Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tories Thrash Labour in Donation Stakes: Q2 Figures in Full

Electoral Commission figures out this morning show the Tories are amassing a decent pre-election war chest, raking in £7,185,709 in donations in Q2 of 2014. That’s almost double Labour, who banked just £3,761,615 by comparison. The biggest single donation was given to UKIP, £1,079,567 from Paul Sykes’ Highstone Group.

Those posters don’t pay for themselves…

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Crook Who Took Looks to Get Off Hook While Plugging Book

Jailed expenses cheat Denis MacShane couldn’t stop himself from trying to weasel out of admitting he thieved from the taxpayer as he plugged his book on Channel 4 News last night. “I have no problems at all with what happened to me,” he began, before trying to convince viewers that actually he had been terribly hard done by and didn’t deserve to spend Christmas in the clink. Quelle surprise.

“I claimed money back, all of it expended. Unlike some of my other former colleagues there isn’t a single bit of personal profit for me. As several prisoners said to me, ‘You’re the only guy who’s in here from parliament who didn’t make any money’. But I’m not complaining about it, I’m really not.” 

Of course you’re not, Denis.

Asked repeatedly by Cathy Newman if he accepted he stole from the taxpayer, MacShane refused to show remorse: “No, I was reimbursed for money expended, alright, you can trundle around this as much as you like.” Worth watching the interview just to see MacShame’s face when Cathy reads his charge sheet to him…

Vid via @liarpoliticians.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bercow’s £1,300 MP Funeral Bill on Expenses

Guido couldn’t help but feel the taxpayer had been short-changed when he read in today’s Sun that John Bercow claimed £1,300 on expenses to go to Paul Goggins’ funeral. A worthwhile trip perhaps, but could he not have done it cheaper? Guido decided to find out.

The Speaker charged us £45 for a car from parliament to Euston station and £67.50 for the return journey the following day. A quick browse of Guido’s Uber app (other free market-supporting smartphone-friendly cheap car travel services are also available) shows we could do the journey for a tenner each way.

Bercow did much better on his train journey. He billed £239.10 for him and two staffers to get up to Manchester, the standard fare. Though when he got to Manchester, the Speaker inexplicably blew £500 on cars across the city. Since the trip was only meant to be for a church service and then the funeral, Guido struggles to see why he spent so much on taxis. We reckon we’d have spent £50 at the absolute maximum.

Finally, Bercow put himself and his staffers up at the posh Park Inn by Radisson hotel at a cost to the taxpayer of a cool £364. There are plenty of budget hotels well situated in Manchester. Guido chose the Ibis Budget, which would have given us three rooms for £96.

Bercow total: £1,290

Guido total: £405

Every little helps…

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bercow Fails to Clear Up Pass Row at Second Time of Asking

The Speaker has finally replied to Rob Wilson’s detailed questions about the probity of his pass-for-donor arrangement, and once again he is choosing his words very carefully. The question of what access Farah Sassoon has to the parliamentary estate is particularly troublesome for Bercow. He claims that “this pass has restrictions on it which are tailored to the circumstances for which the pass is required and will not activate proximity readers inside the Palace.” As anyone familiar with parliament will know, a free run from an entrance all the way through to Speaker’s House would give the passholder significant access to wider parts of the estate. 

Bercow has now had two opportunities to explain himself, and still he has failed to do so. If Farah Sassoon has no commercial relationship with Sally, why is she going around parliament telling MPs she does? How is it possible for her pass to only grant her access to Speaker’s House and not the wider parliamentary estate? And does he think it is appropriate to award special access to parliament to a woman who is funding his re-election campaign? His evasive answers hardly set an example fitting for the Speaker…

UPDATE: The Telegraph have yet more questions for Bercow:

Donors, Aides, Cronies: New Peers in Full

Conservative Party

  • Karren Brady CBE – Vice-Chairman of West Ham FC; Senior Non-Executive Director of the Syco and Arcadia Brands; Small Business Ambassador for the Conservative Party; and member of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Women in Sport Advisory Board
  • Martin Callanan – former Conservative Member of the European Parliament for the North East of England; former Leader of the Conservative MEPs and of the European Conservatives and Reformists group
  • Carlyn Chisholm – senior volunteer in the Conservative Party; Co-Chairman of the Conservative Candidates Committee; former nurse
  • Andrew Cooper – former Director of Political Operations to the Conservative Party; founder and Board Director of Populus
  • Natalie Evans – Director of New Schools Network, an independent educational charity established to provide free advice and support for groups wanting to set up free schools
  • Michael Farmer – Founding Partner of RK Mine Finance Group; Trustee of the Kingham Hill Trust; Treasurer of the Conservative Party
  • Dido Harding – Chief Executive of TalkTalk Telecom Group PLC
  • Arminka Helic – government special adviser to William Hague; leading adviser to government on preventing sexual violence in conflict
  • Nosheena Mobarik CBE – businesswoman; former Chairman of CBI Scotland; founder and convener of the Scotland Pakistan Network; Chairman of the Pakistan Britain Trade and Investment Forum
  • Sir Stuart Rose – former Chief Executive and Chairman of Marks and Spencer PLC
  • Joanna Shields OBE – leading technology industry executive and entrepreneur; the Prime Minister’s Digital Adviser; Chair of Tech City UK; and Non-Executive Director of the London Stock Exchange
  • Ranbir Suri – businessman; former General Secretary of the Board of British Sikhs

Labour Party

  • Michael Cashman CBE – Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands constituency; equality rights campaigner; former actor
  • Chris Lennie – political strategist; former Deputy Secretary General of the Labour Party
  • Dame Gail Rebuck – businesswoman, publisher, chairman of Penguin Random House UK

Liberal Democrat Party

  • Chris Fox – Director of Group Communications for GKN; former Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats
  • Cllr David Goddard – elected Member of Stockport Metropolitan Council; former Leader of Stockport Council; former Member of the Greater Manchester Police Authority; former Non-Executive Director of Manchester International Airport
  • Cllr Barbara Janke – elected Member and former Leader of Bristol City Council; former teacher
  • Cllr Kath Pinnock – elected Member and former Leader of Kirklees Council
  • Paul Scriven – managing partner for Scriven Consulting; former elected Member and Leader of Sheffield City Council; former senior NHS manager
  • Cllr Dr Julie Smith – elected Member of Newnham City Council; Senior Lecturer in International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) at Cambridge University; Fellow of Robinson College

There are now over 850 peers in the House of Lords…

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Government Spending Spinning Out of Control
DfT Advertising for £184,000-a-Year Comms Director

Are you an expert in “cost effective marketing solutions”? Are you capable of “ensuring effective penetration into target markets”? Would you be able to “develop a social and new media strategy”? Then the Department for Transport might have just the job for you.

DfT are offering a budget-busting £770-a-day to their new Director of Communications, which, if he or she works 240 days a year, puts the successful applicant on £184,800. Making them considerably better paid than the Secretary of State. Talk about jumping on the high-speed gravy train…

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tory MP: This Isn’t About Getting Bercow

Tory MP David Morris, who revealed that Bercow’s financial backer Farah Sassoon posed as a Labour adviser while drinking on the Commons terrace, rejects the Speaker’s paranoid accusations that this is all a mean right-wing plot to get him:

“I think he’s a marvellous Speaker and a great bloke, but I worry about why we have someone purporting to be a Labour aide roaming the estate. She told me that she advised Miliband on ‘media issues’.”

Meanwhile, Bercow is taking his time to reply to the latest series of questions about that donation and that pass. Choosing his words carefully?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Speaker Slips Into Paranoia

John Bercow has responded to increased scrutiny by briefing against his imaginary enemies to the Observer. An “ally” – in all liklihood himself or his spokesman – says he is being targeted because he is a “reforming Speaker, and some people don’t like that”, while “sources close to him” say asking for a simple explanation constitutes a “rightwing hatchet job”. He doth protest too much…

This has nothing to do with Bercow’s “reforms”, it is a simple question of why he lets a businesswoman funding his re-election campaign use parliament as a playground. The claim that his critics are all “rightwing” is patently untrue, you can read about the story in the Mirror and Tory MP Rob Wilson, who has been keeping the pressure on, is hardly a standard bearer for the right.

Bercow’s grubby mitts are all over the Telegraph today as well:

“Parliamentary passes grant the holders the right to mingle freely with ministers and MPs in Commons corridors and cafeterias, making them highly sought-after by ex-politicians who now work as lobbyists. It is understood that Mrs Sassoon’s pass does not grant her such privileges, and she can only access the wing of Palace of Westminster occupied by the Bercows.”

Officially, that may well be the case, but Sassoon has been spotted talking to ministers and MPs on the terrace on countless occasions. As Guido reported last week, she even pretended at one point to be a Labour adviser whist talking to one Tory MP and claimed to have a business relationship with Speaker’s wife to another.

What it really comes down to is that the Speaker is meant to be setting an example. The first commoner is meant to embody the rules, not wriggle above them. The example he appears happy to be setting at the moment is one where anyone can loiter around the Commons pretending to be a Labour adviser if they are your wife’s chum and they write you a cheque. So much for a ‘reforming Speaker’…

Friday, August 1, 2014

Speaker Probed on Sally Pal’s ‘Agent’ Boast

John Bercow will be delighted to have been given another chance to explain himself after he dodged questions about his pass-for-donor mystery. Rob Wilson has this afternoon also asked the Speaker to comment on why Farah Sassoon has been going around telling people she is Sally’s agent:

“I do note however, that you did not answer my final question fully and it would be helpful for you to do so. Therefore, in the interests of full transparency I ask again; who was consulted regarding the propriety of accepting a donation from someone who has been issued a pass?

I also note that there have been several more articles regarding the nature of your wife’s relationship with Ms Sassoon. Could you please confirm that she is not, as she has reported, your wife’s agent? Likewise could you confirm or deny whether there is any kind of commercial relationship between Ms Sassoon and your wife?”

At the very least, the Speaker sorted out security clearance for a woman funding his election campaign, who according to witnesses also claims to have some sort of commercial relationship with his wife. Let’s hope he can do a bit better with his answers next week…

Speaker Responds… Sort Of
Bercow Answers Raise More Pass-for-Donor Questions

John Bercow has replied to Rob Wilson’s letter, and once again the Speaker’s response raises more questions than it answers. Bercow has largely rehashed the statement his spokesperson gave to the press on Wednesday, failing to giving any explanation for why he gave a pass to a woman who is funding his re-election campaign:

Bercow says the pass only permits Sassoon access to Speaker’s House, so why is she so often seen elsewhere on the parliamentary estate, most obviously on the terrace? The Speaker admits she is security cleared, so why has he eased access to parliament for one of his donors? Bercow has as yet given no explanation. Note also that he dodges the last question – “Did you consult with any of the Parliamentary authorities” – failing to confirm whom he spoke with about the arrangement.

Crucially, the key question remains unanswered: Does the Speaker think it is appropriate to award special access to parliament to a woman who is funding his re-election campaign?


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