Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

What about releasing the report into her dodgy expenses claims on Budget Day? The Standards and Privileges Committee has taken a very long time to reprimand Miller over those £90,000 second home expenses claims that landed her with a potential six figure profit. A source familiar with the investigation suggests that the delay has been due to gathering more evidence, but why are they taking such a long time to publish a decision? Could it be that Tories on the Committee are looking for a good time to bury bad news? A cynic might think Budget Day might be a good time to get it out…

See also: Maria Miller Makes Six Figure Profit on Second Home £90,000 Question For Maria Miller 

IPSA Good Start

IPSA has today announced its latest proposals for reform of the MPs’ expenses scheme. Some of them are not bad ideas, such as publishing MPs’ landlords’ names and addresses each year, publishing details of contingency payments and further scrutiny of MPs’ mortgage interest subsidy and capital gains repayments. Most of these reforms would not be implemented until after the election however. Even then they do not go far enough.

Guido has said it before that a House of Commons debit card is the best way to regulate legitimate expenses. The transactions would as normal be electronically recorded automatically and could thus be published online automatically, the spending limits would be automatic and bureaucracy would be minimal. The idea was proposed in Disinfecting Parliament, a 2009 report from the Sunlight Centre that recommended a number of measures based on best practice in the private sector that could easily be transferred to IPSA. MPs have called for a fairer and simpler system, what could be easier than the debit card plan?

Labour Demand Answers Over Conflicted No. 10 Trade Envoy

Following Guido’s story about the PM’s trade envoy to Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan Charles Hendry taking a job with an oil company working in those two countries, Labour MP Sheila Gilmore has tabled two written questions to the Prime Minister demanding answers:

To ask the Prime Minister, whether the appointments of the hon. Member for Wealden as a) a consultant to Vitol Group and b) a Senior Adviser to Atlantic Supergrid Corporation Ltd were considered by the Advisory Committee on Business appointments, and whether any conditions were imposed by the Advisory Committee on either appointment.

To ask the Prime Minister, whether he considers there is any conflict of interest between the hon. Member for Wealden’s position as the Trade Envoy to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, and his paid employment as a consultant to Vitol Group.

Guido predicts Hendry will say his work with Vitol has nothing to do with Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Though given two of its main oil production interests are in two of the countries Hendry is trade envoy to, there are serious doubts about whether he can continue to do his government job without a conflict of interest arising. Is Hendry asking us to believe his role as trade envoy was not considered at all by Vitol when they decided to part with £60,000 for him to do 18 days’ work?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Stella Faces Parliamentary Standards Investigation
#BiscuitGate Leads to Funding Complaint from Local Opponents 

Following Guido’s story about Stella Creasy’s £31 junk food bill on expenses, the posh Labour MP suggested that the Jammie Dodgers, chocolate fingers and Starburst sweeties were for non-partisan community volunteers in her Walthamstow constituency. It turns out St. Ella wasn’t being entirely truthful…

stella-movement-for-change

Creasy’s #7Days4Stow campaign is advertised on her party website with Labour Party branding, uses Labour Party slogans and is backed by her local Labour Party, the campaign group Movement for Change set up originally by David Miliband – which describes itself as “the home of community organising in the Labour Movement” – is at the centre of Stella’s community volunteering. As if that didn’t make it clear enough that this is a party political operation it is backed by the General Secretary of the Labour Party. After seeing Guido’s report about #Biscuitgate the chairman of the Walthamstow Conservative Association has today written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards asking her to determine whether taxpayers’ money is being used to support community campaigning at the behest of the Labour Party:

To those who say it isn’t much money, this is just the tip of the iceberg in how political parties abuse taxpayer funding and an important principle is at stake – partisan political campaigning should be paid for out of party funds – not out of funds earmarked for the benefit of all constituents. If only Stella had just ‘fessed up at the beginning and said, “yeah, that probably isn’t a proper use of taxpayers’ money” and straight away paid the money back when it was drawn to her attention she would have avoided a full investigation from the authorities…

Government Trade Envoy’s £60,000 Conflict of Interest
Charles Hendry’s Oil Job Linked to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan

Tory MP Charles Hendry has been a busy coining it since he was sacked as Energy minister, landing a £48,000 windfall from wind energy giants Forewind and hobnobbing with Hanover lobbyists and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. On top of that, Hendry has now bagged another outside job as a consultant at oil giants Vitol. He will be paid £60,000-a-year for eighteen days’ work, taking his outside earnings over £100,000.

Vitol is a $300 billion energy trading company which runs oil exploration projects in corrupt, authoritarian countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Guido is sure it is nothing more than coincidence, but Hendry is also the president of the advisory board of the Russo-British chamber of commerce and is the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Hendry is standing down in 2015, but not before he trousers one last big payday…

Friday, March 14, 2014

Expenses Piggies Told to Pay Back Dodgy Claims

IPSA have forced a trough-full of greedy MPs to repay £40,000 worth of expenses for claims that were in breach of the rules. New figures for October and November last year show 50 MPs were made to pay back cash. Some of the weirder repayments include £1,300 from Jack Straw for a year-long sublet of his constituency office for the Blackburn Labour Party and £1,250 from Vince Cable for subletting his office. Eric Joyce tried to get away with claiming hundreds of pounds for hotels which were not allowed under the IPSA scheme. Cheapskate Jamie Reed was told nine of his £3 claims for petrol would not be granted. Several MPs blew their expenses budget allowance and had to pay back the overspend, including £4,010 from Mike Crockart, £4,551 from Daniel Kawczynski and £933 from Debbie Abrahams. Still, who can blame a greedy expenses trougher for trying…

A Bottle a Day at the BMA Keeps the Health Secretary Away

Doctors’ trade union the BMA has been getting very upset about “cuts” to the NHS recently, moaning to the government that funding changes could force GP practices to close. One thing in particular they don’t want to cut is their very own in-house wine list, which offers posh plonk such as a £52 Pol Roger advertised as “Winston Churchill’s favourite champagne”.

Cheers!

TfL Spends £250,000 on Twitter Followers and Facebook Likes

Figures obtained by Guido reveal that Transport for London has spent over a quarter of a million pounds on boosting its Twitter followers and Facebook likes. TfL has a grand total of 26 Twitter feeds and two Facebook pages. Since 2012 it has spent £254,322 on paying for “promotion” - so their tweets and statuses appear in Londoners’ timelines – with the aim of getting them more followers and likes. TfL defend the spending by saying that in the last year their overall social media following has increased by one million as a result. What would Bob Crow have said?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Yet Another Dodgy Labour Selection
Keith Vaz ‘Trying to Overturn Result in Favour of Friend’

Strange goings on down in Enfield Southgate, where Labour have chosen Bambos Charalambous over Ibrahim Dogus in a fiercely contested battle for the selection. Labour sources on the ground tell Guido that Dogus is furious at the result and is throwing around claims that there were voting irregularities concerning postal voting. Guido is told that Keith Vaz is leaning on the national party to look into the result. Surely nothing to do with Vaz being a long term friend of Dogus and being his main endorser during the selection. Or the fact that Dogus has been doing the legwork for Vaz’s £1,000-a-ticket Labour Sports Dinner, the party’s annual flagship fundraising event which brings in thousands in donations. In an email seen by Guido, Vaz even let slip that one of the main reasons for his endorsement was the fact that Dogus is an “amazing fundraiser”. Now he’s still trying to get him selected as a candidate even though he was beaten. Vaz has not responded to a request for comment. Fishy…

Monday, March 10, 2014

Stella’s Junk Food Binge on Expenses

Her jealous Labour colleagues call power hungry Stella Creasy “St. Ella”, however when it comes to expenses Stella is no saint. Guido has come across this recent Tesco expenses claim submitted by the Labour MP:

How does she keep her slim figure?

*Artist’s impression.

UPDATE: Stella would like to make clear the snacks were for her volunteers. She has generously invited Guido to Walthamstow for a biscuit. Though the taxpayer will be paying.


Seen Elsewhere

Labour’s Plan to Attack Part-Time Boris | Standard
Ex-Sun Hack Cleared After 582 Days on Bail | MediaGuido
11 Times Boris Denied He Would Stand for Parliament | Buzzfeed
Attacking UKIP’s Posters is Counter-Productive | Guardian
Sarkozy Tried it on With Hollande’s Ex | Times
Another Spare Room Subsidy Cut Success | Harry Phibbs
Rich Now Have Less Leisure Than Poor | Economist
UKIP’s Immigration Policy Promotes Migrant Entrepreneurs | Breitbart
Another Feminist Lecture | Laura Perrins
UKIP Posters Bad Economics But Good Politics | James Delingpole
Tories Losing to UKIP in Scotland | ConHome


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A confused Nick Griffin says Nigel Farage is a shill for the City, forgetting that City banks want to stay in the EU:

“Farage is a snake oil salesman, but a very good one. His supposed anti-immigration stance is all smoke and mirrors, as is his carefully cultivated image as a ‘man of the people’. The truth is that UKIP is a pro-immigration party that exists to lobby for the interests of the City of London.”



Alexrod says:

It’s money innit.


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