Could We See Boulton & Co in Boxers and Bikinis?

Dale has done his annual list and the results are in for the “media” section:

Top 10 Media Blogs
1. Spectator Coffee House
2. Ben Brogan
3. Three Line Whip
4. Boulton & Co
5. Nick Robinson
6. Comment Central
7. Paul Linford
8. David Cornock
9. Peter Hitchens
10. Melanie Phillips

Guido draws your attention to the promise made on the Sky News website:

Any votes for Boulton & Co. would be greatly appreciated and we promise, if we get into the top 10, that there will be semi-naked photos of all our political correspondents made available on the blog.

Well?

"We Are All In Relative Poverty" According to Osborne

Guido popped down this morning to the Demos Ikea showroom / think tank to hear what the 18th (to be) Baronet of Ballintaylor in the County of Tipperary and heir to a fortune had to say on “fairness”. George Osborne’s pamphlet is here and the speech echoed the charges that inequality has increased under New Labour. Strangely Guido thinks that New Labour is too afraid to defend itself on this issue.

Relative poverty has increased only because we have generally got richer. Absolute poverty has not increased. The problem for those who put equality before liberty is that they are too embarrassed to say that whilst we have all in aggregate got richer, some have got even richer, even faster. So What? Essentially if you believe in the conceptual value of the idea of “relative poverty” you believe that if Warren Buffet moved to London poverty would increase. Britons would after all now be relatively poorer compared to the average. If George when he becomes Chancellor succeeds in driving rich, non-domiciles away from British shores he will be able to claim he has reduced relative poverty. Not one single poor person’s absolute circumstances will have changed (apart perhaps from a few more unemployed domestic staff ). Splendid, Polly Toynbee will be pleased.

There was a moment of comedy when an extremely bedraggled looking Derek Draper piped up with a question from the back. Osborne congratulated him “on his new role as psychological consultant to the PM. Good luck with that.” Osborne was also quizzed about the ideological incoherency of all this cross-party triangulation on poverty and social justice. He said something wonkish about there being a continuum of political thinking from himself through Alan Milburn to Brown with the same long term goal.

Osborne took the opportunity to praise Alan Milburn. Mischievously saying, to much laughter, that he also shared with Milburn “his short term goals”

CCHQ Admits Cawte Declaration Errors Blames "Administrative Oversight"

When you are Chief-of-Staff to the Conservative Party chairman and she is under investigation for expense fiddling to pay for her nanny constituency secretary there is bound to be some scrutiny of your status. Simon Cawte has not yet satisfactorily explained how when she was in charge of the Tory local election campaigns he, as her Chief-of-Staff, was performing a non-partisan role paid out of her Parliamentary Staffing Allowance by the taxpayers.

Off the record and in the comments here CCHQ insiders say “everyone does it”. That is not a defence, that is an admission of guilt.

The Centre for Open Politics has been digging into Spelman’s expenses and discovered that, according to the register, Cawte was not being paid by CCHQ even though he was working at Millbank in the Party Chairman’s office (shaded in blue on the timeline graphic above). After two days of stonewalling by Cawte, CCHQ gave Guido an official response to his questions:

“Simon Cawte has previously declared to the House of Commons Registrar that he is paid for by Conservative Party funds. Whilst this declaration was made in January 2008 it has come to our attention that the declaration should have been made by August 2007. This was an administrative oversight and the registrar has been informed accordingly.”

CCHQ insist, despite the evidence of the register, that Cawte was actually paid by them since July 2007 for doing clearly partisan work. He was also paid by them in 2005 for doing partisan work. In 2006 he wasn’t paid by them, even though he was doing the same job, because it suddenly became a non-partisan job. Guido suspects that it is more likely that CCHQ was only willing to pay for one CCHQ staffer when Spelman was Local Government Shadow – Sheridan Westlake was seconded to her staff as the Local Government portfolio expert. Given that Spelman is about as popular as rabies with activists and donors she was, unlike other members of the Shadow Cabinet, unable to get private funding for her Chief-of-Staff so, in breach of the rules, she slipped him back onto the Parliamentary Staffing Allowance temporarily. She does after all have previous for expediently getting the taxpayer to pay for her private staff…

Your Taxes at Work in Downing Street

We would actually rather have Jeremy Clarkson as PM…

Fact : more people voted for Clarkson to be PM than Gordon.

Gold Medal for John Major, Nil Points for Richards

Steve Richards is supplanting Polly Toynbee as Guido’s favourite comedy commentator. Today he has a piece not quite as good as his genius three word summary of Brown in four words. Nor is it up there with his only stupid people will vote for Boris. Whereas Guido can guess and probably even write a Polly column, Richards is so much funnier than Polly, his ideological eccentricities are unpredictable.Today he makes the claim that Britain’s gold medal tally at the Olympics proves that we need higher government spending. Does it?

The Fabians took the lesson of World War II and the centrally controlled state war machine’s victory and drew the wrong conclusion. They thought a centrally controlled economy and centrally planned health and education would triumph. Ignoring that it was the free market economy of the U.S.A. that was the arsenal of democracy which brought victory over the totalitarian and rigidly controlled Nazi war economy.

Higher investment in sports training has brought results. The money raised was raised without resort to taxation, did not end up in Whitehall or in the hands of state bureaucrats. John Major loved sport and it is his strictures that have produced the golden results. Higher spending on education and health will produce better results, but not productively if the spending is made in state controlled schools and hospitals. Blair realised that eventually, the Tories single best policy is to encourage Swedish-style “Free Schools“. That policy will do for aspirational parents what council house sales did for aspirational tenants – free them from the failing clutches of the state.

Richards’ tax and spend thinking would not result in gold standards, just more government waste.

UPDATE : John Major has just made the point on the Today show that the government has been diverting money away from sport towards New Labour’s pet projects.

Herr Doktor Hartwich Says "Auf Wiedersehen"

Oliver Marc Hartwich is moving to Australia after humbly suggesting people move South (though not that far South) in his parting Cities Unlimited pamphlet for Policy Exchange.
Labour and John Prescott in particular enjoyed painting it as Cameron’s favourite think tank “slagging off the North”. Iain Dale pointed out that Oliver’s collaborator on the report, Dr Tim Leunig, is a LibDem insider and adviser. Oliver himself once worked for the LibDem’s Lord Oakeshott, however he is actually a libertarian. He mistakenly thought the LibDems would be like the German FDP – who are a right of centre liberal party – though that seems to be the direction Clegg has in mind.

Oliver writes for Die Achse des Guten (“The Axis of the Good”) the leading libertarian leaning political commentary blog in Germany. If people thought his griping about London and antipathy to the North was irritating, wait till they find out what his new book is about. The title is “England – Nachruf auf ein großartiges Land”, translated: “England – an obituary for a great country”…

Coulson Cawte Out Over New Spelman Expenses Fiddle

Over the weekend the News of the World revealed that Conservative Party Chairman Caroline Spelman’s Chief-of-Staff, Simon Cawte, was paid out of her parliamentary expenses for two years (2006 & 2007). Parliamentary Staff Allowances are prohibited from being used for partisan purposes. Andy Coulson told his former colleagues at the News of the World that their story was rubbish.

The official spin from Coulson was:

“It is entirely wrong to suggest Simon Cawte was not paid in accordance with the rules. Simon Cawte was employed to support Caroline Spelman in her role as part of the Official Opposition in Parliament. He discharged duties such as speech writing and answering correspondence relating to Caroline Spelman’s role as the Shadow Local Government Secretary. This is entirely permissable within the rules.”

Errr, no it isn’t.

The Green Book states:

6.1.1. Scope of allowance
The staffing allowance is available to meet the costs wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred on the provision of staff to help you perform your Parliamentary duties. Further details of allowable expenditure are set out at paragraph 6.10.1.


6.2.1. Eligibility

Subject to the paragraphs which follow, all Members of Parliament may draw on the staffing allowance to pay their staff. It is a Member’s responsibility to ensure that staff paid from this allowance are: employed to meet a genuine need in supporting you, the Member, in performing your Parliamentary duties; able and (if necessary) qualified to do the job; actually doing the job and that the resulting costs, in so far as they are charged to this allowance, are reasonable and entirely attributable to the Member’s Parliamentary work.
The issue boils down to: Was Cawte’s work in assisting Spelman “entirely attributable to the Member’s Parliamentary work”?

Timeline of Declarations of CCHQ / Taxpayer Funding for Simon Cawte


Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
2004












2005

/










2006
X


X


X

X
X

2007



X

X


X
X
X

2008
X





/





“X” = No declaration of CCHQ Chief-of-Staff funding, “/” = declaration of CCHQ Chief-of-Staff funding, note registers issued irregularly, these are all that were found.

Cawte was definitely paid for by CCHQ in 2005 – and properly declared that February – he was however back on Spelman’s parliamentary expenses in 2006/7 when he suddenly is supposed to have become apolitical, before once again going back on the CCHQ payroll in 2008 when she became Party Chairman. Spelman could hardly pretend that the Party Chairman’s Chief-of-Staff was a non-partisan role, could she?

Guido has had a look at some of the speeches Spelman’s supposedly non-partisan speech writer wrote for her. Here are the final paragraphs from some of the speeches Spelman delivered during that 2006 / 07 period:
The challenge for us is to help people, help themselves. As the Big Issue slogan says “A Hand Up Not a Hand Out”. And that is exactly what David Cameron’s modern, compassionate Conservative Party is all about.

I say continue, because let’s not forget, we are already coming back in places like Birmingham and Leeds and we control the councils of towns and cities like Bradford Coventry Dudley Walsall and Tamworth. Those places are feeling the effects of a modern Conservative Party in tune with the aspirations of today’s electorate. The challenge for us is to make sure the Conservative Party continues to strengthen its presence in or towns and cities and I hope that you, like me, will be straining every sinew in between now and May 4th to help deliver that.
Reconnecting with our cities 07/04/2006
This will be a new politics under a new conservative government. A new Conservative policy on regeneration needs to restore civic pride in community by raising up and building the capacity of local champions who in turn engage the whole community in bringing about change which people want to see and take ownership of. A new Conservative government will have to provide a framework where schools and education are at the heart of regeneration, a sustaining local economy underpins regeneration, and the regeneration of lives goes hand in hand with the restoration buildings. Our hand should be open to the needs of the poor to offer a hand up where money is leveraged by the goodwill and instinct of people to build a better world around them for those they know and love.”
There are plenty of speeches to choose from, all in the same style, almost all concluding with words to the effect “Vote Conservative” – which seems a tad partisan.

Most shadow cabinet Chiefs-of-Staff are paid for by private donors or CCHQ – not the taxpayers – precisely because they do the party political work. Cawte was also Spelman’s Chief-of-Staff when she was in charge of the local government election campaigns – did he really stay out of party politics when the campaign she was leading was going on? We were expected to believe that the professional nanny Tina Haynes was actually her constituency secretary not her child minder at the taxpayers’ expense, based outside the constituency and doing political stuff with a small “p”. We are now expected to believe that her Chief-of-Staff Simon Cawte was not doing partisan political stuff with a capital “P”. That is not credible. Her stories are full of holes…
+++ developing +++

"Errr, Sorry Sam, Do You Mind If We Stop Off On the Way?"

Don’t get Guido wrong, it was a good idea to go to Georgia and show solidarity with a democracy on the receiving end of resurgent Russian imperialism. Guido just can’t help noticing that it is right next door to Turkey, where Dave is today on holiday.

Genius; gives him a “right on” excuse to justify the carbon emissions from Lord Ashcroft’s jet (did he fly ConAir?), doesn’t inconvenience Samantha and the kids too much so no “are we nearly there yet?”, and gives him a fabulous statesman-like photo-op. Trust Guido on this, the boy will go far…

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Trouble and Strife, Holiday Plans

Mrs Fawkes has put up with Guido for five years today, so you will have to cope without me for a couple of days during a romantic intermission. She not unreasonably feels that a little disconnection from the internet would

[…]

+ READ MORE +

She Didn’t Get the MP’s Job Dunwoody Still Unemployed

It is nearly five months since Tamsin Dunwoody lost the Crewe & Nantwich by-election. Apologists for politician’s troughing ways claim that the taxpayer needs to pay three times the national wage to MPs to attract high calibre candidates. Guido argues

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Gordon Fell Oz Over Brit

This is late news, but still worth recounting because it is relevant to his upcoming book on “Britishness” as well as funny:

At the launch of the Courage book Gordon Brown spoke to one of the survivors of the 7/7

[…]

+ READ MORE +



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Ken Clarke tells the Ben Fellows trial:

“The idea that I would go strolling off in order to grope a man in an office is highly unlikely.”

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