The Daily Telegraph: Spy

Tuesday, 1 January, 2008

After Gordon Brown bottled going to the polls last autumn, it emerged that Labour had spent pounds 1 million preparing for the election-that-never-was.

But to what extent were ministers already in election mode? David Ruffley , the Tory MP and shadow police reform minister, has uncovered figures which show that Home Office ministers signed off a huge increase in the cost of policing the Labour conference in Bournemouth in September - days before the Prime Minister was expected to seek a dissolution of Parliament.

Tony McNulty, the police minister, disclosed in a written answer to Ruffley that the Home Office grant to cover security at the conference rose from pounds 3,984,000 in 2006 to pounds 5,320,000 last year - an increase of more than a third.

Over the same time period, the cost of policing the Conservative conference fell by 16 per cent, from pounds 2,150,000 in 2006 to pounds 1,797,000 in 2007.

"Labour's arrogance seems to know no bounds,'' said Ruffley, pictured, yesterday. "How can the Government justify this massive increase in taxpayers' money for policing its own conference?''

Over to a Home Office spokesman: "The higher costs were due to a change in conference venue and a police assessment of the security required.''