Chris Bryant on Gaydar

Chris Bryant MP is on More 4 News tomorrow talking about the wonders of the internet.

Here is his take on the benefits of progress through technology:

“30, 40 years ago most gay men and lesbians around the country and if you lived in a rural area or a district like mine in the South Wales valley as soon as they knew they were gay they would disappear off to Cardiff or one of the big cities and nowadays they can go online and find one another on the internet”

Before gayers would have to go nightclubs, now as Chris demonstrates here, they can just upload their photo online. Progress…

When Ken Met the Chinese

On a trip to Beijing in April 2006, Ken Livingstone shamefully compared the 1990 Poll Tax riots in Trafalgar Square with the massacre of hundreds of peacefully protesting students in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Not really a valid comparison is it? The Met Police didn’t shoot or kill anyone. The violent Poll Tax Riots were a response to the policies of a democratically elected government whereas hundreds of peacefully protesting Chinese citizens were murdered by a dictatorship in Tiananmen Square. Of all Ken’s many pitiful apologies for dictators like Chavez and Castro, this was just about the lowest.

The Olympic Torch will be in London on April 6. Guido will be supporting the Free Tibet Campaign’s Freedom Torch Relay in Argyle Square on that day. That burning Olympic torch should not pass through London unhindered while the flame of freedom is extinguished in Tibet.

F o I Me? No Hypocrisy Says Robinson

Nick Robinson has acknowledged Guido’s FoI request for his expenses on his own blog. He doesn’t get drawn on the whys and wherefores of the issue instead he just gives a politician’s answer referring readers to the BBC’s official reason for refusing. He doesn’t say why he thinks he shouldn’t tell his paymasters his expenses yet MPs should.

Your request falls outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act because the BBC and the other public service broadcasters are covered by the Act only in respect of information held for purposes “other than those of journalism, art or literature”

Well that argument seems flawed on two counts. Firstly the cost of a bottle of wine ordered by Nick at the telly taxpayer’s expense is not information held for the purposes of journalism. It is information held, by law, for the purposes of accounting. Guido has not FoI’d Nick’s notes of the lunch, he simply wants to know how many pound notes a bottle of wine poured down the throat of a politician costs the licence payers. Guido has not requested the names of his dining partners either. There is therefore no journalistic reason to keep the cost of a bottle of wine secret is there? It is public money after all.

Secondly the BBC has given dozens of FoI responses to requests about expense claim requests in the past. So why is this one different? There is a clear public interest in the voters and licence payers discovering how lavish are the contents of the trough that the politico-media nexus dines at – the public pays for the “trebles all round”. Guido revealed a few weeks ago that the Lobby’s journalists have their own bar subsidised by taxpayers to the tune of £1,000 every working day. Is it any wonder that for so long they have gone easy on MPs when they are guilty of sharing the same trough?

Not Emily, Not Cathy

Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis has emailed back to say that she hasn’t dined Chez Cameron and she isn’t the source of the Nancy Cameron story. Guido now paging Daisy McAndrew, Kirsty Wark, Martha Kearney….

Politico-Geeky Plea

Tom Steinberg is a very reasonable man but he has clearly pulled his hair out. He has had a hand in a few of those handy mySociety utility projects like TheyWorkForYou.com and WriteToThem.com. He not unreasonably wants the parliamentary authorities to publish bills in an internet-friendly format.

Not a partisan point, not a big budget issue. The geeks want it to be in a format that is fit for the 21st century… they have an online petition (of course). Guido usually ignores online petitions (like the government) however this one he has signed up to. Tell the bureaucrats to lose the quils and get with the XML. You can too here.

UPDATE : Oops, Tom says it is not a petition, it is an “action email list”.

UPDATE II : Cameron is backing the Free Our Bills campaign – see here.

Don’t Read All About It :Robinson’s Boozing Expenses are a State Secret

Nick Robinson was on the Today show and has a blog up this morning about the progress of openness campaigners in finding out about MP’s expenses. Ironically Guido was just about to blog about his progress in trying to find out about Nick’s own expenses. The BBC reckons it would be unfair for us to know how much Nick Robinson spends on boozing with politicians. Guido thinks it unfair that British TV viewers have to pay for it against their will. Why pay the licence fee if they won’t tell you what they spend it on?

Mr Guido Fawkes
March 20, 2008

Dear Mr Fawkes

RFI20080192 – Freedom of Information request

Thank you for your email of 26 February 2008 requesting a full, itemised account of the expenses of the BBC’s Political Editor, Nick Robinson, and in particular any itemised receipts for Shepherds, Le Caprice and The Atrium restaurants. The reference number for your request is RFI20080192.

Your request falls outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act because the BBC and the other public service broadcasters are covered by the Act only in respect of information held for purposes “other than those of journalism, art or literature” (see Schedule I, Part VI of the Act). We are not therefore obliged to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities.

The BBC considers that this includes information about the costs involved in creating its output, including expenses incurred during this process. Information which is not subject to disclosure under the Act because of Schedule I might otherwise be exempt from disclosure because of the application of other provisions of the Act. The BBC notes the recent decision notice of the Information Commissioner (ref. FS50085710): in that case the Commissioner considered that payments (including expenses) made to talent did fall within the scope of the Act. However, the Commissioner decided that the information was exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) of the Act as he felt that the payment information constituted personal data and that its disclosure would breach the first data protection principle in the Data Protection Act, being ‘fair and lawful processing’. The Commissioner considered that the individuals in that case had a reasonable expectation that their personal data would not be disclosed and it would therefore be unfair to do so.

The BBC does not agree with the Commissioner’s decision on the scope of the Act and reserves its position on the matter; however, the BBC onsiders that in the event of a similar finding by the Commissioner in this case, the information you have requested would also be exempt under the Act under section 40(2) as the information constitutes personal data and disclosure would breach the First Principle (fair and lawful processing). The expenses claimed by this individual do not relate to the performance of a public function which involves spending public money or taking influential policy decisions. The individual involved would not expect the type of information requested to be disclosed to third parties, and therefore to do so would be unfair.

Yours sincerely,

Stephanie Harris
Head of Editorial
Compliance, BBC News

So just remember this evasion next time Nick gets on his high horse about expenses and public money. Of course Nick could voluntarily publish his expenses, exactly how much booze does it take to loosen Damian McBride’s tongue?
UPDATE : Guido’s further thoughts on this are here.

Support the Gypsies!

So they buy a piece of land, fence it off, install a septic tank and connect the utilities. It is their property. So what if they haven’t got authorisation from the planning commissars, it has no immediate neighbouring residential property. This is not a case of illegal squatting. They have just done a bit of green belt development, something the government says we will increasingly have to accept. Good luck to ’em.

As for Tessa Jowell’s husband David Mills complaining that the gypsies broke the planning rules – he is one to talk about law breaking…

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

Muir Says “Bye for Now” to WPP

Guido’s co-conspirator in the red glasses emails a report from his Blackberry after the party;

at David Muir’s leaving drinks at WPP there was a hefty amount of sceptism from the audience about his tenure in Downing Street. There was a heckle from the back of the (small) crowd that there was no point giving a leaving gift “as he will be back in a year”.

Branding bullshit guru Muir said he was off to “do some good” – helping to keep Gordon in No. 10. Just what we need, another delusional Scot in Downing Street.

Told You So…

Now even Peter Riddell is writing off Labour maybe Guido should think about changing his bets. Six months ago it all looked so different didn’t it? You could have got 3/1 on the Tories being the biggest party. Not now…

The Darling Brown stance on the economy is essentially cross-your-fingers. No growth package, no boost to the property market, nothing. They are kidding themselves if they think voters will return to them in times of trouble. The City is bracing itself, the credit crunch is about fear. Darling thinks he can bore the economy better…

Guido is on the Beach

Have however just noticed that the readers of ConservativeHome.com have voted their favourite use of new media to be Guido’s 2007 video of Gordon Picking and Eating His Nose Bogies.

It is gratifying to see how successful that video has been – it is probably the most successful British political YouTube video of all time (there are about 4 different versions of it doing the rounds, including a viral one formatted for mobile phones). To put it in perspective, that one YouTube video has been seen more than all of the Downing Street YouTube channel’s output combined.

Guido would like to remind you how Paxman and Michael White et al sneered about it. Who had the better judgement about what people really wanted to know about Gordon? They wanted to know for themselves – did he really pick his nose? In the end even BBC News reported it, though they described it as “alleged evidence on the internet”. The video has also been seen around the world on various conventional TV broadcast news shows. Canal Plus in France has a late night equivalent to Newsnight, where the prettier female equivalent to Paxman was in fits of laughter that the English would make someone like Gordon, who would do that in public, Prime Minister. Hundreds of thousands of people have watched it. Why is it so popular? Because we like to laugh at our rulers, that is a very healthy thing – unlike eating your bogies…

It remains Guido’s favourite single production. So, just for all the fans, one more time:

Analysis of MPs Expenses Shows Labour Most ExpensiveBrown and Cameron Fiddle Housing Allowance

There should of course be no reason why expense claims should vary in aggregate across party lines, yet they do. Guido reckons this says something significant about their attitude to the stewardship of taxpayer’s money. Of the 50 most expensive MPs 74% are Labour, 18% LibDem and one is a Conservative – David Mundell. The rest are SNP members who Guido will excuse on the clear grounds that they have, by definition, justifiably higher travel expenses.

The ten most expensive users of stationery are also Labour MPs, in category after category it is the same with Labour MPs always claiming the most. One stand out example of expense padding is from Janet Anderson, the Labour MP for Rossendale & Darwen. She has the most amazingly expensive car habit judging by her mileage allowance.* With a claim of £13,851 – which equates to a claim for over 50,000 miles – assuming she drives at an average of say 40 mph – that is 1,200 hours of solid driving, or 50 days and nights non-stop. Enter her for Le Mans!

The only honourable exception to Labour prolificacy is Dennis Skinner. Party leaders have no shame either:-

  • Why does Dave claim £20,563 for staying away from home? We all know he lives in Notting Hill, the kids go to school locally, it is his primary residence isn’t it. Is he claiming the Witney constituency home is his primary residence? The same fiddle that the Yvette and Ed Balls pull?

  • Why does Gordon claim £17,017 for the same when he already has his 10 Downing Street residence paid for by the taxpayer?

Out of 646 MPs only 54 don’t take the mortgage subsidy. Further digging would reveal how many are fiddling. You need to check your MP’s addresses online in the Land Registry records (costs a few quid) to see if the property is mortgaged. If it isn’t and they are claiming, they are fiddling. The expense breakdown in full is here.

Sir Michael White and the rest of the apologists for our political class like to claim that our politicians are largely uncorrupt. This is only because they have voted themselves transparent fiddles which may be legal, but are not right. In the private sector the same practises would lead to fraud charges or at the very least questions from the taxman. Our politicians have voted for themselves to be above the laws that they apply to the voters…

*She still manages to claim for rail travel more than hundreds of other MPs.

Credit : Via original number crunching from Letters from a Tory based on 2006/7 data.

UPDATE : The excusing of the SNP was poorly phrased and has been deleted from the above, for the purposes of this article Guido is excusing their high spending. As pointed out by many in the comments, David Mundell also holds a (or rather the) Scottish seat for the Tories, so he should be excused on the same grounds as the SNP. Guido did not research the location of all 646 seats because he has important cocktails to deal with. No doubt some of the other high spending LibDems and Labour MPs are Scottish. The general point is still good. Most of the highest spenders (ex-transport) are not from Scotland in any event.

Gordon is Hiring Two Web Specialists

This should be a laugh given Labour’s cack-handed approach to web-politics. The two new hires will report to David Muir, the new Downing Street director of political strategy brought in from WPP.

WebGordon with a manically innappropriate smiling Brown will be cringe making…

UPDATE : Alex Hilton says he is not one of the hires.

Will There Be Tears at the Leaving Party?

Spencer Livermore has been at Gordon’s side for over a decade. He is now off to Saatchi. His departure had been rumoured for some months – since Gordon’s ranting started reducing him to tears. The hard-drinking Damian McBride is said to be next…

Gold, Girls, Brown & Bust Banks

Guido wishes he had bought his daughters more gold each when they were born. Still with gold at $1030 an ounce, tripling in three years is satisfactory. Thanks Gordon for depressing the price.

When Brown and Darling try to present themselves as the safe pairs of hands in this coming time of economic crisis, remember that Brown was the financial whizz who sold Britain’s gold reserves at the historic low for dollars. Now as the dollar goes into freefall the total loss from that idiotic decision (he even told the market to get short before he sold off the reserves) will dwarf the few billion lost by the Bank of England on White Wednesday. Brown’s judgement is neither good or timely.

We have yet to have the final reckoning for Northern Rock, where some estimate that over 20% of the loans are to mortgagees with negative equity. The Fed arranged the sale of Bear Stearns in comparable circumstances over this weekend. It took dithering Brown months to make the wrong decision on Northern Rock. Remember how Lloyds TSB was interested in buying Northern Rock in much the same way Morgan Chase has just bought Bear Stearns?

The Tory benches are full of people who have worked in financial markets, Letwin, Redwood, even Andrew Mitchell and many more understand the markets far more than the student union activist turned TV producer cum PM and the dull barrister ever will. Faced with the worst financial crisis since the seventies what did they do? Implement a pre-emptive growth package in the budget? No, they threatened to tax plastic bags and put up car duties and taxes for those on lower incomes. Pathetic.

UPDATE : The LibDem benches, it has been pointed out in the comments, also have their fair share of brains acquainted with financial markets – Cable and Laws to name two. The Labour benches are devoid of experience.

Guido is M.I.A. in Vietnam

Where, incidentally, Guido has discovered that the governing Communist Party is privatising the provision of state-funded education and cutting taxes on business. So Brown’s government has more Stalinist policies than the Vietnamese Communist Party…

No Guinness to be found however, ah well… Happy St Patricks!

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