Guido can shed some more light on how the Tories hid their by-election hotel bills in Newark. On 31 May 2014, over 350 young Tories boarded coaches and minibuses up to Newark for a day of campaigning. At the end of the day’s door-knocking, they needed something to eat and somewhere to stay. Paying for travel and hotels for that many people would rack up thousands in by-election expenses. So, the Tories ferried their activists to the Crowne Plaza hotel in Nottingham, outside of the constituency. There, Tory donors treated them to curry at an event named the “first annual RoadTrip dinner” – pictured above – where Rob Halfon and Eric Pickles gave speeches. After that they boozed at the Coco Lounge and NG1 bars, before returning to the hotel, where they made contributions to their room bills. The transport costs of ferrying the activists up to Newark and around Nottingham were apparently undeclared.
A source present says the meal and hotel were deliberately booked outside of the constituency, under the pretence of an “annual RoadTrip dinner”, to avoid appearing on the Newark by-election expenditure. They say this was by no means the only time this happened. A nifty little way of dodging the rules…
Michael Crick reckons he has enough to call in the cops on alleged Tory by-election overspends. Did the Tories break the rules with their hotel bills in Newark, and while fighting UKIP in Clacton and Rochester?
Five weeks ahead of the Budget, the IFS has delivered a withering assessment of George Osborne’s target for a £10 billion surplus in 2019/20. This is effectively wonk speak for “it ain’t gonna happen”:
“At 80% of national income, the UK’s public sector net debt is high by recent standards and relative to most advanced economies… Achieving and maintaining a consistent surplus is challenging. The UK has not had more than three years of consecutive budget surpluses since 1952. Surpluses have not been common in other large advanced economies…”
The IFS warn the only way Osborne will be able to keep his promise of a budget surplus in 2019/20 is through more massive tax rises or further spending cuts.
“Unless a large surplus is planned, small forecasting changes could require sudden in year tax rises or spending cuts to ensure the mandate is met. Even if we start 2019– 20 with an expectation of a £10 billion surplus, previous experience suggests there would be a more than one-in-four chance that in-year tax rises or spending cuts would be needed to ensure an out-turn of any surplus at all.”
Hardly surprising that Osborne’s vows of budget responsibility are treated with derision by the experts given his squandermania has seen public sector debt double and he consistently failed to achieve his deficit forecasts in the last parliament. The IFS note that “The first official figures showing whether or not Mr Osborne has met his target of running a surplus in 2019–20 should be published days ahead of the 2020 general election”. If Osborne is Tory leader, voters will have a very clear indication of his performance just days before they go to the polls…
Guido suspects Osborne will copy the tactics of his predecessor Gordon Brown and raid pensions. Already we are being softened up with suspicious briefings about “pension reform”. Hold on to your wallets and prepare for a massive tax hike on pensions. This time on higher rate pension contributions, increasing the tax burden on the older and wealthier – predominantly Tory voters – who Osborne calculates have nowhere else to go politically…
Tory MP Geoffrey Cox, the highest earning member of the Commons who rakes in hundreds of thousands of pounds a year as a QC, has been rebuked by the Standards Commissioner for failing to declare £400,000 of income.
Wait for it, his defence is just outstanding:
In his evidence to the Commissioner, Mr Cox explained how the late registration came about. He had previously relied on the head clerk of his Chambers to draw the receipt of payments to his attention, thereby prompting the registration of such payments. The illness and subsequent retirement of the head clerk had led to the breakdown of this system.
So Cox didn’t notice the £400,000 enter his account because his clerk was ill and didn’t tell him. Great excuses of our time…
The expenses watchdog IPSA say in a statement:
“The Compliance Officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has opened an investigation to determine whether Mr Simon Danczuk MP has been paid an amount under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) that should not have been allowed. An investigation will be conducted into claims submitted under the following areas of the Scheme: Accommodation.
In accordance with the legislation and the procedures for investigation made thereunder, no further information will be published until the investigation has been concluded.”
Usually IPSA try to cover up the specific allegations against MPs. Though there are so many people out to get Danczuk – in his own party and in the local LibDems – that the accusations have already been aired very publicly…
Who would have thought SNP MP George Kerevan’s crusade against expenses abuses would turn out to be complete pish? Kerevan was elected last year on a ticket to clean up Westminster and fight greedy MPs:
“I don’t think Westminster MPs are uniquely venal. Many work hard for their constituents. But I believe Westminster is too remote from the people. I think that the deliberate lack of a written constitution and the doctrine of the sovereignty of the Parliament create an insidious political culture at Westminster that leads some MPs to think they are superior to common mortals. I also think the gentleman’s club rules by which the Commons still operates, and which many male Labour backbenchers succumb to, engender an arrogance among MPs you don’t find at Holyrood. All this adds up to a world view in which MPs think they are not only justified in their financial dealings but deserve their patio heaters.”
Such is Kerevan’s moral integrity that he even pledged to only take the Scottish average wage of £27,000, and use the rest of his salary to fund the running of his office and local charities:
So what does he mean by “funding his office”?
Kerevan this month began employing his wife Angela as a “Personal Assistant”, a post which usually fetches some £25,000 a year. His declarations make clear she is “employed and paid from parliamentary expenses”. A neat way of keeping that taxpayer cash in the family. What was that about “a world view in which MPs think they are justified in their financial dealings”?
Just as well junior doctors called off the second of their three planned strikes, scheduled for this week, because hundreds of them are jetting off to Val d’Isere today. Over the next 72 hours doctors are attending their annual winter conference, which has been held at the premier French ski resort for years. The good news is there are still 133 last-minute tickets left for doctors-in-training, at a reduced rate of £330. Medical students qualify for concessions at £210. It is even tax deductible if attendees present an eight-minute report or short paper.
Lectures include “What it takes to win”, “When things go wrong” and “Being sued”. Though far more exciting are the special offers available:
“Val d’Isere is considered to be the world’s premier ski resort. It offers the best skiing together with lively après ski. There are several ski companies offering special DoctorsUpdates rates for delegates in Val d’isere.”
Wonder if they’ll have any snappers for company at the “lively après ski”…
The trip finishes up on Wednesday with the 25th annual St George’s Cup Slalom Race:
“On the Wednesday we hold the great annual St George’s Cup Slalom Race. The rules of the race are cleverly devised so that skiers of all abilities can take part with an equal chance of success. Every competitor completes two timed runs down the same slalom course. The person whose second time most closely matches their first is the winner. This difference is sometimes as close as hundredths of a second!”
Good to see those £30,000-£70,000 junior doctors’ salaries aren’t going to waste!
The new Electoral Commission data dump out this morning shows that some £2.4 million, or 15% of the Conservative Party’s £15.5 million election budget, went to Lynton Crosby’s CTF. They spent £369,000 on the services of their American former-Obama campaign […]