Danny Finkelstein seems set on winding Guido up (again). Having fought a long media campaign against the Tories making the case for lower taxes in The Times, on Newsnight and via text messages to George Osborne, he is now arguing for higher pay for MPs to make up for their reduced future opportunities to fiddle their expenses.
MPs’ expenses alone almost match average mean earnings, in fact after tax is deducted, MPs’ tax-free perks alone exceed average (net) mean earnings. Their salaries are triple what the average voter / taxpayer earns, add in their perks and it is quadruple what the average voter / taxpayer earns. The chart above (source) shows income distribution in Britain. See how MPs are way over-paid already.
The “mob” referred to last night in his set-to* with Kelvin MacKenzie on Newsnight might not be part of the metropolitan media class struggling to get by on six figures, but they know self-serving bullshit when they see it. MPs don’t deserve the salaries they are actually on, there can be no question of them deserving a pay rise. Unemployment is above two million, there are plenty of better qualified people available who would do a better job than the parasitic, all-party, interchangeable professional political class currently in control of Westminster. Not a single penny more for the pigs.
*Worth watching from 10 minutes in: Kelvin telling it like it is about Alastair Darling’s “quasi-criminality”…
There have been a few newspaper stories about the BNP’s popularity online suggesting it is surging in ‘popularity’. It is even claimed that it is the most popular political site online. The BNP boast that this is the case based on Amazon’s Alexa rankings. The problem with Alexa is that it is easily gamed, download the free toolbar or extension and you boost your own ranking when you visit your own site. If BNP activists are encouraged to download the toolbar, they will make it appear that they are more popular. Of necessity given the BNP are not given mainstream space they are (disproportionately to their size) very active online with a well developed web presence. It appears to be true that they have the highest traffic of any official website of any UK political party. They are not however quite as popular as they claim.
The online advertising industry demands independent, verifiable metrics. Three firms dominate the online metrics business, ABCe, Comscore and Hitwise. They all use different methodologies and none are perfect. ABCe is more precise but is paid for by the publisher and uses verified data from the publishers own servers. Comscore and Hitwise are by nature inexact but have the advantage of sampling on sound methodologies and are very good at measuring relative market share, even of competitors. If you know your own traffic you can therefore derive the approximate traffic of your rivals relative to your own. Below is the Hitwise ranking data for April 2009 for blogs and political sites viewed in the UK:
click graphic to enlarge
So given that last month Guido knows he had circa 3 million page views, the BNP (with half the relative market share) probably had circa 1.5 million page views. You might note that the Guardian’s Comment is Free, with all the cross marketing, budget and staff only manages to have 31% more readers than Guido. It must drive them crazy at Guardian HQ that a part-time, rarely sober, lone blogger with a lap-top and a site that costs a couple of hundred quid a month to maintain, runs them so close. No wonder they lose so much money…
Today Guido learnt that the Minister for Work and Pensions, Rosie Winterton, claimed close to the maximum allowance for second homes – including soundproofing her bedroom. The MP, John Prescott’s former mistress, claimed for the work in February 2007, before the fees office reduced the payment to £3,800 after refusing to pay for the use of acoustic felt and wool slabs.
The full claim was for ‘soundproofing of bedroom wall and redecoration to bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen, staircase’. What is she was so keen on us not hearing about?
You campaign for years for troughing MPs to go and then three come along at once.
Goodbye and good riddance.
Yesterday Guido did momentarily consider voting for Fine Gael, Libertas however have guaranteed one more vote in Wexford today. This is obviously not some cheap photo-opportunity publicity stunt putting words in the mouth of page three girl Amy Diamond :“I am delighted to bare all for Libertas. What have MEPs got to hide? I want them to get everything off their chest like me. Stop covering up if they’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”
Robin Matthews, who leads Libertas in the UK, makes the point that: ‘The expenses scandal is rife in Europe, it is not just our MPs here at Westminster with their noses in the trough. Greater abuse is taking place at the European Parliament. The only way to sort this out and make change is by MEPs baring all and letting us see what they have spent our money on’. Quite.
They are going like skittles today…
Guido has been sniffing around and now has positive confirmation that the game is really on. Jack Straw’s claim yesterday that Gordon was secure in his job and would not be “ousted” shows that it is very much on the agenda. If UKIP were to beat Labour, Nigel Farage is right, Brown would have to go. No amount of spin that “all mainstream politics is disgraced” would save Gordon, that would only make sense if the Tories were beaten by UKIP as well. Just as the end of David Owen’s SDP was signaled by them losing to the Monster Raving Loony Party, UKIP beating Gordon would confirm his demise.
This prospect is viewed with absolute horror by CCHQ. If Tory staffers could save Gordon by voting Labour on June 4, they would.
The scenario put to Guido goes like this; Thursday June 4 is Labour’s worst nightmare, Labour’s local council low-point goes even lower. Either the LibDems or UKIP beat Labour on the percentage share of the vote in the Euro vote. The Sunday press is of course totally hostile to Brown with Labour MPs clamoring openly for him to stand down. If Sarah Brown can’t or won’t save him from humiliating himself that weekend, he will on the Monday night ( June 8 ) have to face the PLP disarmed of McBride and unable any longer to put the press frighteners on critics as much as in the past. Watch out for a recent former cabinet member making the Geoffrey Howe speech. Not Clarke or Byers, it will have to be someone without previous, who has served in Brown’s cabinet, someone like Peter Hain or Ruth Kelly. For the good of the party and the good of the nation he will be implored to go. If the mood of the room goes against him, he will fall shortly after, much as the Speaker went.
Guido’s source cautions that we have been here before and Brown has a knack of hanging on by his bitten down fingernails. Chickens are not being counted. Campaign teams are however being assembled in readiness with the weekend of June 12/13 pencilled in for them to break cover. Miliband’s SpAd Sarah Schaefer has sounded out a team ready to go within weeks, Alan Johnson’s unsuccessful deputy leadership campaign team is also clearing the decks. The game is very much on…
Hull is not the most economically successful region in the best of times. Nevertheless yesterday morning the Hull Daily Mail launched a campaign for economic optimism in the face of a recession. The first edition announced the support of the Prime Mentalist himself for the paper’s ‘Bounce Back’ campaign:
“We all have a part to play in helping our communities survive this difficult period and I am pleased to see the Mail galvanising support around local businesses with the launch of the Bounce Back campaign.
The 350,000 small businesses in the region are the lifeblood of the area’s economy.”
Inevitably the late edition of the Hull Daily Mail reported bad news for jobs and the local economy as the curse of Jonah Brown saw 349 jobs lost from a Hull food factory after Northern Foods announced plans to cease production at the plant. All are cursed who take the words of the one eyed son of the manse…
UPDATE : If only Guido had noticed this he would have put his communion money on Barcelona. The Prime Minister’s Spokesman told the Lobby yesterday afternoon that
… the Prime Minister expected and looked forward to watching the match later today when he returned to Downing Street from his visit. Asked if he had sent a message of goodwill, the PMS said that it went without saying that he would always want a British team to win any such match.
Poor the reds…
Quick reminder of Jonah Brown’s cursing of British sporting internationals:
When England were knocked out of the 2006 World Cup against Portugal – Jonah was there. When they lost 2-1 at Wembley against Germany – Jonah was there. When Scotland lost to Italy– Jonah was there. When England lost the rugby World Cup final – Jonah was there.
Beware the curse…
Kirkbride was pretty good in what must have been a tough interview that she had put off for too many days. It was the best version of the MPs’ “it was all within the rules” mantra we have so far heard. Doesn’t necessarily mean she shouldn’t go.
This is Emma Kiernan, who is standing for Fine Gael on Newbridge Town Council, Kildare, Ireland. Guido was until now thinking of voting for Libertas in Ireland. This could change things. She certainly looks a lot different from her official photo which, unlike this Facebook picture, is not splashed all over the Irish media and political blogs.
Emma says “Admittedly it’s not a great photograph”, Guido begs to differ. She now has a Facebook fan club…
Dale has put up a defence of Julie Kirkbride. It falls down unless we are to believe she knew nothing of her husband’s financial arrangements. It would help if she came out and defended herself.
Guido does not believe she was unaware that they were as a couple over-claiming and milking the system. In the light of Ed and Yvette Balls being spotlighted over their claims they should have known this was an issue. Ed and Yvette had the sense to claim considerably less than Andrew and Julie. The fact is the double-claiming had been remarked upon previously with no satisfactory response from the pair.
UPDATE : According to Cameron Julie Kirkbride should meet he constituents and explain her position:
“She does have some questions to answer as many MPs have questions to answer… The best thing to do, and I have said this to all my MPs, is to get out to their constituents, hold meetings, talk to them, listen to them, explain what they have done – and hold their hands up if they have done something wrong…”
Over the weekend Julie Kirkbride was given, to Guido’s surprise, a half-hearted endorsement by Cameron. Following on from her brother’s babysitter / company director tale, last night further revelations about another of her siblings benefiting from the taxpayers’ largesse made her position look impossible. Theresa May on yesterday’s Newsnight carefully avoided giving Kirkbride any kind of endorsement. Paul Waugh’s story about her sister being on the payroll a hundred miles away from her constituency and Westminster is surely the final straw. Thousands of her constituents have signed a petition demanding she go.
She has gone to ground and is in hiding from her own voters. She is putting the phone down on callers – even her local radio station has had the phone put down on them live on air. Bricks have even been thrown through the window of the local Conservative Association office.
This morning after polling 1,144 ConservativeHome readers in their monthly members’ survey yesterday it emerged that 81% of party members think Julie Kirkbride should go. She is deservedly finished.
When Gordon Brown introduced the 50p tax rate he said that “it is right that those that earn more should pay more”. Obviously that is except if they sit around his cabinet table. If members of the cabinet paid tax on their perks like the rest of us they would be well inside the £150,000 / 50p tax bracket. In awarding themselves tax-free perks they evade paying the higher tax rate. A cabinet salary package, with grace and favour residence thrown in, is worth well over £250,000.
Government limousines go untaxed, whereas company cars are heavily taxed. £400 a month for groceries is a tax-free perk for politicians, whereas anything more than a couple of quid subsistence sandwich is taxed for the ordinary travelling salesman. The mortgage subsidy alone is worth some £40,000, it is a tax-free perk for cabinet members. Stamp duty is not a tax that troubles those who tax us, they charge it to us taxpayers. Against clear HMRC rules they even charge the cost of tax advice to the taxpayer.
Taxpayers have seen their burden go up and up while the governing classes live like Soviet era nomenklatura, above the law with untaxed perks denied to ordinary workers. This is spitting in the faces of taxpaying voters.