SPEAKER WATCH: Pointless Parliamentary Vanity Prizes

Browsing the Parliamentary Intranet, as is his wont, Guido has come across the ‘The Diversity and Inclusion Awards’ that took place on Monday. Another Bercow wheeze that we are paying for. “All parliamentary passholders are eligible to be recognised by the annual award”, and apparently the judges “had a hard job to choose from the high calibre of nominations, over 40 of which were submitted.” Don’t all rush at once.

Congratulations to all the worthy winners, in these powerful categories:

Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Runner-up: Martin Smith (Deputy Business Relationship Manager, PICT)
Winner: John Thursfield (Portfolio Manager, DHRC) and Salma Dean (Peer’s staff)

Catalyst for Change
Runner-up: Polly Meeks (Inquiry Manager, International Development Committee, DCCS)
Winner: Catherine Tyack (Joint Clerk, Public Administration Select Committee, DCCS)

Most Improved in Access and Inclusion
Runner-up: Dane Smith (Visits Officer, Parliamentary Education Service, DIS)
Winner: Tony Williams (House of Commons Information Office, DIS)

Inspiring Role Model
Runner-up: Tom Goldsmith (Head of the Office of the Chief Executive, OCE)
Winner: Abiola Babalola (Senior Management Accountant, DF)

Special Recognition Award
The judges also conferred a Special Recognition Award to someone who was noted for having made a number of contributions to different areas of Parliament, including work on equality analyses across Parliament, support to individuals, and co-chairing of ParliOUT.
Winner: Jenny Radcliffe (Business Change and Project Manager, Security Arrangements Renewal Programme, Office of the Parliamentary Security Director)

 The only catalyst for any change that Guido can see here, is towards a new speaker. 

Yeo Cashing in On Way Out of South Suffolk

Money grubbing Tim Yeo’s deselection by South Suffolk’s Tories has resulted in them not hearing another word from their MP since February. How things change, it was only in December that he was sending them Christmas cards for the very first time. However Tory councillors on the planning committee at Babergh District Council in South Suffolk have noted an application in Yeo’s name to build a new dwelling in the garden adjacent to his house (application here). One local tells Guido “It is quite clear that Yeo means to cash in and sell up.”

Guido always suspected that Yeo’s devotion to his constituency was less than genuine given he actually lived over a hundred miles away in Sandwich in Kent. Local Tories say that since they got rid of Tim 4 members resigned in protest and some 100 members joined and donations are on the up. They select a replacement candidate next month.

WATCH: Daily Politics on Third Sector Mafia Stitch-Up

Two weeks ago Guido revealed how former Labour apparatchiks from the taxpayer-subsidised charity mafia were trying to pull of a concerted media hit against Tory MP Conor Burns. The Daily Politics today took a look at the close links between Labour rhetoric and that of some sections of the third sector:

Burns is still blocking the path of the outrage bus:

“We have government giving unrestricted grants to charities, and then those charities using that money to lobby the government to change policy. That is, I think, an abuse of taxpayers’ money and one that should come to an end. As I say, I’ve got no issues with charities campaigning, that’s part of their role. But I think the person that supports their local Oxfam shop or supports Save the Children gives money on the assumption that that’s going to alleviate poverty in some of the poorest parts of the world, not that it’s going on political campaigns in the United Kingdom.

If you look at the list of some of the so-called charity leaders who attacked me in the Times newspaper recently, a good number of them had stood for the Labour Party in general elections, a number of them had advised Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in senior positions in Number 10 and in other government departments. They are then coming into these charities and using their position to campaign against what were their political opponents.”

Oxfam has already been reported to the Charity Commission, who could do worse than looking at some of the other patently politically partisan charities peddling Labour spin…

Parliament Spends £500,000 on Software They Could Get Free

New figures released by the House of Commons Commission today reveal that parliament is spending £500,000 of taxpayers’ money on basic computer services that could be provided for free elsewhere. ‘Office 365’ is a service offered by Microsoft which hosts cloud versions of Word, Excel, and Outlook, as well as “some new tools accessible once a user’s e-mail box has been migrated to Microsoft 365”. Initially only 12 MP signed up to the new system, with some tech-phobic members confused by the changes:

“We have received some negative feedback about the colour scheme of Outlook 2013 and about the new location of file/print/save buttons in Office 2013; similar feedback was received from House staff. In response PICT have produced guidance for staff on how to darken the colour scheme in Outlook and have been assured by Microsoft that they are working to address the interface issues in future upgrades.”

What Guido cannot understand, however, is why parliament is spending half a million pounds of taxpayer cash on Microsoft’s word processor, spreadsheet software and email service, when the equivalent services are all provided free elswehere. Many MPs already use other software that offers everything that Office 365 does, all online, free of charge. The men in tights are claiming spending all this money will save them over £2 million in the long run. But they needn’t be spending any money on it at all…

UPDATE: Parliamentary staff who have been forced to use the new system agree that it does not provide value for money:

Tory MEP Troughers Try to Shut Down Dubrovnik Junket Story

Fourteen Tory MEPs took the gravy train to Croatia last week, recovering from the gruelling Euro election campaign by spending £30,000 on a taxpayer-funded “study day” at Dubrovnik’s luxury 5-star Imperial hotel, enjoying posh nosh and being entertained by world-renowned, and often lingerie-clad cellist, Ana Rucner. Though this time Ana managed to keep her mini-skirt on for her performance. As Guido revealed in the Sun on Sunday, Syed Kamall, the new leader of Tory MEPs in Brussels, only dashed back to London a day early from his “studies” so as not to miss seeing the England-Uruguay match in London. Now the MEPs who went on the jolly have been told to stonewall hacks investigating them living it up on the taxpayer, sending this email to the junketeers:

From: HOLTUM James
Sent: Sunday, June 22, 2014 11:23 AM
To: CALLANAN Martin; ANDREASEN Marta; ATKINS Robert; KIRKHOPE Timothy; VAN ORDEN Geoffrey; FOX Ashley; MCINTYRE Anthea; CAMPBELL BANNERMAN David; FOSTER Jacqueline; ASHWORTH Richard; MCCLARKIN Emma; DUNCAN Ian; FORD Victoria Grace
Cc: FURBISHER John; HOLTUM James
Subject: Study days

Dear Members, you may have seen that you are mentioned as one of the attendees at ECR study days this week.

Our advice is to avoid any unknown numbers for a day or two, but in case you are caught off guard or doorstepped, here is the line that we gave the Mail…

Shutting down stories about wasting taxpayer cash, clearly Brussels has taught them well…

Third Sector Mafia Tantrum
Labour’s Charity Allies Attack Tory MP 

oxfam-burns

Back in 2012 Fraser Nelson warned that Brown was putting his people into the Charity third-sector. Sure enough the usual suspects from the taxpayer-subsidised charity mafia will tomorrow try to pull off one of their coordinated outrage media hits. They will have a pop at Tory MP Conor Burns for having the cheek to suggest that charities like Oxfam, who take a significant chunk of public money for their international efforts, should butt out of domestic politics. The well-heeled public affairs team at Friends of the Earth have got a collection of Labour sleepers to sign a letter to the Times which will be published on Monday morning. They will claim that they are all very ‘concerned’ that attempts are being made to ‘stifle charities’. They deliberately miss the point that this is ‘concern’ about the government awarding money to organisations that then use that cash to lobby the very same government. 

Guido was particularly amused when  he had a little look at the signatories to Monday’s letter. Just how independent is Joe Irvin from the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action? Well he used to be a Special Adviser to John Prescott and a member of the Number 10 policy unit under Labour…

Kate Allen of Amnesty International? Well she was sleeping with Ken Livingstone for long enough…

How about Alexandra Runswick from Unlock Democracy? Proud Labour member. 

Surely Tony Dykes, from those UK-based experts Action for Southern Africa, is alright?  Nope, the former Leader of Camden Council. (Labour).

Guido feels he is being a bit unfair labelling all these concerned do-gooders as Labour supporters. At least Jon Nott, the General Secretary of the Woodcraft Folk, is a Green. The same cannot be said of Martin Drewry  from Health Poverty Action who is another proud Labour supporter.

Leaked emails reveal that the now much maligned Oxfam have had a hand in making this letter happen. Their Policy and Communications Manager, Richard Pyle, has been encouraging old friends, colleagues and fellow travellers to sign up. Let’s have a peek at some of his ‘likes’ and interests on Facebook, shall we?

– Wes Streeting for Ilford North (Labour PPC)
– Derek4Europe (Derek Munn a Labour MEP candidate for Scotland)
– Pam Duncan (who ran for Labour selection in wait for it…Falkirk)
– Kirsty4Europe (Kirsty O’Brien, a Labour MEP candidate for Scotland)
– LGBT Labour
– Luke Pollard (Labour PPC in South West Devon in 2010)
– David Miliband
– Peter Mandelson
– Tony Blair

And, lest there be any doubt:

– I’m supporting Labour at the General Election

You have to wonder how switched on Oxfam’s Policy Manager really is when he ‘declares war on unemployment’ in the same week that employment reaches a record high. It’s worth noting who is really driving this hysterical outrage bus. Hint: it’s party political.

Select Committee Chairmen Revolve the Door Early
Lee, Leslie, Wollaston & Tredinnick Running For Health

Select Committee Chairman are dropping like flies. First James Arbuthnot quit Defence, and now Stephen Dorrell is standing down as chief Health Department overseer. Both of these MPs are quitting parliament after the election in 2015, so why would they not want to keep the coveted posts, as well as the extra pay, for their last year in the Commons? Nothing to do, Guido is sure, with the fact that anti-corruption Cabinet Office rules state that politicians have to spend a year ‘cooling off’ before they a can go to work in the lucrative private sector in an area they have acquired expert knowledge in through their position in public office. Any six-figure consultancy contracts and directorships they take up after the election would more than compensate them for their temporary short-term loss this year. A coincidence, no doubt.

The latest runners and riders to replace Dorrell include NHS reformer Charlotte Leslie, her close friend Dr Philip Lee, Speaker’s pet Dr Sarah Wollaston and homoeopath David Tredinnick. There is also a rumour doing the rounds that Spelman is interested.

Unions Buy Labour’s Support in London Taxi Wars

Guido’s London readers will know that the capital’s rival taxi firms have descended into open warfare in recent weeks. Militant black cab drivers are having a hissy fit about being priced out of the market by Uber, who use an app to calculate the journey distance and fee, relay the information to the driver and usually offer a considerably lower fare for the punter in a much nicer car. It is an example of the market working to provide the best price for the consumer. As the Institute of Directors points out:

“When the tide of new technology is coming in fast, it’s unwise to stand still and hope it stops at your feet. It’s all well and good to say that companies such as Uber must fit into the UK’s regulatory framework, but there’s a powerful case to make that the UK’s regulatory framework has been overtaken by digital innovation and, in some areas, is no longer fit for purpose.”

Guido understands that the GMB union has infiltrated the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, the black cabbies’ trade union, to lobby politicians against Uber. Indeed it was a GMB-sponsored Labour MP, Graham Morris, who tabled the Westminster Hall debate on this issue in April.

To little surprise, Labour have sided with a closed shop producer’s protection racket against consumers. Today, Labour have officially adopted the black cab position. Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh, who is also sponsored by the GMB, has launched an attack on Uber this morning:

“Labour welcome Transport for London’s decision to seek a High Court ruling on taximeters. Apps like Uber which involve a contract for vehicle hire must conform to the same high standards of safety, licensing and insurance as the rest of the taxi and private hire industry. It is neither black cab nor minicab, which is why it is vital that a court decides if it fits into the UK’s regulatory framework. The safety of the travelling public must not be put at risk.”

A Labour Shadow Secretary of State going back to the bad old days of formulating party policy based on the demands of her union paymasters. Not only that, Creagh is prioritising the vested interests of a party donor over the interests of the hard-pressed consumers her party is supposed to represent. Uber tell Guido that they go ‘above and beyond other operators in the industry in terms of safety’ and are confident that the High Court will agree with TFL. Guido thinks the rest of the industry should work out how they can bring their service up to scratch rather than trying to run a more competent rival out of town.

Andy Burnham is a Millionaire

Andy Burnham has written to Nigel Farage to complain about a UKIP leaflet suggesting he was a millionaire. Which is true.

Burnham owns at least two properties, and estimates by local estate agents say his house in the nice leafy […]

+ READ MORE +

Mili-onaire Ed’s Cost of Living Crisis

In touch Ed claimed that his family of four spent “probably £70, £80 a week on groceries a week, probably more than that” when ambushed with the perfectly reasonable question on ITV’s Good Morning Britain:

EM: We probably spend, er,

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Hintze Gives Dave £1.5 Million

Back in February the Mail got very excited about the billionaire philanthropist Sir Michael Hintze ‘pulling the plug’ on Dave. Sebastian Shakespeare might wish to go back to his top Tory source, who told him:

“Michael is fed up

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Happy Europe Day!

UKIP will be delighted that the slogan for today’s Europe Day celebrations is “EU Open Doors”. Guido has yet to see the bunting be rolled in street parties across Britain, though according the EU’s website they are rather bizarrely […]

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Charles Clarke says Cameron is the most successful PM for over a century…

“Under Margaret Thatcher the Conservatives gained 99 seats. They lost 211 under John Major, gained one under William Hague, quickly and wisely got rid of Ian Duncan-Smith, gained 32 under Michael Howard and have so far gained 133 under David Cameron who, to the great surprise of many (including senior Conservatives), has turned out to be the most electorally successful Tory leader since 1900.”

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