Return of the Mack?
David Mackintosh is not ruling out a return to politics
By Sarah Ward
A former MP and council leader acquitted this week of accusations he had broken electoral law, won’t rule out a return to politics.
David Mackintosh gave up being a Conservative Party MP back in 2017 amid the scandal that money loaned to Northampton Town Football Club by the borough council had gone missing and then allegations that money made to his campaign fund from businessman Howard Grossman had not been declared properly.
On Tuesday a jury at Warwick Crown Court found the former MP for Northampton South not guilty of withholding information about the true source of donations to his 2015 election campaign.
Speaking to NN Journal yesterday, Mr Mackintosh, 44, said that despite detailing in court what he had perceived as poor treatment by his local Conservative association towards him, he is still passionate about public service.
“I think it is something I need to think long and hard about.
“The reason I got involved in politics in the first place was trying to make a difference and because I believe strongly in public service.
“When I look at Northampton now, compared to when I was leader of the borough council, I feel that things are not moving at the same pace. There is not as much work being carried out. That is not a criticism of the council now, but I feel when you are leading a council you have to put your heart and soul into it as I did.
“When I look at some of things we achieved as an administration during that period - including moving the university campus, the enterprise zone, the new rail station and the developments at the Saints [rugby club] and obviously Sixfields is a real fly in that ointment - I do look at positive developments that were happening under Northampton Alive, under my leadership and I feel that the town needs that.
“I’m not suggesting I’m the person to deliver that, but I do think that’s what got me into politics in the first place and that passion is still there.”
He said the acquittal had not yet ‘sunk in’, following several years of being under suspicion.
“It was all very overwhelming and emotional to be honest. It was eight years when the allegations were first made against me and obviously over that time you just think you never will be able to clear your name, but to hear those words come from the jury, ‘not guilty’, it was a huge relief, but also very overwhelming.”
“I think it is always difficult when you are accused of something you haven't done, especially when it is played out so publicly. To be an elected politician requires people’s trust and I felt that when I was elected I had that, but these allegations made people doubt me. There were people I thought of as friends who backed away and stopped talking to me and that has a huge impact on you when you’re trying to do a busy job like being a member of parliament and trying to deal with this and I also felt that I was firefighting.”
He said his acquittal at the trial had led people to get back in touch with him.
“The last 24 hours have been incredibly busy with lots of messages from people, former constituents getting in touch and people that had backed away, so it has been a bit overwhelming. Obviously I am glad that people have recognised that they were wrong, or realised that perhaps they did not know the full truth, but eight years is a very long time.”
Asked if he regretted standing down as an MP, he said he had regretted not being able to continue with work to help constituents. The court had heard that he had been ranked as one of the most hard working MPs during his short time at Westminster.
“The comment was made to me that they [the local Conservative association) wanted a ‘statesman’ and not a ‘social worker’ and I totally disagreed with that, that was not my approach to being a member of parliament and the fact I had to step away from that role is the thing I regret the most.”
Asked whether he regretted the money ever being loaned to the football club, he said:
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and clearly mistakes were made at the council by the cabinet, myself and some of the senior officers there who were advising. I still think it was an important political issue that we needed to grapple with for the town, both looking at the Cobblers [football club nickname] and the Saints and trying to provide support to the sports clubs. I think we could have handled it a different way, but hindsight is always a great thing.”
He was cleared alongside businessman Howard Grossman, who had admitted to donating the cash to the election campaign, but denied withholding information as he said he had been told to do this by local party treasurer Suresh Patel, who had responsibility for declaring the donations. Mr Patel, who was a prosecution witness, denied the businessman’s claims.
The court case was brought following investigations by Operation Tuckhill, a Northamptonshire Police investigation, launched after millions of pounds loaned to the football club in 2013 went missing.
NN Journal understands further charges relating to other matters - which do not involve Mr Mackintosh - are still to come forward.