Tuesday, February 5, 2008

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.

Monday, February 4, 2008

‘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, February 3, 2008

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…

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Suspicious Minds and Convicting Politicians

From Guido’s point of view the year has got off to a very good start. One Minister has fallen on his slush fund, a senior opposition MP has been exposed for pigging out in the public trough and his little piglets never again will suck on the public teat.

When Guido first started this blog he took the view that politicians were held in too high esteem, that they considered themselves to be the ruling class rather than public servants and that the media far from being feral was too tame in its treatment of politicians. That was part of the motivation for starting the blog. From time-to-time the Peter Riddells, Sir Michael Whites and Polly Toynbees of the world complain that it is impossible to report on politics well if you start from the position that they are all scoundrels and have no sympathy for politicians or the practise of politics. Sometimes they specifically addressed that criticism directly to Guido.

Guido never said all politicians are greasy-pole climbing, self interested scoundrels. He does however have a suspicious mind and this is basically his default view until proven otherwise. It takes a certain kind of egoism to want to be a politician. The louder they claim it is because they “want to make a difference”, the tighter you should grip your wallet.

The more you meet politicians, the more you realise that they are not as others. For the ambitious climbing the greasy-pole is all, life for them is a non-stop reality TV show, with power and all its trappings as the prize. Political self-interest is their supreme motivation. Policy is a tool of partisan self advancement, slogans are stepping stones to power and the public is to be manipulated for votes in a democracy of spin. These politicians are really dangerous.

For those who realise that becoming an MP is probably the upper limit to their achievements there are broadly two types; the good constituency MP and the porcine politicians.

The “good constituency MP” is the stuff of legend, furthering his voter’s interests, dealing with their problems with a staff well versed in welfare issues, righting wrongs and often acting as the counsel of last resort to people suffering at the hands of the massive bureaucratic state that politicians created in the twentieth century. They may take on non-partisan causes which are in the public interest – John Hemming’s work on child protection springs to mind, protecting children from social workers and legal indifference.

In contrast the “porcine politician” is contemptible. So long as they keep their local newspaper happy and don’t get caught shagging the intern they are a lifelong burden on the taxpayer and little use to anyone but the party whips. Generally they want a quiet life, the occasional junket to the West Indies to “study” efforts to combat global warming will suffice. If they are not the type to know their interns carnally they may employ the wife to supplement the housekeeping. Exploiting the car mileage allowance yet claiming for two first class return train tickets every week, claiming a second mortgage allowance despite their constituency being on the London Underground and charging the full daily subsistence food allowance (no receipt required) are all par for the course. If they are particularly greedy, helping out lobbyists can be rewarding.

Sometimes a porcine politician does good things, sometimes a usually decent constituency MP gets caught with his hand in the till or on top of a research assistant. These are of course generalisations.

It seems to Guido that the public has an innate wisdom, it knows this and it knows it is being spun, but is too weary of politicians to care. Too busy getting on with their lives to be bothered about politics. Unfortunately the politico-media nexus is too lazy or too embedded in the Westminster Vilage to try to change things for them. Imagine you are Sir Michael White, thirty years in the Lobby, having spent most of your writing career rubbishing good journalist’s stories on behalf of unattributable sources. Those sources are your claim on the front-page. You are not going to jeopardise them and tear up your meal-ticket to Shepherds. Therein lies the problem. Until the media changes from reporting what they are spun to always questioning the behaviour and motivations of politicians, we will be cursed with the political class we have. The current orgy of politician bashing is however a good start.

Newsnight seems to be on top of the zeitgeist, night after night Crick and Grossman have been unveiling political skullduggery, Hencke at The Guardian, Sam Coates on The Times and Chris Hope on the Telegraph and a few others seem keen to tell it like it is, so hopefully like sharks they will get a taste for political blood. Politicians will then out of self interest temper their ways.

It will require us first seeing a few politicians jailed pour encourager les autres. The people want it. Give the people what they want and it might even do wonders for newspaper circulation.

Friday, February 1, 2008

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


Seen Elsewhere

Fraser Nelson: Put Your Money on Ed Miliband to Win | Guardian
Guido Fawkes is Too Aggressive | The Times
Ditch Tobacco Plain Packaging | Grassroots Conservatives
What Farage, Boris and Rob Ford Have in Common | William Walter
Labour Spell New Adviser’s Name Wrong | ITV
Dave Stung by Jellyfish | Sun
City Minister’s Inheritance Tax Dodging Trusts | Indy
What I Would Have Done if I was Sarah Wollaston | Iain Dale
Boris is an Epic Europhile | Louise Mensch
Warsi Got PM to Confront “Secular Fundamentalism” | Fraser Nelson
Guardian April Fools Apology | Press Gazette


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Rod Liddle on the loony UN sexism special rapporteur:

“There is more sexism in Britain than in any other country in the world, according to a mad woman who has been sent here by the United Nations.

Rashida Manjoo is a part-time professor of law at Cape Town University in the totally non-sexist country of South Africa (otherwise known as Rape Capital Of The World).

Mrs Magoo has been wandering around with her notebook and is appalled by the sexist “boys’ club” culture here, apparently.

I don’t doubt we still have sexism in the UK. But is it worse than in, say, Saudi Arabia, d’you think, honey-lamb? Or about 175 other countries? Get a grip, you doolally old bat.”



orkneylad says:

What’s he been doing FFS, mining bitcoins?


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