Patrician Scotland

target-baronessThe Attorney General is known as Patrician Scotland due to her airs and graces.  As we now know she is too high and mighty to actually bother with observing employment laws (which she introduced) when it comes to her own servants.

PatricianIt seems that the government’s exhortations to follow the low carbon path are not for her either.  She has insisted, to the embarrassment of her mandarins, on a ministerial Jaguar which is a privilege usually reserved for a handful of senior cabinet ministers.  Despite ranking only entitling her to a Prius with the Department for Transport confirming she was only entitled to a car with CO2 emissions less than 130 g/km and her predecessor, Lord Goldsmith, using a crappy Rover 75, she insisted she wanted a Jaguar. The Jaguar XJ has emissions of 209 g/km.

Ministers availed themselves of ministerial cars to the tune of £8 million last year.  Bet the Tories can’t wait…

Sunday Sleaze

Sunday Sleaze

You have to admire the audacity of these troughers, or is just desperation? The Sunday Herald reveals that

“a handful of Labour MPs are trying to block the police ­investigation into the ­possible criminal abuse of Commons expenses, It is understood the group has warned the Metropolitian Police that probes into expenses may breach “­parliamentary privilege”, the ancient right that protects proceedings in Parliament, which notably allows freedom of speech in the Commons chamber. A senior Labour source confirmed some MPs have taken legal advice on whether parliamentary privilege extends to expenses, potentially putting them off-limits to the police.”

They are trying to claim that an MP committing fraud is immune from prosecution due to parliamentary privilege.  Ridiculous.

Guido’s guess is that the Tory MP (and whip) John Baron’s expenses might benefit from further investigation. His mortgage seems to have gone up as interest rates have gone down.  His local paper the Echo reports that a local Tory councillor has resigned in disgust.  His home is 35 miles from Westminster.

Elizabeth_BarkerThe LibDems like to posture as morally superior to their parliamentary colleagues on matters of probity.  This may be true in the Commons, however in the Lords their peers trough like the best of them.  Lord Rennard, the former CEO of the party, is already under investigation for claiming overnight allowances for being away from home, when to all intents and purposes his main home is minutes away from Westminster over the Thames in Vauxhall.  Now it transpires that the frontbench health spokeswoman Baroness Barker followed her leader.  Just like Rennard she has been living and working in London and claiming the away from home overnight allowance to the tune of £70,000 in expenses from the House of Lords.  She is refusing to say where her main residence was when she made the claims.  The Sunday Times suggests she has always lived in Merton, not Sussex as she indicated to them.  She seems strangely unable to remember her home address…

Elsewhere in somewhat unsurprising news documents reveal Jack Straw tried to conceal expense revelations.  Wonder why?

In the Mail the neighbours of Jacqui Smith’s sister feel vindicated that despite her sister’s smears against them they were proved to be telling the truth.  A survey of  Jacqui Smith’s Redditch constitutents for the Mail reveals that the majority want her to pay back the money, resign and be prosecuted:

Chris Galley of the Sunlight Centre tells the Express he will see Jacqui in Court.  You can donate towards making that happen here.

UPDATE : Maybe St Frank ain’t so saintly after all.  Trouser press, flat-screen TVs, linen etc. and £1,000 a month in unreceipted expenses.  Hmmm…

Saturday Seven Up

7upIf you were not one of the 112,122 visitors viewing 443,257 blog pages over the last seven days, here are the seven most popular stories (in order of popularity) that you missed:

  1. Guardian Gagged from Reporting Parliament
  2. Ed Vaizey’s Three Hour Lunch with Tracey Emin
  3. Sunday Sleaze
  4. 60 Million of Us, 646 of Them
  5. +++ Guardian Gag Attempt Dropped +++
  6. MPs’ Standards Committee Says :
    Jacqui Can Keep Every Penny She Fiddled if She Says ‘Sorry’
  7. Jacqui Smith : Crime Without Punishment

You are either in front of Guido, or behind…

+++ BBC : HMRC Investigating Taxes of 27 MPs +++

Talking Heads

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To get the upcoming weekly Guy News video on Fridays, you will have to click on the link in the weekly Guidogram email.  So subscribe to the Guidogram or wait until Monday…

Friday Caption Contest (Boozy Vaizey Edition)

Boozy Vaizey

Jonah Jinxs Leyland

jonah_leylandYesterday afternoon Jonah Brown visited Leyland Trucks in Leyland in the North West to support the South Ribble Labour MP.   To those who follow Jonah’s travels is it no surprise that same night Labour were humiliated in the Leyland St Mary’s local by-election – a seat they once held.  The result was:

Con 709
Lab 239

A swing to the Tories from two years ago when they gained the council – recording 65% of the vote across the whole constituency. The one-eyed son of the manse is working his electoral curse at local and national level for Labour…

Last Night at the Opera

tristan-und-isolde-royal-opera-houseOvert Opera fan Nick Brown, the government Chief Whip, was well placed last night at the Royal Opera House in the front row of the stalls circle before 5 pm (yes thats when it started) for the new production of Tristan und Isolde. He was in a party with lobbyist Peter Bingle of  spin merchants Bell Pottinger.  Perhaps Gordon should have cause to worry that his Chief Henchman was watching a tale of the betrayal of King Marke by Tristan and Isolde in the company of a Conservative enemy.

George Osborne and his wife were sitting in the stalls on their own, presumably having paid for their own tickets.  At four hours and fifty five minutes Guido would have paid not to attend…

Another Trougher Bites the Dust : Wilshire to Stand Down

wilshireAccording to Nick Robinson the Tory chief whip Patrick McLoughlin, gave the Wilshire the bullet. He is sticking to the “it was all within the rules” / “approved by the Fees Office” line.

In reality, like in so many other cases, the £3,250 a month in parliamentary office allowances to Wilshire’s company Moorlands Research Services was completely outside the spirit of the rules and the Fees Office was wrong to make the payment.  Goodbye and good riddance.

+++ Sun's George Pascoe-Watson Goes to Spin for Portland +++

Vote Reformer of the Year : Heather Brooke

Heather BrookeThe Reform think tank is inviting nominations for the “reformer of the year”.  Looking down the list there is one candidate who deserves to win.  Heather Brooke, the Freedom of Information campaigner who fought the Speaker and parliament to reveal the true venality of the political class deserves your voteIf it was not for her the troughing would still be going on unseen by the public today…

See also : Expenses Freedom of Information : Villains and Heroes

Dishonourable MPs Can No Longer Be Trusted to Self Regulate

wilshireTory MP David Wilshire has been paying £105,000 expenses to run a company he owns.  He has referred himself to Parliamentary Standards Commissioner before Guido could.  In due course the Committee on Standards and Privileges will let him off with a slap on the wrist and he will not be the first six-figure expense trougher to be let off. The Wintertons and Jacqui Smith got the naughty step treatment from the Committtee of fellow MPs and paid not a penny back. Crime without punishment seems to be the operating principle, probably because MPs are thinking “there but for the grace of God go I”.

There is a Latin legal maxim: “nemo debet esse iudex in propria causa”, meaning no one should be judge in his own cause.  The idea that MPs can be trusted to follow “fundamental principles of propriety” and self regulate according to the Green Book is laughable and it is now seen by the public as laughable.  This has to change.  The forthcoming Kelly Report to the Committee on Standards in Public Life needs to resolve this with tough transparency measures.

Ed Vaizey's Three Hour Lunch with Tracey Emin

Scotts VaizeyPhoto credit : a co-conspirator.

Just got off the phone a few minutes ago with Ed Vaizey. Guido called him via the Maitre’d of Scott’s of Mayfair.  When he came to the phone he demanded to know which table Guido was sitting at.  Alas Ed, some of us have work to do.

His lunch partner – Tracey Emin – must be very entertaining.  Guido makes it that he is into his third hour of lunch since a co-conspirator alerted Guido.  The call went like this:

Ed What table are you at? I was just bemoaning that MPs can’t get away with anything.

Guido You do know there is a recession on?  Get back to work.

EV I am going back to vote.

GF Can you hear the division bell in Mayfair?

EV I know what time the vote is…

GF Look it is alright for me to take a three hour lunch, I pay your wages.

EV It was not a three hour lunch.

GF Get back to work.

Just another tough day in the life of a hardworking public servant…


Legg : A Question of "Fundamental Principles of Propriety"

Sir Thomas Legg has outlined his approach to expenses in a note to MPs which is now in the public domain.  Legg confirms that payment of the second homes allowance under the Green Book rules was subject to “fundamental principles of propriety”:

#WeLoveLeggThe fundamental principles required MPs personally to ensure that their use of the ACA was: (a) necessary for the performance of their parliamentary duties; (b) not extravagant or luxurious; (c) in accordance with the Nolan principles of selflessness, accountability, honesty and leadership; (d) strictly in accordance with the rules governing the allowance; (e) above reproach; (f) took account of the need to obtain value for money; and (g) avoided any appearance of benefit, or a subsidy from public funds, or diversion of public money for the benefit of a political organisation. These principles together amount to a general requirement of propriety.

Quite a high bar for our porcine political class.  Guido has heard a rumour – so far not denied – that Legg has asked for re-payment of the £108,000 wrongly claimed by those gold-plated troughers, the Wintertons.  Back in June 2008 Guido highlighted their massive six-figure fiddle.  The Standards and Privileges Committee ruled that they had wrongly claimed £108,000 in rent which they paid to a family trust on a property they had previously owned.  They were the trustees of the trust and the beneficiaries were their children.  Despite being found guilty of brazenly manipulating the system this was, as in the case of Jacqui Smith, another crime without punishment from their fellow MPs.  The Standards and Privileges Committee did not require the Wintertons to repay a single penny.

wintertons_flashbackThe level of impropriety which anyone with commonsense can see has taken place is verging on grand larceny.  When MPs say Legg is “acting retrospectively” what they really mean is that they didn’t expect to be held to basic, fundamental principles of propriety.  They thought they would get away with it…

Live Blog : PMQs Back to School

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Some Media Advice to Sir Thomas Legg : Don't Get Filkinned

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Yesterday Sky News chased Sir Thomas Legg around Whitehall with a camera crew, trying to get comment from him.  He politely demurred from giving them an interview or answering any questions.  This is a mistake.  It frustrates the broadcast media when they can’t get access to the players. […]

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Heather Wheeler talks to Burton Mail about her tweet…

“It was a tongue in cheek pop after the European Parliament tweet – it was purely that. I also wanted to congratulate Team GB on a brilliant result and thirdly congratulate the Commonwealth countries who also did very well. Fourth, I am also looking forwarded to establishing new trade agreements. That was it – nothing more. Let’s just enjoy the summer!”

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