I am the king maker. Long live the king.”
Rose said the email was just “words of encouragement to a friend” in light of polling that showed Smith behind the Labour candidate.
Rose’s allegations have been reported to the police by one of his friends and it is not yet clear whether any if the allegations constitute a breach of electoral law. Hampshire constabulary confirmed they had received a complaint and were reviewing the details.
Southampton Itchen was a key Labour/Tory marginal in the election. Labour’s John Denham, who represented the constituency for 23 years and stepped down at the end of the last parliament, won the seat by 192 votes in 2010. Rowenna Davis, a journalist from London and former Labour councillor, replaced him as the party’s candidate.
Rose said he was making the allegations about Smith because “in the cold light of day” he saw the situation was “completely wrong” and he wanted to clear his conscience.
He said he wanted to get as many votes as possible for Ukip and so took advantage of the help Smith gave him. “Quite frankly, being Ukip, we had absolutely nothing like [the information in the envelope] at all,” said Rose. “We just scatter-gunned it and did the best we could. We were nowhere near organised quite like that.”
Rose attracted national media attention in the runup to the general election when he was questioned by police over allegations he tried to influence voters by handing out free sausage rolls at a campaign event. The police took no further action. He also came in for criticism after quoting Hitler’s Mein Kampf at a hustings in order to make a point about the EU being undemocratic.
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