No criminal charges are to be brought against Conservative MPs or officials in relation to allegations of spending irregularities in the 2015 general election campaign, the Crown Prosecution Service has announced.
One file, relating to the victorious Tory candidate in Thanet South, Craig Mackinlay, remains under consideration.
But the CPS cautioned that this should not be taken as an indication of whether charges will be brought in this case, which was referred more recently than the others.
The CPS head of special crime Nick Vamos said that prosecutors considered files from 14 police forces, but determined that – while spending returns may have been inaccurate – there was insufficient evidence to prove that any candidate or agent was dishonest.
Conservative Party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin said: “These were politically motivated and unfounded complaints that have wasted police time. We are glad that this matter is finally resolved.”
The Conservative candidate for Lincoln, Karl McCartney, who was interviewed as part of the investigation, said: “This whole saga amounts to no more than a politically-motivated witch-hunt.
“It is clear that those who lead the Electoral Commission who followed and allowed this action to take place are politically-motivated and biased – actions that have rendered this organisation wholly unfit-for-purpose.”
Police investigations into the 2015 Tory campaign centred on allegations highlighted by Channel 4 News and the Daily Mirror that expenses relating to busloads of Conservative activists sent to key seats were reported as part of national spending rather than falling within the lower constituency limits.
In March, the Conservative Party was fined a record £70,000 by the Electoral Commission for “numerous failures” in reporting its expenses for the 2015 General Election, and three by-elections in 2014.
Answering questions after a speech in Leeds, Mr Corbyn said he was “interested and surprised” by the CPS decision, but would have to look at the details of it.
“Quite clearly the Electoral Commission is independent, the Crown Prosecution Service is independent, the Director of Public Prosecutions is independent, they have to make a judgment on it,” said the Labour leader.
“But our election laws must be enforced and must be adhered to, there are strict spending limits for a reason, so that money can’t buy power, only votes in the ballot box should be able to get power.”
Mr Farron said: “The observation I would make of the Conservative Party is it appears to have stayed the right side of the law by the letter of it, but has driven a battle bus and horses right the way through the spirit of it. It’s a shame, in one sense, it would appear there is a cloud hanging over British politics.”