Speaker Chooses Three MPs to Investigate MP Expenses

It beggars belief that as popular disgust with MPs is now near universal they decide to appoint three of their own to investigate themselves. When you find out which three MPs the Speaker has chosen to do the investigating you can only laugh or else you will cry. Guess what the result will be?

Monkey #1, Nick Harvey, a LibDem MP and former spinner for lobbyists Citigate Dewe Rogerson who still keeps his hand in as a consultant to parliamentary lobbyists Trimedia. Clearly the perfect choice to assess the shadowy influence of lobbyists given the tens of thousands he makes from the industry whilst a serving MP.

Monkey #2, David Maclean, the Conservative MP who tried to stop the Freedom of Information Act applying to MPs by using some very shifty parliamentary tactics. This provoked uproar and disgust leading to defeat after a few underhand shenanigans. Just the person to investigate calls for more transparency.

Monkey #3, Sir Stuart Bell, a Labour MP who hired his son Malcolm as a researcher. But unlike Derek Conway’s sons, Malcolm definitely used to turn up at Parliament. In fact, it was while working in Portcullis House that Malcolm broke into George Galloway’s office, stole his chequebook and made off with £2,000 from Galloway’s bank account. Which must have been the first time Galloway was the victim of a fraud. Young Malcolm Bell got 60 days in a young offender’s institute. So his father is just the person to look into whether MPs hiring members of their family can lead to fraud.

They must be laughing at us in the subsidised bars of parliament. Gunpowder is too good for ’em.

‘Tis Only a Little Bug

If the Labour MP Sadiq Khan has done nothing wrong, he has nothing to fear. Isn’t that what the government and Sadiq told us about ID cards, CCTVing, finger-printing, phone-tapping, DNA swabbing, and database building? Too late to get all civil libertarian now they have come for him…

Wendy Domino Starts to Wobble

Rich Johnston’s above cartoon from some months ago was not far off the mark (though it missed Peter Hain). In interviews yesterday Wendy Alexander claimed “at the conclusion of my leadership campaign” she made inquiries to the Clerks to the Standards and Public Appointments Committee of the Scottish Parliament, as to if she was required to be registered under either gifts or election expenses.

In the press release she put out last Friday she said she received that advice on November 8. She became leader of the Scottish Labour MSPs on September 14, 2007. So the advice she got was sought nearly 2 months after the close of her leadership campaign. Not much use when you are permitted only 30 days to declare it. She was well out of time before she even sought advice.

More damagingly the Code of Conduct for MSPs, says under Section 1: Registration of Interests:

“A Member must register an acquired interest by lodging a further written statement within 30 days after the date of acquisition (section 5 of the Act).”

So saying “conclusion” of campaign is also outwith the date of acquisition.

Yet these inquiries to the Clerk were made around the same time a document on Wendy Alexander’s husband’s computer was checking the admissibility of donations:

Crucially the list also drew attention to the awareness of the donation’s illegality by stating at the end: “Permissible?” According to the Microsoft Word document file on which it was saved, the document’s creation date is November 5.

Although Wendy’s illegal and unreported donation is relatively small, her behaviour afterwards is going to prove difficult to explain. She denied all knowledge of the donation, until the day Guido reprinted her letter of thanks to the donor. There is also evidence that there was knowledge in her circle that there was an illegal donation.

A string of donations fell just below the £1000 threshold which suggests there was also a deliberate attempt to avoid donor transparency. The list of undeclared donations includes; GMB Scotland £999, Michael D Rutterford £999, Neil Davidson £995, Nicholas Kuenssberg £995, John Lyons £995, Phoenix Car Company £995, Strathvale Holdings Limited £995, City Refrigeration Holdings Limited £995, David J Pitt Watson £990, Paul Green £950.

The matter has now been referred for prosecution, another domino may yet fall…

Willetts Says Vampire Bats Are Tories

Guido is pretty certain that he did not dream hearing David Willetts this morning on Marr’s Radio 4 show Start the Week compare (in a positive light) the altruistic social behaviour of vampire bats to Tory thinking about human social behaviour. Stepping back from the point he was making, which was both interesting and valid, it seems to me that only Willetts would try to win people over to the Tory cause using vampire bats.
Batty? Yep. God knows what Michael Howard will have to say about this…

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

Sunday Sleaze Round-Up

Peter Hain is using his Commons expenses to pay his 80-year-old mother £5,400 a year for “secretarial assistance”. Although Hain was supported by civil servants, special advisers, private secretaries and secretaries on becoming a minister in 1997, he continued to pay Adelaine Hain.
Sunday Times

Bob Spink, employs his former wife as a £28,000-a-year secretary, even though she lives 150 miles from his constituency. Apparently this is not alimony, she manages databases for him. He also employed his lover and her daughter.

Mail on Sunday

Nicholas and Ann Winterton claim rent subsidy allowance to pay the rent on a flat they owned outright and which they put in a trust for their children. Effectively meaning the taxpayer pays their children £30,000 a year for nothing.
Mail on Sunday

Alan Johnson, the health secretary, gave special access to a National Health Service contractor owned by one of the biggest donors to his deputy leadership campaign, holding a private meeting in his offices with Dr Reg Race of Quality Health, who had earlier given £5,000 to Johnson’s deputy leadership campaign.

Johnson met Race at the Department for Health on November 12, according to questions answered under the Freedom of Information Act. Unusually no civil servants were at the meeting and no minutes were kept. Quality Health has millions in contracts with the NHS.

The Times

Electoral Commission to investigate dodgy proxy donor via 50 year-old Pakistani “student” to Alan Johnson’s campaign.

Sunday Mirror

Wendy Alexander faces prosecution over foreign donations scandal.
Sunday Herald

Geek Alert

Guido has dumped Bloglines for Google Reader for all his RSS needs. Works much better on his phone…

Over Half-a-Million Hits Last Month

Last month saw 529,338 page-loads off 386,417 unique visitors. Despite the competition from more and more Big Media blogs; Adam, Ben, Kevin, Sam, Coffee House and the Three Line Whoops, Guido’s readership keeps on growing year-on-year. 40% up on January 2007 (379,964 off 267,123) and more than quadrupling since January 2006 (101,273 off 69,536). Compare that to Kevin Maguire’s Daily Mirror, where circulation is down some 25% over the same period. They don’t call it the “Dead-Tree-Press” for nothing…

Traffic surged as readers sought to follow developments in the Hain saga, and the most popular story summarised Guido’s Role in Hain’s Demise, in fact 6 out of the 10 top stories were Hain stories. No surprise there.

No other politics website in Britain gets more readers. This is the blog they hate and you love.

Friday Caption Contest

Joined Up Government Thinking?

Brown Seeks Support for Increasing Bank Transparency
Brown “There is a lack of openness, banks put rather too much off the balance sheet”

Source : Bloomberg, Tuesday 29 Jan.

Alistair Darling Seeks Secret Bank Takeover Powers
“The move will enable the Bank of England and Financial Services Authority (FSA) to launch a secret takeover of a failing bank…for a period of non-disclosure”.

Source : Politics.co.uk, Wednesday, 30 Jan.

Prezza Dynasty Denied

Prezza’s dynastic hopes look to be thwarted, the boy David has yet to get anywhere near being nominated. Hull Labour branches are also reluctant to give any support to former MP and Gordon Brown’s leadership campaign “Cheque Ripper” Chris Leslie.

Three more branches nominate by Monday. Bet on Prescott Jnr and Leslie being squeezed out altogether…

Hat-tip : www.ThisIsHull.co.uk

Justice Unseen is Justice Denied

Guido has tried to find out what punishment was meted out to Lord Hoyle yesterday. He was in trouble for getting caught taking undeclared cash-for-access from lobbyists for arms dealers to meet with the Defence Procurement Minister. The Lordship’s disciplinary committee, chaired by Lord Woolf (the former Chief Justice) met in secret yesterday and we the people are not entitled to know the result. Such is our democracy…
So let Guido pass judgement; Lord Hoyle is a shameless whore of parliament, he travels first class on the taxpayer’s gravy train at the expense of the people, his priority is personal enrichment and the evidence is that he is more than willing to do grubby deals with arms dealers in the shadows, so long as there is money in it for him. In a better world that would have been the publicly given finding of Lord Woolf.

Today is a Dark Day in History

On this day in 1606, Guido Fawkes, following months of torture was convicted of treason for his part in the ”Gunpowder Plot” against an oppressive political class and the tyrant King James I, and executed. Now, some four centuries later, it is Guido’s turn to torture politicians…

Taxi for Boris

Very amused to be handed this receipt by a London cabbie. Apparently the campaign is giving away the books of receipts free to cabbies. Ambient marketing…

How Much Did Hugh Muir Pocket Courtesy of Ken?

The Guardian’s diarist, Hugh Muir, gave Boris a good going over yesterday in his diary column, all but accusing him of being a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Only on Saturday another Hugh Muir piece also appeared in the Guardian, headlined Boris Johnson Faces Conflict of Interest Charge Over Office, over Boris taking free office space from a Ken hating business.

Conflict of interest charges are serious indeed and should be answered. So how much did Hugh Muir get for his contribution to a report commissioned by Ken – The Search for Common Ground? We know it cost the Mayor’s taxpayers £22,000. We know of course it had a foreword by Mayor Ken. What we don’t know is how much of the taxpayers £22,000 Hugh pocketed courtesy of Ken.

Guido has tried to contact him to find out, but no reply so far. Hugh’s article on Boris concluded that Boris “should know there is no such thing as a free lunch”. Quite, so how much did Hugh get from Ken Livingstone?

Lobbyist Regulator to Investigate Morgan the Organ Further

The Spin Industry’s APPC Management Committee (background here) has decided to consider and investigate the complaint against Morgan Allen Moore further. The Committee is looking for more information about the conduct of MAM and Morgan the Organ. Further evidence and consideration of specific charges under the APPC Code of Conduct will be considered at a meeting on February 4.[…]


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Philip Hammond at Treasury questions:

“I’m sorry to be boring.”

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