Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Sleaze Round-Up

Time for the weekly Pigs in Shit ratings (ranking guide here). Post links in the comments and we will update this post during the morning.

Dizzy kicks it off with evidence of Cameron’s Piggish Tendencies. Nil pigs.
Cherie Keeps Official Car and Driver Still

Mail on Sunday

Denis Thatcher used to get the bus, Cherie wrangled a deal for a government driver.
Northern Rock Hounds Whistle Blower
Mail on Sunday
Guido’s old friends at Schillings are up to their old tricks. Hounding an alleged whistle-blower for telling the truth about what is going on at Northern Rock – the bank we own. There is a legitimate public interest defence.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Flashback : The Smith Institute Exposé

If you are new to the Smith Institute story this January 2007 documentary expo which Iain Dale presented and Guido scripted for broadcast by the old 18 Doughty Street internet TV station gives you the background. This video really did kick off the official Smith Institute investigation. It was whilst filming outside the Charity Commission office that a press officer came out and asked Guido what we were doing. In conversation Guido was told that the reason they hadn’t started an investigation was they had no official complaint! The next day Guido filed his complaint, days later the investigation was announced. It was not too bad an effort for a first time citizen journalist producer…

Some bloke called Crick had a go as well – see here. Hmmm…

The Sith Suffered a Grave Defeat Yesterday

Guido has now had time to fully digest yesterday’s report on the Smith Institute. Some comment from the unpopular wing of the blogosphere shows they don’t seem to have grasped that the Sith were found to have operated illegally nor have they understood the full ramifications of the Charity Commission’s investigative findings:
The Institute failed to implement key elements of the 2002 commitments arising from the first investigation.

The “predominant involvement of Labour Party politicians in the Institute’s activities, compromised the Institute’s independence.”

“Due to the amount and nature of party political content in some of the Institute’s events and publications, the Commission concluded that the Institute’s work was not always as sufficiently balanced and neutral as required under charity law”

“The trustees allowed inappropriate party political comments which were made at events, to be reported word for word… without any commentary, editing, qualification or disclaimer in Institute publications and disseminated to a wider audience”

The language used by the Institute at times “constituted a party political statement inappropriate for the charity. This inevitably compromised the Institute’s independence and reputation”

The Institute “took insufficient steps to regulate inappropriate party political” activities by Senior Research Fellow, Robert Shrum.

Directly criticised the trustees, finding “evidence of unchallenged party political comments being made at Institute events by politicians and also party political comments made by or on behalf of the Institute… combined with the predominant involvement of Labour Party politicians in the Institute’s activity, compromised the Institute’s independence. Bearing in mind the previous engagement between the Commission and the trustees in 2001/02 on this matter, the Commission concluded that the trustees had not safeguarded or adequately supervised the risks posed to the independence and reputation of the Institute”

Found that “the trustees had allowed the Institute to become exposed to concerns that is supported Government policy and was involved in party political activity inappropriate for a charity” and that they were “not sufficiently engaged to ensure the proper supervision of the charity”. The trustees were lambasted throughout the report for failing in their statutory duties to oversee the workings of the charity.

Still had ongoing concerns “over the Institute’s frequency of use of 11 Downing Street and over the review and monitoring of the impartiality of its educational programmes”.

Found “a number of instances where the balance and neutrality of the Institute’s work were compromised by a party political association… Sufficient steps had not been taken to identify or manage the perception that the Institute was unacceptably linked to and supported the Labour Party or that it inappropriately promoted Government policy… it is understandable how the perception arose that the Institute was focussed on or was connected to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer”.

This is a good result and Guido feels totally vindicated in making his complaint. The Commission has formally found the Institute in breach of the laws on political neutrality – anyone interested now knows what really went on. The Institute has been forced to restructure, with an audit committee. It has also closed down the subsidiary company S.I. Events Limited, which was used to launder money from corporations seeking regulatory favours and to invoice the Treasury for seminars. A formal oversight structure was ordered to be put in place with tight controls and it has been told to appoint known Tory and LibDem supporters to the board. It is now on probation and must report back on the implementation of the changes as ordered in six months. The Commission will take a second look next year.

Guido doesn’t think we will be hearing any more speeches on how to beat Cameron and the LibDems at Smith Institute events in the future…

+++ Brown is in Baghdad +++

Thought he said he wasn’t taking a foreign holiday..?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Caption Competition (the Men in Suits)

Gordon Brown Refused to Answer Inquiry Questions

One footnote from the Charity Commission report into Gordon Brown’s Smith Institute is positively Nixonian.

You have the right to remain silent but….

Labour are spinning that the report clears Gordon of any links to the Institute. Which is complete bollocks. The Treasury Minister John Healey welcomed attendees to Number 11 in December 2004 thus:

“I am a last-minute substitute for Gordon Brown, so I would like, on his behalf, to welcome you all to Number 11 Downing Street. I know, looking around, some of you are quite regular attendees of Smith Institute seminars, and you will know you get a letter from Wilf Stevenson before each one explaining that you are invited to Number 11 by Kind permission of the Chancellor. I have to say, this series of seminars in particular is being held not so much by the kind permission of the Chancellor, but by his absolute insistence that they take place. He is unable to be with us now, but he will want to know exactly what has been said in the discussion when I see him earlier this morning. Many of you, including and perhaps especially the panel here, have known Gordon for a long time”

The Centre for Open Politics has summarised the web of close links to Gordon Brown in a single document.

click to enlarge

Smith Institute Report

Guido is digesting the lengthy Charity Commission report. The Smith Institute has been found guilty of charge after charge first highlighted on this blog.

Back with fuller comment soon.

UPDATE : There seem to be some errors of fact which Guido will be highlighting.

Treasury Denies Plans to Break Broken Golden Rule

The FT front pages the Treasury’s supposed plan to break the Golden Rule and breach Gordon’s self imposed debt limit of 40% of the UK’s gross domestic product.

The truth is the City and the Gilts market has regarded the Golden Rule as a political fiction for years. 700 or more PFI debts that build schools and hospitals owned by the state are government guaranteed debt whatever fudge the government claims. Northern Rock mortgage guarantees are not only bad debts they are also government debts, the Network Rail debt likewise, state pensions are another unfunded government debt.

The Office of National Statistics made it officially 43.1% back in May (full explanation from IFS download here). The only news is that the Treasury looks set to admit the truth. The pathetic reality is that Gordon’s psychology did not allow him to admit his failure to keep his own rule. The rule could have been kept to in the good times, it hardly needed much fiscal rectitude to sustain when he inherited falling public debts from Ken Clarke.

The Treasury is spinning this morning that it is not going to break or loosen the rules. Guido suspects it will “redefine” the economic cycle somehow.

See also Fantasy Island Economics.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

+++ Charity Commission Smith Institute Report Tomorrow +++

Radically Opaque

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: The troubled Demos think tank is officially saying “no comment” this morning but there are reports that the new director of Demos, Catherine Fieschi, has already abandoned ship. It seems to be something of habit for Demos to lose leaders. She was installed following the failed and brief captaincy of Madelaine Bunting which produced a mutiny of the wonks.
Sunny over at Pickled Politics thinks it is something to do with Demos co-sponsoring an event held by the British Muslim Initiative – which some claim is Hamas allied – Guido has no idea if that is true and is a bit sceptical of Islamophobia mullahs-under-the-bed stuff. The Demos “no comment” is a bit of a laugh when you know that they advocate “radical transparency” and a new way of “doing politics… short-circuiting the damaging relationship between politicians and journalists”.

They ask citizen bloggers to get in touch because “We’re thinking about how citizen journalism and new media are having, and might have, an impact on political communication, and on traditional journalism.” Well, Guido got in touch and they said “no comment”.

UPDATE : It is official. She resigned on Monday and an article has just popped up on the New Statesman‘s website where she says

“no matter who’s in an organisation, organisations seldom love you back as much as you love them. They are strangely, in this respect, less than the sum of their parts. And so it’s time to move on…. I wish Demos nothing but the absolute best, but a sense of après moi, le déluge has a certain appeal when you’ve been slugging your guts out for a couple of years. Does harbouring a secret longing for an inept successor, possibly unpleasant, maybe even scarily unattractive, make me a terrible person?”

Unloved, belittling, negative wishes – something tells Guido the Christmas card list will be shorter this year…

Seen Elsewhere

Bercow ‘Wounded’ | Speccie
This Goes Further Than Rotherham | Simon Danczuk
Bercow Mocked | Times
Indy Deletes ‘Jewish Lobby’ Headline | MediaGuido
Cracknell v Boris | Sun
British Muslims are Failing to Integrate | Dan Hodges
Dear Sarah Wollaston… | ASI
Treatment of Ashya King’s Family Authoritarian | Brendan O'Neill
Stop the War Should Disband | Rob Marchant
State Should Not Act as Parent | Kathy Gyngell
Guido’s Column | Sun


VOTER-RECALL
Get the book Find out more about PLMR


Douglas Carswell…

“I stab people in the front, not the back.”



Owen Jones says:

We also need Zil lanes.


Tip off Guido
Web Guido's Archives

Subscribe me to:






RSS


AddThis Feed Button
Archive


Labels
Guido Reads
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,439 other followers