Without sound rules to ensure fairness, we cannot have a system of democratic elections in our country that commands respect. The whole object of establishing the Electoral Commission and tightening the rules on foreign donations in 2001 was to do exactly that.
I’m sorry to say it, but today the Electoral Commission has presided over the explosion of postal voting and the large-scale fraud and intimidation that goes with it.
Their main attack on a political party was their pursuit of UKIP for years through the courts, indeed all the way to the Supreme Court, over a donation from a Mr Alan Bown.
This was because, in one particular year, he was not on the electoral register at the time of making a donation. Given that Mr Bown is not foreign and has never been domiciled abroad, it seems that to have hounded UKIP in this way was frankly a waste of their time.
Whilst this was happening, the Liberal Democrats were allowed a £2.4m donation from a man called Michael Brown who subsequently ended up receiving a long prison sentence after being convicted on four counts.
I have to say, I have been nothing but scathing about the Electoral Commission every time their name has ever been mentioned. That at least was until today.
I feel that something very important has changed. For many, many years it has been a known fact that during elections, and especially in by-elections, certain parties have overspent their limits but generally managed to get round it by claiming large amounts of expenditure were part of the national campaign – as opposed to the promotion of an individual candidate within a constituency.
This first came to my intention during a by-election held in Newark, immediately after the European Elections that UKIP won in 2014.
The sheer size of the Conservative campaign amazed and astonished me, and on the night of the election I did say to Michael Crick of Channel 4 News that I’d be very interested to see what the Conservative party returns would be.
But that was nothing compared to the moment when Mark Reckless stood down as the Conservative MP for Rochester and Strood and called a by-election.
The Tory campaign that followed was on a huge, industrial scale. It included not just vast amounts of overspending but without doubt, push polling conducted from the United States of America was taking place in the Kent constituency.
The campaign fought by the Conservative party in Rochester and Strood was illegal in every way and whilst UKIP managed to win the by-election, I do feel that their underhand tactics did such damage to Mark’s reputation that it hurt is re-election efforts 7 months later.
When I put my hat in the ring for the seat of Thanet South, I had expected to be up against a big Tory machine and was well aware of what I was letting myself in for having witnessed what had gone before. However, it was around a month before the vote when a big poll came out putting UKIP in the lead. The Conservative campaign went into overdrive.
On one particular evening, I was dining in a Ramsgate restaurant when it became apparent from who was sitting a few tables down that half of CCHQ has been relocated to the South Thanet constituency.
In many ways, the man who has exposed all of this is Michael Crick, who since that Newark election almost 3 years ago has been like a dog with a bone.
He established that tens of thousands of pounds worth of hotel bills was run up in the campaign without being declared and it now seems that the Electoral Commission have decided that a serious wrong has been done.
Indeed, £45,000 out of the £70,000 fine paid by the Conservative party relates to those very by-elections in Newark, Clacton and Rochester and Strood.
But it goes further than just one constituency. This goes all the way to Number 10. Nick Timothy, seen by many as being the most important and influential member of Mrs May’s staff, was in the Thanet South constituency for much of the campaign, whilst actually being paid by the national party.
His claim that he was there to undergo ‘research’ for Mrs May as Home Secretary to find out attitudes towards immigration simply doesn’t wash.
Stephen Parkinson, another current operative from within Number 10, also spent large amounts of time in Thanet South. This was before taking a big position in the Vote Leave campaign.
Is it any wonder that Vote Leave didn’t want anything to do with me in the referendum when it was the same people using every tool at their disposal to prevent me winning just 12 months before?
It seems to me that not just in the constituency I fought, but perhaps in a dozen or more constituencies, there is a very dark shadow cast over the behaviour of the Conservative party.
I believe that Cameron and Osborne simply thought they were above the law and none of this would ever catch up with them.
We now face the very real prospect of a large number of by-elections being contested over the course of this year. This would do nothing other than drag the reputation of British politics into the mud.
There is one simple solution to all of this. To draw a line under what has happened under the previous Conservative regime, and restore public confidence in our politics, Mrs May should get rid of all who were involved in the South Thanet campaign and call a General Election. She should do so with the absolute promise that time has come to clean the stables.
As Trump attempted to drain the swamp in Washington, the same thing should now happen in Westminster.