Thursday, April 3, 2014

It’s Miller Time – But Look Over There at Hunt

The Standards Committee report into Maria Miller is out at 11am, with the Culture Secretary expected to be ordered to repay £5,000 of the £90,000 she claimed in mortgage payments for a second home lived in by her parents. Labour minister Tony McNulty resigned in 2009 over a similar arrangement and Miller has so far offered no explanation for why she suddenly stopped claiming when the MPs expenses scandal broke. If it was legit at the time why stop?

Oh and she is briefing that she simply ‘forgot’ to change the morgage claims when there was a change in rates. Whoopsy daisy.

It’s the cover-up that makes this the real issue: Miller used her role in charge of press regulation to threaten journalists reporting the story. If as a Secretary of State she is also found to have failed to cooperate with the inquiry into her expenses, how does that not cross the line? And how clever to put out the Plain Packaging statement at the same time as the report.

See also: Maria Miller Sells Second Home for £1 Million Profit, Maria Miller Makes Six Figure Profit on Second Home, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, £90,000 Question for Maria Miller.

UPDATE:

What time was the decision made to rush out the plain packaging announcement to coincide with the Maria Miller report, and why?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hinduja Poachers Turn Passport Gamekeepers

The Home Office can certainly say their choice for the new international enquiry service, which will provide information about visa applications, has plenty of expertise. The “improved service”  to give people advice on going through the visa application process will be delivered by none other than the passport specialising Hinduja brothers’ company Hinduja Global Solutions. Poor Mandy’s phone isn’t going to stop ringing…

Evans: “It’s Amazing What Two Grown People Can Do on Sofas”

Today in court Nigel Evans denied sexually assaulting several alleged male victims, accusing the prosecution of trying to paint him as “a cross between Alan Clark, Oscar Wilde and Benny Hill”. Evans said he could not recall two alleged assaults that had taken place while he was drunk, also dismissing claims he put his hands down another man’s boxer shorts on his sofa as “affection”, arguing that “there was affection between us… As you can see from the texts that are available, [there are] kisses at the end of them”. On the alleged sofa incident, Evans said he was looking for:

“A reaction. Hopefully that he might turn around, that something might have happened, that the pass would be accepted and we might take that further in a direction which we both would be happy… It’s amazing what two grown people can do on sofas, Mr Heywood.”

He says he stopped at the man’s stomach. The case continues…

Monday, March 31, 2014

Pickles “Looking Very Closely” at Rahman Allegations

Tonight’s Panorama investigation into Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman alleged that he personally redirected £6 million worth of grants to projects of his choice, against the advice of council officers and with no explanation. Millions of pounds worth of grants were paid to projects involving the local Bengali, Bangladeshi and Somali communities, which Rahman relies on for re-election. Panorama also revealed the chief reporter of a UK-Bangladeshi TV channel censured by Ofcom for pro-Rahman bias is paid £50,000 a year by Rahman as an adviser. Rahman said it was “against his human rights” to be asked questions in a public meeting.

A source close to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles says of the allegations “we are looking at it very closely”. The most likely measure seems to be appointing an inspector to oversee how Tower Hamlets is run. He’ll be in for a treat…

See also: Loony Lutfur Calls Cops on “Racist” Panorama

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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

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…

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

“Oh God, It’s Happening to Me Now”

Today in court three alleged victims of sex offences at the hands of Nigel Evans gave evidence against the former Deputy Speaker. The first alleged victim told the court he felt a “very drunk” Evans put his hand down his trousers in a Soho bar. He said he thought at the time “oh god it’s happening to me now… if I don’t walk away I am going to hit him,” and that “it wasn’t a comedy squeeze. I knew what he was doing, he knew what he was doing.” Evans was, he said, “like a drunken 14 year old at a school disco who couldn’t chat you up with words”. Another witness present confirmed they also saw Evans put his hand down the man’s trousers. Under cross-examination, the alleged victim played down the incident, saying “he was just being drunk Nigel” and that he didn’t consider himself the victim of a crime.

The second alleged victim told the court a “very clearly very heavily intoxicated” Evans put his hands down his trousers at Tory party conference in 2003. He said he told Conor Burns, now a  Tory MP, that Evans was subsequently put to bed. He said he told then junior whip Mark Hoban what had happened and that he considered it something he could leave the whips to resolve. The alleged victim described Evans as “a drunken letch at a bar” and said that “although I thought his behaviour was unacceptable I didn’t want it to be pursued.”

The third alleged victim claimed Evans tried to kiss him at parliament’s Strangers bar. He said that when he left the bar to use the bathroom Evans called him into another room and leaned in to kiss him. He told him “No, we’re not doing that” and pushed him away. A friend later dismissed the incident, saying “that’s what Nigel can be like”. The trial continues…

Via @stepholiversky, @evansma, @rachelsmithlep and @joshhalliday.

Friday, February 28, 2014

LibDems Keep Child Rape Charge Councillor “In the Tent”

LibDems on Weymouth and Portland Borough council have formed a new grouping so they can circumvent the party leadership and keep child rape charge councillor Ryan Hope “in the tent”. They will be known as the Liberal Democrat and Alliance Group.

As Guido reported last month Hope was finally suspended by the party, four months after appearing in court charged with one count of raping a child, one count of rape, one count of sexual assault of a child and two counts of sexual assault. He denies the charges and faces trial in April.

Despite this the LibDems have now bent the rules so Hope can stay on and they don’t lose a seat on an important council committee.

What’s Clegg going to do about it?

UPDATE: A LibDem spokesman says:

“The party has been made aware of the decision by the council group in Weymouth. The regional party is now establishing the facts and will consider appropriate action.”

Monday, February 24, 2014

Warsi Wars: Questions for ‘Senior’ Minister of State and Chum
“It’s a Tale of Dodgy and Dodgier”

Once again there is a growing list of questions for Sayeeda Warsi over one of her friends. The bitter former Tory Chairman has been keeping schtum after eyebrows were raised when her ally got a lucrative contract from Department of Local Governement that was not publicly put out to tender. The Curzon Institute’s sole director is Afzal Amin and was awarded £120,000 last year, despite him being the Tory candidate in Dudley. It was covered by Warsi’s patch as Minister for Faith and Communities.

As Guido revealed in the Sun yesterday, mysteriously, no minutes were kept of three meetings Amin attended at the DCLG before the contract was awarded last summer so we have no idea how or why the decision was made to award his company the cash.

“It’s a tale of dodgy and dodgier,” whispers one Tory source, weary of yet another scandal involving the bungling Baroness, “but no doubt this one will be scrubbed from her upcoming diaries.” Amin has since endeared himself to the party leadership by accusing the Tories of not doing enough for ethnic minorities, in a very public attack that insiders say has Warsi’s fingerprints all over it.

All of this leaves Guido wondering:

  • What were the criteria for awarding the Curzon Institute the contract?
  • What experience did the company have providing government services?
  • How many times did Warsi meet Mr Amin privately before meetings at DCLG?
  • How many staff does the Curzon Institute employ to implement this government contract, and who are they?
  • By how much is Tory candidate Mr Amin renumerated Curzon Institute?

If anyone can find the ‘Senior’ Minister of State, perhaps they might like to have a word…

Monday, February 17, 2014

Miller Protests Innocence

When asked if their boss was planning on quitting, a spokesman for Maria Miller tells Guido:

“We have always been clear that Maria’s claims are entirely above board. The inquiry is still ongoing.” 

The Commons’ Standards Committee will be the judge of that one actually.


Seen Elsewhere

The Douglas Carswell Shock | Tim Stanley
Carswell is a True Moderniser | Charles Moore
Assembling a New World Order | Henry Kissinger
India’s Modi Bypasses Mainstream Media | Index
Bercow on the Knife Edge | Quentin Letts
Welcome to Mississippi | Conservative Women
LibDems Select Hancock Replacement | Blue Guerilla
Carswell Resigning: “Moment Labour Won Election” | Labour Uncut
Why We Need Change | Douglas Carswell
The Howard Roark of Westminster | Guardian
Carswell, the Clacton Cassandra | James Ford


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Douglas Carswell…

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Owen Jones says:

We also need Zil lanes.


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