Labour Battle Bus Not Declared in Local Spending

Labour should be shouting from the rafters about the Tory election fraud scandal, instead broadcasters report that they can’t get Labour MPs to comment on the issue. Alan Johnson, ambushed by Andrew Neil on This Week, said he knew nothing. The reason, Guido suspects, is that other parties were partial to the same spending trickery…

The “Labour Express” battle bus tour ferried activists to constituencies across the country during the regulated spending period. On February 18 2015 a Labour Express bus visited Ealing Central and Acton, where Rupa Huq went on to unseat Tory MP Angie Bray. As you can see above, this is identical to what the Tories were doing – bussing in activists to take part in local campaigning, which then should have been declared as part of the party’s local rather than national spend. Here is the big problem: Rupa Huq’s Ealing Central and Acton declaration states Nil on transport during the long campaign…

This means that Labour’s successful candidate Rupa Huq enjoyed the benefit of a battle bus for her local campaign, yet she did not declare it in her local spending. The Tories are in huge trouble with the police for apparently doing the exact same thing. This is going to be a major problem for other parties as well… Guido has been compiling a dossier, more examples to come…

Tory Hunk’s Taxpayer-Funded Social Media Juice

mercer fb

Soapy hunk Johnny Mercer should have no problem getting social media followers. Those shower commercials should mean he has all the ingredients required for likes, follows, and re-tweets galore. Surprising then that this Tory totty has charged the taxpayer £2,500 on expenses for “professional services” on social media management. His Twitter following stands at a relatively modest 13,579 – fewer than many 2015 intake colleagues – and his Facebook page has a mere 3,708 likes. His YouTube channel has a paltry 33 subscribers and his last video had just three views. If Johnny wants to boost his following, selfies are probably a better approach…

CCHQ’s Battle Bus Guidance Revealed

battlebus

Where do the Tories stand on the election fraud scandal? They are bang to rights on failing to declare £38,000 of hotel bills for Tory activists, blaming an “administrative error”. The issue of transport – the fabled “battle buses” – is contested. There are three outcomes here. Are CCHQ right when they say they’ve done nothing wrong? Did they breach the rules on national and local spending? Or was there a conspiracy to hide spending from the official declarations?

Leaked emails reveal CCHQ told their local campaign teams that the cost of hotels and battle buses would be “accounted for out of central campaign spend”. It stressed transport within the seat was not included: “For legal reasons the Battlebus cannot ferry people around the seat”.

The arrangement had the “personal sponsorship” of Grant Shapps, was “signed off” by Lynton Crosby, Stephen Gilbert and Lord Feldman, and was “supported by Deborah Feldman’s Team in CCHQ“. That’s Lord Feldman’s sister.

The good news for the Tories is this shows they did see battle buses as part of the national campaign all along, and demonstrates they were taking steps to abide by spending laws. So they can argue there wasn’t a conspiracy to hide the cash. The bad news? If the cops find it should have gone down as local spend, the party chairman and his sister are implicated…

Scandal-Hit Lavery’s Shredding Expenses Splurge

Readers will be aware that shadow minister Ian Lavery has been mired in a scandal over how he benefited from a miners’ benevolent fund – catch up here if not. The Labour union man has dodged questions on this for weeks and lost the support of many colleagues, who’ve been angered by the revelations involving a £250,000 loan, £60,000 of redundancy pay and £85,426 in additional redundancy costs. Guido is amused by another sum of money: the £283.50 Lavery recently claimed on expenses for services from Shred-It, a company which “provides the most secure and efficient confidential information destruction service in the industry.” If only he’d used them back in the day he wouldn’t have all this grief…

Electoral Commission Takes Tories to High Court

battlebus

The Electoral Commission is taking the Tories to the High Court to force them to disclose documents pertaining to the electoral expenses scandal:

“The Commission issued the Conservative and Unionist Party with two statutory notices requiring the provision of material relevant to its investigation. However, the Party has only provided limited disclosure of material in response to the first notice (issued on 18 February 2016) and no material in response to the second notice (issued on 23 March 2016). That follows the Commission granting extensions of time to comply… We are today asking the court to require the Party to fully disclose the documents and information we regard as necessary to effectively progress our investigation into the Party’s campaign spending returns.”

Revenge of the Clarke…

UPDATE: A Tory spokesman says the Electoral Commission have jumped the gun:

“We advised the Electoral Commission on 29th April that we would comply with their notices by 1pm today – and we will do so. There was no need for them to make this application to the High Court.”

Bus-ted: Tories Admit Dodgy Election Expenses

battlebus

The outrageous expense fiddling in South Thanet revealed by Channel 4 earlier this year led to a full blown Electoral Commission investigation. While previously the Tories have denied any knowledge of wrongdoing, a new investigation by Channel 4 has prompted the party to come clean over the £38,000 cost of accommodation for Battlebus activists:

” As is apparent from our National Return, the Party declared expenditure related to our CCHQ-organised Battlebus.

However, due to administrative error it omitted to declare the accommodation costs of those using the vehicles. This is something we have already brought to the attention of the Electoral Commission in order to amend the return.  

The Party always took the view that our national Battlebus, a highly-publicised campaign activity, was part of the National Return – and we would have no reason not to declare it as such, given that the Party was some millions below the national spending threshold. Other political parties ran similar vehicles which visited different Parliamentary constituencies as part of their national campaigning.”

If the Conservatives are found to have paid the hotel bills for Battlebus campaigners on locally focussed campaigns, then not declaring the accommodation could constitute a criminal offence. Channel 4’s investigation is set to air on the news tonight. Guido will be watching…

IPSA: MPs Can Use Expenses to Campaign on Referendum

expenses

Cameron has imposed strict rules on the campaign activities of ministers and SpAds during the referendum, and CCHQ have banned Tory associations from using party resources to campaign for Leave. So Eurosceptic MPs are delighted with a ruling by IPSA last night allowing them to use their office and business costs to campaign on the referendum. The expenses watchdog says MPs’ staff, office resources, websites and casework capacity may be used for campaigning:

“Our approach to MPs’ claims for costs and expenses relating to the EU referendum will be, in essence, no different to claims relating to MPs expressing their views or attending events relating to, for example, the environment. It is a cross-party matter of great importance to the future of the United Kingdom, and, therefore MPs will be expected by their constituents to have a view on the matter and to be making arguments either for remaining or for leaving.”

The only exception will be leaflet production, which remains prohibited. In light of the strict rules imposed on them by their government and party, Eurosceptic Tory MPs are delighted with the ruling. They see it as “game on”. It does of course also mean yet more taxpayer money will be spent on the Remain campaign too…

MPs Send £1 Million of Expenses Offshore

Over £1 million of taxpayers’ money has been diverted to offshore property companies through the MPs’ expenses system. In 2012-13, 13 MPs were paying rent expenses for properties in the luxury riverside Dolphin Square complex, made famous as the home of coke-snorting Lords (and worse).

Records show MPs including top Corbyn allies Steve Rotheram, Nic Dakin and Shabana Mahmood paid the expenses cash to subsidiaries of Westbrook Dolphin Square Ltd. This is a network of 612 companies which own two flats each in Dolphin Square. All 612 companies are registered in Jersey…

Tory MP Jonathan Evans meanwhile paid rent expenses to Abal Establishment, a property company with offices in London but which is registered in the tax haven of Lichtenstein:

Overall in 2012-13 MPs sent over £230,000 of taxpayer cash to tax-avoiding offshore property companies. Extrapolating these figures means over the course of the last parliament well over £1 million of your money was sent offshore so MPs could live it up in London…

Danczuk Told to Pay Back £11,500

The report by IPSA’s compliance officer into Simon Danczuk’s expenses finds:

The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the MP obtained an increase to his Accommodation Expenditure budget by claiming dependant uplifts for his two oldest children for a period of over three years, when, at no point were either of the children routinely resident.

[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

SNP MP Puts Luxury Jermyn Street Shirts on Expenses

BOSWELL SHIRTS

Walking expenses catastrophe Phil Boswell tried to claim £136.95 worth of luxury shirts on expenses just four days after being elected. The SNP MP attempted to bill the taxpayer £29.95 for items from high-end Jermyn Street tailor TM Lewin, £59 for a single shirt and £48 for clothing from Next.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Electoral Commission: We Can’t Stop Expense Fiddles

Crick Electoral

The impotent Electoral Commission have pleaded for greater authority to investigate election spending fiddles in the wake of the Tory overspend exposed by Michael Crick:

“The Electoral Commission has called again today for greater fairness and clarity around the current regulatory framework for candidates at elections.

[…] Read the rest

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Crick Reveals More Tory Expense Fiddles

Channel 4 News last night exposed more allegations about Tory overspending in South Thanet. Michael Crick’s investigation revealed:

  • More hotels booked that were not declared.
  • CCHQ Campaign Specialist Marion Little personally booked hotel rooms in her name, registered to her home adress in Hertfordshire.
[…] Read the rest

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Third MP in Two Months Facing Expenses Probe

IPSA say they are investigating loud mouth SNP MP Phil Boswell over expenses irregularities:

The Compliance Officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has opened an investigation to determine whether Mr Phil Boswell MP has been paid an amount under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) that should not have been allowed.

[…] Read the rest

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How Tories Hid Hotel and Transport Bills in Newark

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.[…] Read the rest

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IPSA Launch Danczuk Probe

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.

[…] Read the rest

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SNP Expenses Crusader Employs His Own Wife

SNP Nepotism

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.

[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Tory MP Stewart Jackson on Bob Geldof:

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