The Liberal Democrats like to portray themselves as somehow operating on a higher moral plane than their political rivals, yet the party has a consistently terrible record for misleading leaflets, dodgy campaign spending and smearing their opponents.
The Lib Dems' "Bollocks to / Stop Brexit" campaign must also rank as one of the most offensively anti-democratic responses to the result of a public vote in the history of modern politics - a shocking, outright rejection of a majority national decision by a party that dares simultaneously to have "Democrats" in its name.
It was against this backdrop of the party's corrosive politics and evident identity crisis that Lib Dem Watch was launched, ahead of the 2019 general election. Our aim was to fully expose the scale of the Liberal Democrats' contempt for honest politics and effective democracy; a total collapse of the party's claimed core values that the devastating results of that general election must surely now throw into sharper focus.
Today, we continue to scrutinise and expose the party's activities both nationally and locally and, in particular, investigate election spending claims by the party's candidates.
It's of course possible to find examples of other parties making misleading claims and breaking election rules. Most often, these are either far less considerable or can be explained as accidental misunderstandings of reporting rules. The difference is scale and therefore apparent intent. The Liberal Democrats are by far the worst offenders, repeating the same misleading campaign tactics and spending tricks on a scale that is hard to see as anything other than deliberate abuse of election rules and public trust.
Stuart is a campaigner and political researcher with a 20 year record of originating and running successful grassroots and online campaigns towards improving democracy.
From 2011-2016 Stuart co-founded and was a director of the innovative People's Pledge cross-party, EU-neutral campaign for an EU referendum, which played a key role in pressuring David Cameron to u-turn and support a national in/out vote on EU membership.
In 2017, he was responsible for reporting Liberal Democrats Sarah Olney and Vince Cable to the police, alleging substantial overspending of their local campaign limits in, respectively, the 2016 Richmond Park by-election and 2017 general election. Ms Olney was later issued by police with "formal words of advice" over discrepancies in her reported spending and police findings that her campaign had overspent the legal limit for that by-election.
The constituency election spending returns of other Liberal Democrats, including Ed Davey, were also studied and further anomalous and highly questionable campaign spending records found. These other MPs and 2017 candidates only escaped further scrutiny at that time due to the one-year legal time limit on the prosecution of election offences.