Clegg Denies Inappropriate Use of Civil Service for Debate Prep

Has Nick Clegg been using civil service resources for party political preparation for tonight’s debate against Nigel Farage? He is not appearing at the LBC Debate in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister rather, as a LibDem spokesman told Guido this morning: “Tonight is the leaders’ debate so Nick is appearing as the Leader of of the Liberal Democrat Party”. It’s a very political event…

As Deputy Prime Minister Clegg is allowed to request factual briefings on government policy whenever he likes, yet sources familiar with the situation have indicated to Guido that they believe he has strayed beyond this and into party political territory. “He’s asking for all sorts of things, beyond government policy on Europe”, one told Guido this morning. It is believed by some that the briefings have been prepared to back up attack lines on UKIP –  a big no, no for civil servants.

Nick Clegg’s spokesman denies that they have done anything wrong, but did confirm that civil servants have briefed the DPM for this specific political event:

“Nick Clegg is Deputy Prime Minister as well as Leader of the Liberal Democrats. He is regularly briefed on all aspects of Government policy, including Europe, before public appearances, such as DPMQs or Call Clegg on LBC. It is very likely that during the debates he be asked about Coalition Government policies and the relationship between the British Government, of which he is Deputy Prime Minister, and the European Union. To that end, he has been given factual briefings and facts and figures on Coalition Government policy and how the EU works in relation to Britain. But the briefings for the debates are being done by political advisers and HQ staff.”

Guido has requested a copy of all the debate preparation from the Cabinet Office under the Freedom of Information Act.

It is worth noting that the ‘General Principle’ of the Ministerial Code states:

“Facilities provided to Ministers at Government expense to enable them to carry out their official duties should not be used for Party or constituency work.”

Point 6.3 makes things a little clearer:

“Official facilities and resources may not be used for the dissemination of material which is essentially party political.”

Should it emerge that Clegg used civil servant briefings on issues beyond government policy on Europe to prepare for tonight’s debate then Guido cannot see how he has not fallen foul of this point. 

 

ComRes Indy/Mirror Euro Poll Puts UKIP 9% Ahead of Tories

BRITAINS-EURO-ELECTION-NEWS-SOURCE

The UK Independence Party is on course to win the largest share of the vote in the European Parliament elections in May, according to a ComRes opinion poll for The Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror.

UKIP  30% (+3)
Lab  28% (+5)
Con  21% (0)
LD  8% (-10)
Green  6% (+2)
Other  7% (0)

This is the first poll to ask separate questions about the European elections for some time. The figures for European voting are based on the 38% who say they are “absolutely certain” to vote in those elections – roughly comparable to the 34% turnout in the last elections in 2009.

Labour React to Referendum Fudge

The more sensible Labour MPs don’t exactly sound delighted about having to explain Miliband’s yeah-but-no-but referendum position to voters.

Graham Stringer is most damning, telling Ed “I am very disappointed by this… shoddy compromise,” and that the fudge is “impossible to sell on the doorstep.”

Level-headed Kate Hoey adds “I think it’s meant to be a clever compromise, I don’t think it’s going to end up as one,” confirming that a referendum under a Labour government is now “almost impossible”.

John Mann wrote to Miliband just yesterday asking for an EU referendum so he was disappointed within hours. Mann says Labour’s announcement is “a significant move in the right direction but I would encourage him to go further than he’s gone today… Labour voters want to see their voice being heard. They want to be trusted.”

And Labour donor John Mills ain’t happy given he has campaigned for a referendum and now won’t be getting what he wanted for his money: “The growth of the EU’s influence over Britain warrants a referendum regardless of future events.”

Still at least Mandy’s happy. This all could have been avoided so easily…

Miliband Bottles EU Referendum

Back in 2011 Guido recommended that Miliband call for an in/out EU referendum. It would have helped him make an impact with ordinary, sensible voters, distanced himself from Brown and Blair and wounded “cast iron” Cameron over his failure to keep his own referendum promise. Today’s announcement confirms that an in/out referendum would be “unlikely” under a Labour government. Miliband is ruling out a vote unless “significant” treaty changes are proposed. The Labour leader had the chance to lead on this issue, to outflank the Tories and offer voters something clear and definitive. Instead he has given them a deliberately vague fudge. Miliband says this morning that “you can’t trust the Tories on Europe”. He is the man who doesn’t trust the people on Europe… 

MEPs Plot to Spike No.10’s Choice for EU Commissioner

Despite Downing Street getting to choose the candidate for EU Commissioner, the European Parliament has to approve their pick. Guido understands Number 10 is preparing for the possibility that the PM’s first choice will be spiked by MEPs as revenge for the British vetoing the 2011 treaty. So Dave faces a dilemma. Does he put forward his first choice as normal and risk seeing them vetoed, or does he hold back who he actually wants at the risk of a decoy first nomination scraping through? Andrew Mitchell will be watching closely.

London Lobbyists Landed Millions in Filthy Ukrainian Lucre

Lobbyists and spinmeisters who coined it on the back of Viktor Yanukovych’s authoritarian Ukrainian regime are getting jumpy. Meet James Wilson, a leading light at city spin shop FIPRA (Finsbury International Policy & Regulatory Advisers) who looks after firm’s Ukrainian clients. Oddly enough Wilson’s work at FIPRA Ukraine is not declared on the EU Transparency register. That despite FIPRA’s own website confirming that he is in charge of spinning for the Federation of Employers of Ukraine, who are backed by Yanukovych ally Serhiy Kurchenko, one of only 18 Ukranian kleptocrats to be hit with an EU asset freeze and travel ban. Possibly to do with him defrauding the Ukraine’s coffers of more than $1 billion…

Wilson is listed as a representative of the innocuous sounding “EU Ukraine Business Council” set up to “promote trade, economic and business links between Ukraine and the EU and initiate projects that contribute to the development of Ukraine”. The Chamber, whose offices are located in Viktor Yanukovych’s powerbase of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine, holds regular conferences in the European Parliament, where it euphemistically claims to “help to solve market access difficulties”. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink…

Also among Wilson’s clients is shady pharma firm Alcon, who have been embroiled in several bribery scandals, to top it all, he also spins for the State Administration of Sevastopol – who have just declared independence from Kiev, backed up by Russian troops. Presumably they’re going to start paying him in roubles… 

You Cannot Bee Serious

Another reason to want the EU to buzz off. New figures revealed this morning show that DEFRA and the EU have stung the taxpayer with a £1 million bill… for looking at bees. The £1,009,861 funding from the bumbling European Commission has gone to “projects relating to bees” such as the National Bee Unit, the Bee Health Inspectorate and BeeBase, an IT system which catalogues information about bees.  Are they pollen our leg?

UPDATE:

EU’ve Got to Be Kidding
Botched Spin Job Lets Cat Out of Bag

Well done Bjorn Kjellstrom, Head of the UK Office of the European Parliament, for helping the Eurosceptic cause no end. While berating British journalists in a letter for not correctly reporting EU matters, the grumpy Swede has let the cat out the bag: “not all citizens are aware that possibly a majority of the laws that have an impact on their daily lives are decided on by MEPs in the European Parliament.” Something swivel-eyed Europhiles always try to deny…

Via @jonwalker121

EU Spends £2 Million on Trolling Online Eurosceptics

This week Guido reported GCHQ’s sophisticated plans to infiltrate social media and blogs, presumably with the aim of fomenting revolution overseas. Now the EU is plotting something even more sinister, spending £2 million on internet trolls to subvert online […]

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Nick v Nigel

Clegg has decided to martyr himself for the European cause, challenging Farage to a debate on the EU on LBC this morning. Ironic that the LibDems are actually showing some principle for once and are only going to be punished […]

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Marr: Boy George and Barroso

[…]

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Dobbs Bemoans Lack of Whip Action Over EU Bill

As Lord Dobbs prepares for the launch of Season Two of House of Cards on Friday, Guido can report a Machiavellian plot worthy of his characters. The progress of the EU Referendum Bill came to a grinding halt when the […]

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Labour’s Austin Mitchell muses on the campaign:

“What’s the problem? No use pointing at the leader. Too late to change and unnecessary for Miliband is doing well at Question Time. His problem is connecting with the real world. He doesn`t speak people and his protective team of naive kids are playing West Wing rather than letting the leader relate to real people. We could point at the party, shrunk in numbers and enthusiasm because everything, from policy formulation to candidate selection, comes top down rather than bubbling up from below so campaigning becomes the opium of members deprived of any real role, though they`re not even sure what they’re campaigning about, with or for, but its role is marginal.”

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