Thursday, January 16, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Tory MP Claims Rent For Same Address Twice
Expenses Money Paid to Family of Donor

James Gray is the Tory MP for North Wiltshire. Readers may remember his crowning career achievement of cheating on his cancer-stricken wife with a married woman.

Now a Guido investigation can reveal that Gray double claims on the rent for his constituency office and constituency accommodation, separately charging the taxpayer thousands of pounds for each despite them being at the same address.

Gray claims £4,800-a-year in expenses for his constituency office rent. His constituency office address listed on the official parliament website, shown above, is that of his local Conservative association. Guido phoned the number given, and indeed the person who answered was sitting in the Tory association office. Yet IPSA records show Gray is claiming constituency office rent expenses for a separate address.

Guido’s investigation has discovered that Gray separately claims both constituency office and accommodation rent expenses for the same Wiltshire address: Ganbrook Farm. He claims a further £13,474-a-year for his accommodation, also charging the taxpayer up to £35,000-a-year to employ his new wife Philippa as his diary secretary on the farm they live in together. Yet if you call his listed constituency office number to book an appointment, the phone rings in a building miles away. Gray therefore appears to be doubling up on his rent expenses for his home and office, a ruse last tried by Denis MacShane.

IPSA rental arrangement files show that the landlord of the property is the “Andrews Settlement”. Guido has learned that the Andrews Settlement is the trust for the Neston Park estate, a large local estate controlled by Sir James Henry Fleetwood Fuller, 4th Baronet. Gray has confirmed that Fuller is the recipient of both his office and accommodation expenses, for the same farm. Electoral Commission data reveals that Fuller and his family have donated £1,250 to Gray through his association, and over £20,000 more to the Conservative Party.

Despite the photo evidence, Gray says that his constituency office and accommodation are “entirely separate” properties with separate leases, merely “adjacent” to each other on the same farm. He insists the arrangement is “open, declared… wholly above board [and] absolutely legitimate and honest”. Despite the publicly-listed address and telephone number for his constituency office being the local Tory association, Gray claims they merely “field very occasional calls and forward the tiny amount of post which arrives there”. However you cannot write to him at his real constituency office – for which we pay – because IPSA told us, it is kept private for the “protection of the MP’s security”.

Gray rather amusingly warned Guido: “you might want to be very cautious how you phrase your story.”

Monday, January 13, 2014

Yeo Could Face Legal Challenge for Overt Campaigning

Despite party rules stating that he is not meant to be overtly campaigning, Tim Yeo is fighting hard for his political survival in Suffolk. The trougher even sent members Christmas cards for the first time in a decade and has become uncharacteristically active in his previously neglected seat. Neighbouring MP Dan Poulter is helping to boost support locally, “they’re golf buddies” notes another MP dryly.

If Yeo should win the crunch vote, a legal challenge has been prepared by local Tories desperate to be rid of him. In 1983 Yeo comfortably survived an attempt to oust him as the candidate after a company he chaired was investigated by the London Stock Exchange over a share scandal, this time it might be time to sell shares in Tim Yeo. Local party elders suggest the fall out, division, and defections will be greater if the great greedy green survives the vote.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

£500 Training for MPs Expenses System, on Expenses

IPSA is so complicated that it requires expensive training just to work out how to use it. ‘MP staff secretaries, office managers and assistants’ are being sent on a course to work out how the hell to work the expenses system at a cost of nearly £500 per head. The training programme teaches staffers how to ‘create spreadsheet records easily transferable for use within the IPSA system.’ And who is picking up the £455 plus VAT bill?

“Please note that all fees associated with attending these training courses, can be reclaimed under IPSA, as they fall under their classification of staff training.”

Naturally.

Monday, January 6, 2014

200 Ministerial Car Journeys Taken Without a Minister

More than 200 government car journeys were undertaken last year without a Minister in the car. After George Osborne pledged this morning to make government smaller and leaner, Guido suggests the Chancellor has a look at the government car data for 2012/13 that was quietly published today. In 2012 the government car pool was broken up and a vehicle given to each department, yet a small pool was kept for ‘top up journeys’. Hidden within these additional rides is some very poor planning, or very lazy Ministers, who are using this service to ferry their red-boxes unaccompanied around the country. And we’re paying for the pleasure.

The Deputy Prime Minister is amongst the worst offenders, using empty cars to ferry his boxes 52 times. Hague relied on this trick 41 times and Gove 23. While the worst offender was former Trade Minister Lord Marland, who clocked up a bizarre 61 extra journeys on our tab for his boxes, the LibDems seem to have a particular penchant for this perk. David Laws managed it 21 times, Sarah Teather 14 and Danny Alexander 22 times. That is one cut the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has not managed to find. 

Transport Minister Stephen Hammond is clearly struggling with the 5.7 mile commute from his constituency in Wandsworth to his desk in Westminster; he has got his box sent over 19 times on top of the 138 ‘top up’ journeys he took himself. By comparison Cabinet Ministers such as Osborne, Maude, Greening, Clarke, Shapps and Hunt managed to organise their departmental business with zero such trips. No costs for these journeys were published. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Say No to Yeo: Tim Gets Tepid Backing

Junior minister and topless enthusiast Dr Dan Poulter has organised a letter of support for the re-selection of his troughing neighbour. Apparently Tim Yeo “has a lot of fuel left in the tank” and “remains very active.” On the golf course perhaps…

On the bright-side for Tim, Poulter’s letter is a marked improvement on the effort by Crispin Blunt, who himself survived such a deselection bid. The former minister said Yeo was an “elder statesmen” and his constituents need someone who knows “how to get around the system”. If Blunt actually spoke to anyone in the seat, he would understand that was the problem…

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year Honours Establishment Cronyism
Troughing MPs, Spinners, Aides and Donors Bunged Gongs

Establishment cronyism at its most cynical in tonight’s New Year honours. The party leaders have rewarded expenses scandal hit MPs, spinners, aides, party donors and lobbyists, also buttering up potential candidates and local party association bosses. Their cronyism in full:

  • Sir Alan Parker – shadowy CEO of lobbying firm Brunswick. Gordon Brown is godfather to his son, he is a Labour donor. Has also holidayed with Cameron.
  • Karren Brady CBE – Cameron adviser on fiscal matters who has previously been arrested twice on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. In the running for a Tory seat.
  • Sir Kevin “Morally” Barron – Labour MP and head of the troughers’ union, the standards committee that lets off money-grabbing MPs. Watch Guido’s ding dong with him here.
  • Sir Peter Luff – Tory MP who bought three loo seats, three food mixers, two microwaves and ten sets of bed linen for his country house. Rent-swapper extraordinaire.
  • Marion Dowdings OBE and Simon Mort OBE – deputy chair of Cameron’s local party and chair of its supper club, and president of the Oxford West Conservatives, respectively. See what Dave did there.
  • Sir Keir Starmer – New Miliband adviser currently being lined up for a Labour seat. Well it can hardly be for his work at the Crown Prosecution Service, can it.
  • Peter Emmerson Jones OBE – has given tens of thousands of pounds to Osborne’s local party.
  • Lady Patricia Hobson OBE –  another big money Tory donor.
  • Emma Pidding CBE – chairman of the National Conservative Convention. C’mon.

This is why people hate politics.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

WATCH: Lord Hanningfield Doorstepped

Mirror Clocks On to ‘Clocking In’

Regular readers will not be surprised by this morning’s Mirror splash that shows Tory crook Lord Hanningfield clocking in and out of the House of Lords in under an hour to collect his daily £300 expenses. Guido has been warning of this scandal for years. In June 2010 he wrote:

s0OYczBh“There is also a very obvious flaw in this which Guido likes to call the “Rennard Model”. There will be nothing to stop Lords turning up in the morning to collect their £300 and then disappearing off for the rest of the day – it is going to be an honour system – something that is very lacking in Westminster.  If these changes haven’t been properly thought through then the this system is looking just as prone to abuse as the last set up.”

Time for Hanningfield to name and shame ‘at least fifty other peers’ he claims are up to the same trick.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Two Lords a Leaping into Suspension

Ulster Unionist Lord Laird has been banned from the Lords for four months, while Labour’s Lord Mackenzie has picked up a six month ban after they were caught out in a newspaper lobbying sting in June.

They should be banished forever.

UPDATE: Here’s a thought. There were three peers caught in the fake company lobbying sting: How did Lord Cunningham avoided a suspension?

Does his membership of the privy council make him immune from censure?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

IPSA’s False Deal

IPSA have confirmed their recommendation to whack up MPs’ pay to £74,000. Their reforms in full:

  • A one-off uplift in salary to £74,000 in 2015, an increase of 9.26%, to address the historic shortfall. Thereafter, MPs’ pay will be linked to average earnings – if they go up, so will MPs’. If they don’t, neither will MPs’.
  • A new pension on a par with those in other parts of the public service, saving the taxpayer millions. Following public consultation on our proposals from earlier this year, we have decided to increase MPs’ pension contributions further, reducing the cost to the taxpayer even further.
  • Scrapping out-of-touch “resettlement payments” worth tens of thousands of pound per MP. These will be replaced with more modest loss-of-office payments, which will be available only to those who contest their seat and lose.
  • A tighter regime of business costs and expenses, including ending the provision for evening meals.

IPSA seem to be taking the approach that they have to come to some sort of deal with MPs; that if MPs agree not to fiddle their expenses, sign up to a more reasonable expenses regime, increase their contribution towards their gold-plated pensions and give up their resettlement payments, then they can have a pay rise. This is a false offer. There is absolutely nothing to stop IPSA toughening up on expenses and pensions and ditching the resettlement grant with no pay rise sweetener attached. The only ‘deal’ on the table should be that all these things happen without the condition of a pay rise…


Seen Elsewhere

Cam Cannot Stem EU Immigration | David Keighley
9 Mansion Tax Questions for Ed Balls | TPA
Politicians are Lying to You About Immigration | Alex Wickham
Give Journalists Public Interest Defence in Law | Guardian
Cameron is Going to Have to Deal With UKIP | Dan Hodges
Opinions on Key Issues By Constituency | Red Box
Britain Irrelevant Inside EU | Dan Hannan
Cameron Heading for Fall on Europe | Rachel Sylvester
Lords Speaker Spends £350 on Two Mile Limo Ride | Sun
Shapps Slaps Down Barroso “Propaganda” | City AM
Bookies v Pollsters: What We Learned From IndyRef | Paddy Power


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Chris Bryant talks to the Times Diary about a famous gay actor:

“I don’t think I’ve had sex with him. He says we had sex in Clapham. I’m fairly certain I’ve never had sex south of the river”



Progressive Inclusion Champion says:

Great to hear Carswell call for inclusive policies and that UKIP must stand for first and second generation immigrants as much as the English.


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