Guido understands that the traditional LibDem summer barbecue chez Rennard has been cancelled this year, but Cowley Street still has funds to pay for a staff party on a boat down the Thames hosted by Lord Rennard even while he is still under investigation from the party’s “independent auditor” for his implausible expense claims to the House of Lords.
The reason for this may or may not be that the person responsible for announcing the audit is the Chair of the Federal Executive and Lord Rennard’s Parliamentary colleague Baroness Scott, who Guido knows to be the fourth person to to accept the e-invite, so keen is she to party the night away with a man under an investigation that she has ordered. Lord Rennard is accused of taking at least £41,768 of public money dishonestly. An accusation he has so far proven unable to refute, failing to justify the designation of Eastbourne (07/08) or Wokingham (02/03) as his ‘main residence’ whilst working full time in Westminster and living in a large family home two miles away in Stockwell since 1998. Nor has he sought any supporting clarification from the fees office about his claim to have ‘followed the rules’. He is therefore under suspicion of a serious fraud, a suspicion which has caused him to bow out of Libdem frontline politics for “medical reasons”.
He resigned in late May for ‘family and health’ reasons and with an unspecified notice period of presumably 3-6 months. He remains on the staff of the Liberal Democrats and subject to their rules. Normally someone accused of a serious fraud by an organisation would be suspended pending an internal investigation or offered the opportunity to resign forthwith or go on garden leave if they could not refute the charge. It remains clear from this boat party that Lord Rennard remains a very active CEO, utterly unrepentant, with the full support of his employer and staff. This is odd given his is by far the most serious accusation of abuse of the expenses system against any Lib Dem Parliamentarian. The image this then presents of the Liberal Democrats lauding and celebrating an expenses cheat on his own party boat as it sails past the institution he has himself robbed, whilst being handed champagne by the women responsible for leading the party’s response to the scandals, shows a level of public relations naivety beyond belief, even for the Liberal Democrats.
The whole thing stinks to high heaven, and Scott, who is bumbling and confused at the best of times, appears to be completely out of her depth.
Gordon has had a damascene conversion to democratic renewal since little over 5% of eligible voters supported him at the polls last week. The irony of a PM who avoided facing election to be leader of his own party and has no democratic public mandate wanting “democratic renewal” is striking. If he really wishes to reconnect with voters he could always call a general election.
How democratic is his own government?
The Cabinet :
1. First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council – The Rt Hon Lord Mandelson etc.
2. Leader of the House of Lords and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – The Rt Hon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
3. Secretary of State for Transport – Lord Adonis
Other Ministers :
4. Attorney General – The Rt Hon Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC
5. Advocate General for Scotland – Lord Davidson of Glen Clova QC
6. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (MoJ) – Lord Bach
7. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (HO) – Admiral Lord West of Spithead GCB DSC
8. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (DCSF) – Baroness Morgan of Drefelin
9. Minister of State (DECC) – Lord Hunt of Kings Heath OBE; and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords
10. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (DOH) – Professor Lord Darzi of Denham KBE
11. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (DWP) – Lord McKenzie of Luton
12. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State* (DBIS) – Lord Young of Norwood Green (and Lord in Waiting – paid)
13. Financial Services Secretary (Treasury) – Lord Myners CBE
14. Minister of State (FCO) – The Rt Hon Lord Malloch-Brown KCMG
15. Minister of State – The Rt Hon Lord Drayson & (DBIS) (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)
Minister of State (MOD) – The Rt Hon Lord Drayson & (jointly with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)
16. Minister of State – Lord Davies of Abersoch CBE (DBIS) (jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office)
Minister of State (FCO) – Lord Davies of Abersoch CBE (jointly with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)
17. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (DBIS) – Baroness Vadera (jointly with Cabinet Office)
Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office) – Baroness Vadera (jointly with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)
18. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (FCO) – Baroness Taylor of Bolton (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (MOD) – Baroness Taylor of Bolton (jointly with Foreign and Commonwealth Office)
19. Sir Alan Sugar
20. Glennis Kinnock
Unelected and democratically unaccountable ministers who owe their positions and loyalty only to Gordon Brown…
The Times reports that Lord Carter is to leave the government after his big Digital Britain report is published. The Times speculates that he is set to return to a lucrative private sector role. Don’t count on the technocrat definitely leaving politics for good. Some weeks ago Guido had it from a usually reliable Tory source that Stephen Carter was contemplating crossing the floor. You never know…
UPDATE : Details of complaint here.
Hilary Benn is the Secretary of State at DEFRA (the ministry for farm subsidies) where it is a source of continuing annoyance to the British meat industry that he is a vegetarian (worse still in Guido’s view, he doesn’t drink alcohol). This has ruined many photo-ops when the minister at agricultural shows has politely declined to sample offers of British produce.
An angry farmer has contacted Guido about the appointment of Jim Fitzpatrick as minister for food, farming and the environment. Fitzpatrick, a former fire fighter, lists his interests as “anti-poverty, regeneration, anti-racism and fire… West Ham United FC, golf, reading, TV/films and Millwall RFC.” He tells his constituents that: “I am here to promote the East End of London” Hardly the best qualifications for his new rural job. Even worse, the government’s contempt for the countryside is shown once again, by the appointment of yet another vegetarian to DEFRA, who told parliament “the bacon butty would not be for me”. That will please British pig farmers…