Zeichner was deemed to have sent the letters "just ahead of, and with knowledge of, the imminent election"louis ashworth

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner has been told to refund £343.96 in parliamentary expenses after an investigation into printed literature sent to some of his constituents during the 2019 General Election campaign.

The investigation, conducted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, ruled that a letter sent on 1st November 2019 was of a “party-political” nature and therefore in breach of the parliamentary Code of Conduct. Paragraph 16 of the Code states that use of parliamentary resources must be done “in support of [MP’s] parliamentary duties” and not to “confer undue advantage on a political organisation”.

The ruling was made on the 4th of May, and followed a complaint made by a constituent a week after the General Election which claimed that the letter in question was intended “to garner support for himself [Zeichner] and the Labour Party during a General Election campaign”. Public evidence on the case makes clear that the complainant was a Cambridge student.

When asked about the complaint during an initial enquiry in January, Zeichner stated that the letter “was not party-political campaign material” since “it was by no means certain at that point that there would be an imminent election.” He stated that it was part of a correspondence “following [the complainant’s] email to me of 13 February 30 about the relationship with the European Union post-Brexit”.

The Commissioner ruled, however, that the letter could not “reasonably be characterised as a “reply” or continuation of an ongoing correspondence” since the email raised by Zeichner had been received on 9th February 2018, nearly 21 months before the letter sent to the complainant on 1st November 2019.

The ruling added that, given the assent of a parliamentary bill on election the day before the letter was sent, it was “clear that this letter was sent to constituents just ahead of, and with knowledge of, the imminent election” and that the tone and content of the letter had to be considered “in the context of party-political messages and emerging campaign themes.”

The letter promoted Zeichner’s stance on the ongoing Brexit negotiations, criticising the Brexit policies of the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.

Zeichner estimated that the letter in question had been sent to around 500 constituents as a standard reply to multiple queries from constituents about Brexit. He stated that he “often email[s] or write[s] to individuals or groups of two or three people to update them about an issue going through Parliament which they have previously written to me about” including, in this case, the complainant’s correspondence in February 2018.

In response to the ruling Zeichner agreed to re-pay £343.96 used in the production and postage of the material and apologised privately.


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Chair of the University Liberal Association, Freddie Poser, stated that the breach “has to call [Zeichner’s] victory into question and at the bare minimum I expect a wholehearted and unqualified public apology.”

In a joint statement to Varsity, Co-Chairs of the Cambridge University Labour Club, Harrison Jennings and Fiona Mitchell, stated that “the Lib Dems can try and paint this as a deal-breaking factor, but the fact of the matter is that their candidate came a distant second and no number of second-class stamps would have made up for that.”

Zeichner was re-elected as Member of Parliament for Cambridge in 2019 with 25,772 votes (48% of turnout), 9,639 votes ahead of Liberal Democrat candidate and runner-up Rod Cantrill who received 16,137 (30% of turnout).

In a statement to Varsity, Zeichner said, “I sent a letter to a constituent who had previously contacted me about Brexit. I have accepted the findings of the Standards Commissioner in regards to the time that had elapsed since the original correspondence and that the current Parliament was due to end. The Commissioner now considers this matter closed.”

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