Thursday, February 4, 2010

Members Room Bookings Live

The room bookings on the Palace Estate files have now been published.  Some MPs have been trousering thousands from lobbyists and commercial interests to act as a room booking service.

There is a scratch-my-back, I-scratch-yours aspect to this racket, politicians get paid to advise lobbying firms in a general capacity, they then book rooms for clients of the lobbyists.  It is hard to nail ‘em for this, but Guido will try…

Link to report [PDF] here.

Post info in the comments…

UPDATES : John Denham held breakfast event for AXA & registered an interest in providing them consultancy work the next month.

Patricia Hewitt booked Commons rooms 5 times for companies she had financial interests in – Boots, BT & Cinven.

John Mann, the holier-than-thou MP, held an event for Morgan Allen Moore (MAM), the controversial lobbyists implicated in the events surrounding Peter Hain’s resignation from the Cabinet in January 2008.  MAM were the first lobbying firm ever to be kicked out of the lobbyist’s trade body.  That is how bad they were.

The Right Honourable John McFall, chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, likes to rail against the bankers on Newsnight.   Obviously that is when he he can spare the time from hosting receptions for the Royal Bank of Scotland in the Strangers Dining Room (June ’08).

The oh, so green Ed Miliband sponsored a dinner for the Oil and Gas Industry Dinner in the Astor Room (Sep ’09).

Labour’s Jamie Reed  booked for lobbyists Weber Shandwick – put it through as Weber Sandwich  (Mar ‘o6).

Bercow hosts Masonic reception for 145. Gray’s Inn Lodge Ladies Night (Jun ’06)

Did David Davies get a free Blackberry for hosting Research in Motion for dinner in February?

Shagging Nigel Griffiths hosted lunch for Labour Finance and Industry Group, they have donated over £60k between 2005-2007 (May ’06)

Stephen McCabe held a dinner for a top Labour party donor Lord Bhattacharyya. He donated over £400,000 to the Labour Party. (May ’08)

Andrew Miller held a reception for Microsoft after receiving a paid-for trip to Berlin by them. (Jun ’08)

Mark Oaten, director of BHTA, hosts dinners mainaly for BHTA. Go figure.

Mark Tami MP booked the E.ON Parliamentary Dinner. E.ON UK made a cash donation of £10,000 by way of sponsorship to the national Labour Party in October 2007. (Mar ’09)

Labour Chief Whip Nick Brown hosted a reception for Amec Oil and Gas. (Dec ’06) His register of interests for the same year: “22-26 August 2006, to Stavanger, Norway, to visit Offshore Northern Seas (ONS) conference and exhibition, with the British Offshore Oil and Gas Industry All-Party Parliamentary Group. Overseas flights, hotel accommodation, local transport and hospitality sponsored by the UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA).” Amec is a member of UKOOA.

More Masonic connections – Tony Baldry hosted the Provincial Grand Lodge of Surrey. (Sep ’05)

Legg Report Live Updates

£1.3 million in fiddles repaid. Average fiddle was for £4,000.

Link to report [PDF] here.

Post info in the comments…

UPDATE : John Redwood MP had to repay £112 for the cost of re-seeding his lawn, uncharacteristically he wanted us to pay for the green shoots of recovery.

Bob Ainsworth to payback  £1,526.50 for antique dresser and brand new gate-gate.

Dr Julian Lewis MP double claimed £829.85 for mortgage interest and over-claimed for a £789 for a washer/drier.

Balls for overpaid mortgage repayments £1,363.44.

Phil Hope to pay back a whopping £42,674.13.

Rt Hon David Heathcoat-Amory MP overshot the gardening allowance by £26,696.58.

Douglas “Moat Cleaning” Hogg paying back £20,639. Elliot Morley ‘has no issues’. We know he is guilty.

Bercow has repaid £978.51 for mortgage overpayments.

Margaret Beckett still owes for illegitimate claims for gardening. She has still not repaid the £2,539.75 Legg asked for.

Keith Vaz, £414 for a foot-stool.

Iris Robinson £1,614 for a bed. No further comment.

John Baron MP cashed in by re-mortgaging his house to the tune of £8,821.10. Re-mortgaging is specifically against the Green Book rules.

Gordon has repaid £13,723.04 for his cleaning claims despite being asked for “only” £12,888.03. A shame he wasn’t so diligent with our deficit.

Ed Vaizey paying back £2,449.45 for amongst other things, a dining table. How did he break the old one?

Jeremy Richard Browne appealed a demand to repay £17,894.24 for re-mortgaging his home, which is specifically disallowed in the Green Book rules. He has successfully appealed this down to £0.

CCHQ: Total cabinet repayments since 1 April 2009 = £35,036. Brown’s £13,723 represents 40% of total

George Galloway to pay back £3,187.28 of mobile phone bills. Calling the Middle East is expensive!

Julie Kirkbride had to repay £29,243 scammed. Oink.

Yvette Cooper was overpaid by £1,363.21 in mortgage interest for the home she shares with Blinky.

Nick Clegg has had to repay £910.00 for gardening costs.

Jonathan Djanogly was ordered to repay £17,364.76 for gardening and cleaning costs. The limit was £1000.

Parmjit Dhanda had to repay £2,208.28 for overpayments of mortgage interest.

Quentin “Belltower” Davies claims were at least so outrageous that most of them didn’t even get past the placid Fees Office. He did, however, manage to over-claim for cleaning to the tune of £658.00.

Wayne David was ordered to repay £12,959.69 for a combination of insurance and mortgage fiddles (switching to a higher rate on the taxpayer’s dime) as well as £430 for a bedroom chair.

Alistair Darling claimed more than double the recommended amount for a chest of drawers and has been ordered to repay £554.00.

Anthony Steen claimed for “a flagpole rope and binding” for his very nice house.

CCHQ: Ed Balls paid Brown’s former press officer – Fiona Gordon – £4,000 in exes in 08/09

Vaizey appealed to Legg over £30.

Michael Spicer failed in his appeal to avoid paying back £15,109.37 for gardening, cleaning and a dishwasher. £10k of this is therefore still owed.

QE Or Not QE?, That is the Question

Today on Threadneedle Street in the City, the Monetary Policy Committee meets to decide the Bank of England’s base rate and whether or not to keep the printing presses running   The base rate is currently of symbolic importance (unless you have a base rate tracker mortgage), because prevailing real world market rates are far higher than the official 0.5%.

Has QE worked? We will never be able to answer that question definitively.  Economists will argue forever about what would have happened if things had been done otherwise.  We can however point to unintended consequences of the Anglo-American monetary splurge. Commodity price inflation, a non-trivial £200 billion unwinding problem in the UK, a yet more burdensome government debt disaster.  The evidence is that QE has largely allowed the Bank of England to buy the government’s new debt giving foreign investors an exit route.  Pimco, the world’s biggest bond investor has taken that exit route from gilts and says they are now resting on nitro-glycerine.

For £200 billion we got growth of 0.1%, the longest recession in history and a 6% drop in output that saw Britain as the last major country out of recession.   Most worryingly of all, inflation is now ready to rip.

The recession came to a technical end last week.  With that QE should come to an end.  Policy makers need to perform a trick never accomplished before anywhere in the world at any time in history, turn off the monetary liquidity flood without lagging inflation jumping, sterling collapsing or the economy seizing up. Mervyn’s memoirs will make interesting reading.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Finking is Not Enough

Speccie editor Fraser Nelson is giving the Keith Joseph Memorial Lecture to a Centre for Policy Studies audience tonight.  The CPS was of course founded by Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher.  His speech is titled “Winning Is Not Enough“.

Fraser is willing to tell it straight:

“The political fallacies of the 1970s are leaping out from their graves: the notion that you squeeze more out of the rich by increasing their marginal tax rate. The idea that one improves the health service by pouring money into it. The ideological demons that Keith Joseph had thought slain have come back again. And, just like last time, some of these demons are wearing a blue rosette.”

The critique he offers of the Tory willingness to accept Brown’s parameters of debate is not just the Tory right calling for the old Thatcherite tunes. He is squarely taking on what can be described as the Fink approach to politics:

… the Conservative Party is, to an extent, still in therapy; shell-shocked not just by three election defeats, but by the trauma of its own internal warfare. The temptation is to get rid of anything that anyone might criticise, and become politically neutral: provoking neither hatred nor enthusiasm. Here, the Conservatives are in danger of forgetting Keith Joseph’s most enduring lesson: the difference between the Middle Ground and the Common Ground.

Guido is off to hear the speech…

Brown Under Pressure for Misleading House, Again

A furious Prime Mentalist mumbled a response about having no idea about the £50,000 slush fund that Peter Watt revealed in his book at PMQs earlier. The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner has already asked for more information regarding the complaint put in about and with a planted question today at PMQs it seems the Tories think they might be on to something:

The Prime Minister
10, Downing Street
London, SW1A 2AA

3 February 2010

Dear Mr Brown,

At Prime Minister’s Questions today, you told the House of Commons that you knew nothing about the secret fund, worth a reported £50,000, which was held by the Labour Party for your benefit. When asked why you did not declare this on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests (RMFI), you said specifically: ‘I know nothing about what he [the questioner] is talking about.’

This simply cannot be true.

It is clear from Peter Watt, the Labour Party’s former General Secretary, that you were the beneficiary of a secret fund held by the Labour Party. He has said explicitly:
‘Before becoming Prime Minister, Gordon went to some lengths to insulate himself and the Treasury from our financial troubles, setting up his own personal pot of cash at party HQ. This was money we could not dip into, since it was set aside for the Chancellor’s own pet projects. Murray Elder helped secure donations from the Chancellor’s supporters’ (Inside Out, January 2010, page 105).
He went on to claim that it may have been used to finance your ‘long-term campaign to become party leader’ (Inside Out, Peter Watt, 2010, page 105).

Mr Watt’s assertions were widely reported. Indeed, across several pages in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Watt claimed that you used ‘up to £50,000-a-year of Labour money to pay for private polling’ (Mail on Sunday, 17 January 2010).

The allegations were explicitly confirmed as truthful by a Labour official who said in the same article: ‘It [the fund] was funded through donations to the Party.’

In the light of these allegations, my colleague, Greg Hands MP, wrote to you more than two weeks ago, on 17 January, to query why you had failed to declare the fund properly the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. This letter was publicised in several newspapers on 18 January.

As you did not respond, Greg Hands submitted a complaint to John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner this week. I attach a copy of this complaint for your reference. Again, this complaint was reported.

Yesterday in a speech titled ‘Transforming Politics’, you said that you would ‘do all that is necessary to restore trust’ in politics and the conduct of MPs. If you wish to restore trust in politics, you should stop treating people like fools by claiming that you were unaware of this fund when all the evidence points to the contrary. I therefore urge you to admit to this fund’s existence, apologise for misleading the House and co-operate with any inquiries that John Lyon may wish to make.

Yours sincerely,
Eric Pickles

Chairman, The Conservative Party
Member of Parliament for Brentwood and Ongar

Pickles has essentially called Brown a liar. There is no way he could have had no idea what the question was about. Guido knows Downing Street is an incompetent mess, but to suggest that Brown would have no idea that a serious allegation of potential corruption widely reported by the press and broadcast media could have gone unnoticed is laughable. At the very least he has misled the House about not knowing, at worst he instigated a cover-up.

PMQs Live : The Tory “Fight Back” Continues

CCHQ Try to Put the Frighteners on Leakers

CCHQ get immensely annoyed when stories leaked from Millbank appear on this blog. Before Christmas George Osborne told a staff briefing that they may enjoy “ten minutes of fame” but leaks (and he named Guido in particular) could blow the whole election campaign.  Guido took that as a compliment.

The minor revelation on this blog that ballot papers will not have “David Cameron’s Conservatives” on them, a much mooted and trialled idea, has resulted in chief whip Patrick McLoughlin wading in.  At the Ashcroft / Cameron Tory PPC get-together this weekend the Chief Whip took the stage. He displayed the story on an overhead projector during a talk about loyalty. They’ll have to try harder than that to silence Guido, several PPCs got in touch to laugh about it…

Guido always protects his sources. The proof: when Downing Street threatened a security investigation, they got nothing.  Injunctions get filed in the bin, Court Orders get flouted, mole hunts end up in a hole.  To quote Rick Astley, Guido is never gonna give you up.

You make this blog happen. Sources are always anonymous (unless you want credit). If you know “the line” is a lie, ask yourself why you got into politics; was it to cover up the truth, or tell it? You may even get a conspiracy member T-shirt for your troubles…

Guido relies on you for information.
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A Tragedy for Comedy : Sion Simon Standing Down

Sion Simon standing down from parliament is a great loss for this blog, he has provided so much material in all our favourite categories. Who can forget the unintended political comedy of his classic New Statesman article?  The radical feminism of his “be quiet woman” interview on Sky, when we first realised that perhaps the pressure was getting all a bit too much.  The little things, his tweeted bad taste insult of SuBo’s mental health which led to him apologising wholeheartedly for any distress or embarrassment caused..” More seriously getting caught fiddling £40,000 in expense payments to his sister to pay her mortgage in breach of the rules probably damaged his political prospects.  That, plus owing his promotion entirely to Brown rewarding his treachery against Blair, meant that even with his failing eye-sight he could see the political end was coming.

Knowing that Labour will be out of power after the election, Sion is looking for power elsewhere.  As mayor of Birmingham.  Brummies surely have more sense than that…

Point of Order Order

When Guido reads articles about how powerful and influential this blog is he laughs because it was set up on a whim and primarily for his own amusement. The insight that perhaps makes this blog successful was that political gossip and tittle-tattle is far more compelling than people will admit.   Now bearing in mind that the readership of this blog is heavily concentrated in the media, parliament, political parties, the law and the City, which story do you think was most popular yesterday?

The critical analysis of the political paralysis surrounding the fiscal situation? The report back from the Shadow Chancellor’s benchmark launch? The highlighting of the hypocrisy of a senior political journalist?

No of course not. Kirsty Wark’s Prada skirt wardrobe malfunction topped the lot and was easily the most popular story yesterday, followed up by the Telegraph and the Mail this morning.  Which is why this is the blog you love and they hate. Happy 55th Birthday Kirsty!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Another Day, Another Fluffed Tory Announcement

George Osborne said:

“I am delighted that Lord Stern has agreed has agreed to advise us on the creation of this Green Investment Bank.”

In response, Lord Stern issued a statement saying:

“I should stress that I am not, and have no plans to be, an advisor to any political party.”

Doesn’t the government own enough banks already without creating a ‘Green Investment Bank’?

Seen Elsewhere

Carswell, the Clacton Cassandra | James Ford
Love Bomb Carswell | ConservativeHome
Denis MacShane’s Ex is Now Hacked Off Spokesman | Speccie
How the Carswell Story Unfolded | Sky News
How to Defect | Telegraph
Carswell Defection Will Dismay Thoughtful Tories | ConservativeHome
Carswell: Darling of the Tories, Labour and Now UKIP | Speccie
Where is the Love? | Tom Watson
Tory Eurosceptics Weakened | Speccie
Thacker Played Down Scandal | Times
How Clegg Lost the Women of Britain | Sophy Ridge

Get the book Find out more about PLMR

Douglas Carswell’s side-kick Dan Hannan MEP pours water on the obvious question:

“I won’t be joining UKIP, though I wish Douglas Carswell all the best. He has been a superb MP, and it’s honourable to stand for re-election.”

Owen Jones says:

We also need Zil lanes.

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