Top LibDem Avoided Overspend By Not Declaring Battle Bus

This video shows the LibDem election battle bus rocking up in Duncan Hames’ Chippenham constituency on April 29 2015. At the time the Guardian reported the bus was used by the LibDems to ferry activists from London to constituencies around the country so they could deliver leaflets. It was used for local campaigning in individual seats, just like the buses hired by the Tories and Labour

Below is the short campaign spending return submitted by Duncan Hames. Despite the bus being used for his local campaign, Hames declared Nil transport costs:

As you can see, Hames’ spending limit for the short campaign was £15,236.61. He came very close to the limit, within just £98, spending £15,138.20. If he had declared the bus in his short campaign spend, Hames would have breached the rules. This is therefore going to be a particularly tricky one to explain. The Tories were at it, so were Labour, and so were the LibDems…

UPDATE: Despite briefing the Guardian that the bus “will take party campaigners around the country over the next six weeks running up to the general election”, the LibDems now deny that ever happened and say this bus was only ever used by Clegg, his staff and press, and no door-knockers. Worth reading the Guardian report of the bus tour however:

“Activists, the majority of whom had been bussed up from London, visited nearby residential streets to deliver leaflets and put up the 300th Lib Dem stake board in the constituency.”

The LibDems say that report was wrong and all of this didn’t happen…

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…

MPs Pay Family Members £21 Million

snouts

+ 139 MPs’ family members employed on the public payroll +

+ 1 in 4 MPs have employed a relative +

+ Relatives’ salaries “significantly higher” than other employees +

+ Pay rises awarded “at twice the rate” +

IPSA releases its consultation on MPs’ expenses this morning – the most eye-catching revelation is that MPs pay family members more than other staff, and are more likely to give pay rises to family members. As of March this year a total of 139 “connected parties”, which means MPs’ family members and those with a close business association, were on the payroll as secretaries and assistants. 1 in 4 MPs employed a connected party in the last parliament. £21 million of taxpayers’ money was sent by MPs into the bank accounts of relatives…

IPSA admits that “controls to prevent misuse of funding on employing connected parties were limited”, adding:

“their salaries were significantly higher than the average across all MPs’ staff. Salaries of connected parties had also risen at twice the rate of other staff”

Family members are paid on average £5,600 more than other staff.

IPSA are so concerned that they are consulting again on the issue of connected parties, but only for new staff. MPs already had a 10% pay rise and earn three times the average wage, yet a quarter of them have employed family members on up to £55,000-a-year on top. Stay tuned – Guido will name and shame the piggies shortly…

Rotten Robertson at the Races

Robertson Race Course

Last month Guido looked at the murky goings on around Tory MP Laurence Robertson, who was then referred to the Standards Commissioner over allegations of cash-for-access. Well, he’s at it again…

Robertson has received four fully-funded racecourse trips from bookmakers Gala Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill, as well as two further trips from course owners The Jockey Club. In total, that’s £3,466 of free trips to Aintree, Cheltenham and Chepstow, with the priciest trip costing a whopping £800. Such generosity is only to be expected – in December Robertson raised a couple of helpful questions in the Commons in favour of the so-called “racing right”, a key issue for the racing industry and large bookmakers.

Last month it was cash-for-access claims, this month it’s completely coincidental freebies. Time for a stewards’ inquiry…

Osborne Exempts “Politically Exposed Persons” From Money Laundering Checks

MPs complained earlier this year that they are being hounded “like African despots” following anti-money laundering checks from banks like HSBC. These checks are designed to ensure money isn’t being funnelled into criminal gangs or other corrupt arrangements. Charles Walker was furious that MPs and their families are on the list of “Politically Exposed Persons”, the automatic anti-money laundering watch list used by banks:

“It is ridiculously heavy-handed for banks to treat British MPs and their families in this aggressive way. They should be targeting crooked despots and dictators, not MPs’ grannies.”

Because politicians’ family members would never be involved in anything dodgy…

George Osborne this afternoon accepted an amendment to the Financial Services Bill which will see some Politically Exposed Persons and their families exempted from these anti-money laundering rules. Ministers will now “exclude… specified categories of persons” from the list of so-called PEPs, as Osborne says it is “disproportionate” for banks to include MPs and relatives on the watch list. Mossack Fonseca will be able to whisk MPs and their families through the account opening process…

Feldman Gets Cricked

An out of breath Michael Crick at his best…

Standards Chairman Quits Over Conflict Allegations

Kevin Barron, chairman of the Standards committee troughers’ union, has stepped aside after being embroiled in a conflict of interest row. You almost couldn’t make it up.

Dear Kathryn,

You may be aware of an article published in the Daily Telegraph today entitled “MPs Standards Chief in breach of Rules”. This refers to a position I held as a Parliamentary advisor to the Japanese Pharmaceutical Group. The article centres on the use of catering facilities in the house for one breakfast meeting and two dinners, where members of the group and Members of Parliament met to discuss the pharmaceutical industry in the UK. These three meetings were just a small proportion of the meetings I attended in this role but the only ones hosted in Parliament.

The relationship I had as an advisor was for twenty hours a year and the agreement was that a direct payment would be made by the JPG to the Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice in my constituency.

My own understanding is that due to the fact that I made no personal gain and all the fees were paid to a charity, I had not breached the rules on usage of parliamentary facilities for personal or business use. It is a matter of record that I followed the rules in registering this interest and that I deposited an agreement for the provision of services, as the rules required.

In light of the allegations that I may have breached House of Commons code of conduct or rules, I refer myself to you for you to consider whether any breaches of the rules or the code of conduct have taken place. Accompanied with this letter is copies of all correspondence with the JPG during the time in question.

You may wish to know I have recused myself from both the Standards & Privileges committee until such time that this matter has been resolved.

Yours,

Kevin Barron

Watch Guido take on Barron on sleazy MPs here

UPDATE: A friend of Barron gets in touch:

 “Didn’t make a penny, 9k to children’s hospice. Only stood down temporarily while it’s investigated”

Cash-For-Access MP Faces Standards Commissioner Probe

Laurence Robertson, the Tory MP at the centre of a cash-for-access row following Guido’s two stories yesterday, has been reported to the Standards Commissioner. Edward Buxton, who was Labour’s candidate in Robertson’s Tewkesbury seat, writes to Kathryn Hudson:

Dear Mrs Hudson,

I wish to refer you to the recent allegations that have been made regarding my local Member of Parliament Laurence Robertson and his award of a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist​. 

​The Guido Fawkes ​website reported that Mr Robertson gave “a parliamentary pass” with “authorised access” to the entire parliamentary estate to Jennifer Bryant-Pearson, “a lobbyist who paid him thousands of pounds.” Jennifer Bryant-Pearson is chief executive of JBP Public Relations, a lobbying firm which specialises in parliamentary affairs.

It ​was further reported that Mr Robertson has declared “up to £10,000 in payments from Westminster Parliamentary Research”, which is ​in turn ​run by Bryant-Pearson. ​The Telegraph has reported that ​Mr Robertson is ​employed as ​a board member at Veolia Environmental Services ​and “has declared thousands of pounds in payments from Veolia since 2013.” ​Veolia Environmental Services has been described as “one of the main clients” of JBP Public Relations.

​The overlap between Bryant-Pearson; JBP Public Relations; Westminster Parliamentary Research; Veolia Environmental Services and Laurence Robertson seems to have allowed Mr Robertson to sponsor “Bryant-Pearson for a pass while he was in the pay of her client.”

Mr Robertson has ​claimed “Ms Bryant-Pearson carried out work supporting All Party Groups (APPG), secretarial duties, publicity, arranging and attending meetings and translation services,” however the use of parliamentary passes for ​APPG staff ​was withdrawn on 18 July 2013 and the Serjeant at Arms wrote to ​all ​MPs informing them “that this category of pass should not be used in the future”. Yet the pass in question was still held by Ms Bryant-Pearson until ​a few months ago. If I may can I refer you to the final words of the Guido Fawkes blog post: “it stinks…”

The entire case raises ​fundamental questions and concerns over the conduct and judgement of Mr Robertson. I would be grateful if you would investigate this matter and inform me of the outcome.

Kind Regards,

Edward Buxton

Giving a pass to a lobbyist for APPG work is explicitly banned by the Serjeant at Arms, and Robertson confessed to Guido in writing that this is what he has done. Add in the £40,000 changing hands and this is going to be a very difficult one to explain…

Cash-For Access Tory MP Paid £30,000 By Lobbyist’s Client

This morning Guido revealed a Tory MP has given a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist who paid him thousands of pounds. Laurence Robertson was paid £10,000 by a firm run by Jennifer Bryant-Pearson, for whom he subsequently arranged a parliamentary pass.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Tory MP Cash For Access: Pass For Lobbyist Who Paid Him Thousands

A Tory MP has given a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist who paid him thousands of pounds. Laurence Robertson, the infamous cad who employed both his wife and girlfriend on the taxpayer, has authorised access to the parliamentary estate to Jennifer Bryant-Pearson.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Jim’ll Fix It Staffer Alleges Drugs, Glory-Holes and BBC Corruption

SAVILLE

A former BBC employee who worked on Jim’ll Fix It gets in touch with his experience of Television Centre in the 1970s. Here is his account of drugs, glory-holes and widespread corruption:

I worked there through part of the period.

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Electoral Commission Investigating Tory Election Spending

They say in a statement:

The Electoral Commission has today announced that it has opened an investigation into allegations regarding the Conservative Party spending return at the 2015 UK Parliamentary General Election

The investigation opened by the Commission today focuses on whether the Conservative Party met their reporting obligations under the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000, specifically:

  • whether the spending reported by the party in its 2015 UKPGE campaign spending return, in relation to the Royal Harbour Hotel Ramsgate, was notnational campaign spending and therefore should not have been included in the party’s return;
  • whether spending on the Premier Inn Margate was national campaign spending and therefore should have been included in the party’s 2015 UKPGE campaign spending return.
[…]

+ READ MORE +

Cops Called on Tory Hotel Overspend

Labour’s defeated Newark candidate Michael Payne has called the police in to investigate the Tories’ apparent by-election overspend. Watch Michael Crick’s report and read Guido’s story from this morning to see what they will be looking at. Now to see if this actually goes anywhere…[…]

+ READ MORE +

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 MORE +

Tory Overspend in UKIP By-Elections

Michael Crick reckons he has enough to call in the cops on alleged Tory by-election overspends. Did the Tories break the rules with their hotel bills in Newark, and while fighting UKIP in Clacton and Rochester?[…]

+ READ MORE +

Israeli Ex-Ambassador ‘Late Night Visits’ Scandal Brewing

The Guardian reports that Israel’s most recent ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, returned to Jerusalem “after being repeatedly warned over security breaches at his residence in St John’s Wood”. Apparently “the breaches related to late night visits by individuals to his official home”. […]

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

David Cowling, the BBC’s head of political research, in an internal memo…

“It seems to me that the London bubble has to burst if there is to be any prospect of addressing the issues that have brought us to our current situation. There are many millions of people in the UK who do not enthuse about diversity and do not embrace metropolitan values yet do not consider themselves lesser human beings for all that. Until their values and opinions are acknowledged and respected, rather than ignored and despised, our present discord will persist. Because these discontents run very wide and very deep and the metropolitan political class, confronted by them, seems completely bewildered and at a loss about how to respond (“who are these ghastly people and where do they come from?” doesn’t really hack it). The 2016 EU referendum has witnessed the cashing in of some very bitter bankable grudges but I believe that, throughout this 2016 campaign, Europe has been the shadow not the substance.”

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