Tories are Making a Strategic Error

George Osborne on the Today show this morning defended the integrity of Tory chairman Caroline Spelman over the Nanny-on-the-State charges from Michael Crick. Does anybody believe the spin being proffered that the nanny was also the constituency secretary – who in that case was looking after the kids when she was supposedly performing her six-hours-a-day of taxpayer funded duties?

It is just not at all credible, stop pushing this line, it compounds matters.

Caroline Spelman will very likely have to answer to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, because if a complaint has not already been made by a Labour MP it will be made by one of Guido’s co-conspirators on Monday. Quite rightly.

Can Spelman credibly lecture wayward MEPs on their expenses now? Can she now credibly defend and advance Cameron’s genuinely hardline policy on expense fiddling? The answer is a resounding “no”. If senior Tories publicly defend her or make excuses, as Osborne has just done, they will re-contaminate the Tory brand.

Caroline Spelman should first of all admit the truth and apologise. Pay back the money defrauded. Accept that she can’t after this credibly be the public face of the Conservative Party’s anti-sleaze agenda. It was only three months ago that Cameron gave a keynote speech blaming the loss of public faith in political institutions on the loss of trust in politicians:

Our Parliament is scorned. Our parties are shrinking … Let’s be clear what they think of us: “you lie and you spin, you fiddle your expenses and you break your promises.” To describe this disengagement and cynicism as a ‘mood’ is to underestimate both the depth and the intensity of the breakdown

Dave needs to “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk”. In Ireland in the mid-1990s the Progressive Democrats, a liberal centre-right party, came from nowhere to a decade of power on the back of a “clean hands, anti-corruption” platform. In the government coalition with Fianna Fáil they ended up turning a blind eye to Bertie Ahern’s personal financial fiddles. They were consequently wiped out electorally after voters lost faith in their “clean hands” brand. Don’t underestimate the danger here…

Spelman Had Nanny on the State

Conservatives are supposed to be opposed to the Nanny State, but Caroline Spelman had the state pay for her nanny as soon as she arrived in parliament in 1997. She had not even been an MP for a year when she started fiddling the system according to Michael Crick. She had a tax free nanny provided by taxpayers by the simple expedient of claiming the nanny was her constituency secretary.

No messing about, as soon as she got elected to the trough she started pigging out. It is endemic in the political class regardless of what colour rosette they wear. Geoff Hoon fiddles his mortage allowance, Tony Blair too abused it (as Cherie implicitly confessed in her new book), Nick Clegg amazingly makes an expenses claim that – to the penny – matches the maximum legally allowed. Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper fiddle their combined allowances and lie about their primary residence. They are almost all at it, they see it as a perk of the job. None are prosecuted, so it will go on. Let us be clear about this, it is not another “technical breach of the rules”, Spelman was stealing from the taxpayers.

Third Tory MEP John Purvis Pathetically Tries to Blame His £110,000 Annual Fiddle on Lack of Clear Rules

John Purvis’ press officer has just called Guido with this official statement from him:
“I have asked the Quaestors to investigate the reason that I did not receive clarification from the European Parliament about my arrangements for paying staff, even though I specifically asked for it as far back as January 2007. I will not be commenting further until they get back to me.”

Blaming the authorities is just not good enough and won’t wash, so allow Guido to assist CCHQ’s Hugh Thomas and the European Parliament’s Quaestors in their respective investigations.

Exhibit A

Article (52) of the EU’s Financial Regulations clearly states:

1. All financial actors and any other person involved in budget implementation, management, audit or control shall be prohibited from taking any action which may bring their own interests into conflict with those of the Communities. Should such a case arise, the person in question must refrain from such actions and refer the matter to the competent authority.

2. There is a conflict of interests where the impartial and objective exercise of the functions of a financial actor or other person, as referred to in paragraph 1, is compromised for reasons involving family, emotional life, political or national affinity, economic interest or any other shared interest with the beneficiary.

So Guido asked him a few obvious questions this morning about his contract with Purvis & Company:

click to enlarge

Guido has found out some of the answers already, you can probably guess some of the answers yourself. (No doubt the mainstream media will finish the job.) He has essentially, just like Den Dover and Giles Chichester broken the rules. Lack of clarity? It is obvious to a 12-year old that what they have been up to is unethical. Paying taxpayers money to their family fiddles and/or gaming the rules for personal profit? Plain and simple crooked behaviour. Whoops-a-daisies “in good faith” don’t cut it with Guido…

Dave : Chichester Right to Go

Cameron has just made a statement on Giles Chichester:

Giles Chichester is right to stand down as leader of our MEPs to prepare a full explanation of how his office is funded. Just as I expect our MPs to adhere to the highest standards, so must our MEPs. The tax-paying public have a right to know how their money is being spent and politicians have a duty to ensure it is spent properly.

13 Tory MEPs Still Hiding Their Expenses Even Now

Giles Chichester has resigned as leader of the Tory MEPs and his career is effectively over. Guido can’t see him being re-selected. As is always seemingly the way with these things we never see any criminal charges. The guilty politician will waffle on about “good faith”, “mistakes” and our old favourite “a technical breach of the rules”.

In reality it is criminal fraud. Returning once again to the subject, there are still, right now, 13 Tory MEPs who refuse to disclose what they have done with their expenses. Den Dover has a very similar set-up to Chichester, with hundreds of thousands of pounds paid to a family firm based in his home, he has a lot of questions to answer. Is it acceptable that public servants who work for the voters and spend public money won’t say where the money has gone? Guido doesn’t think so…

UPDATE : Apparently Chichester has already been re-selected to fight next years Euro-elections. Surely the Tories won’t want to run an expense fiddler? Surely?

+++ Rumour Chichester Resigning 4pm +++

UPDATE : BBC reporting Giles Chichester “set to resign”.

Euro-Corruption : Labour Not Gleeful, Just Audited

Labour’s Richard Corbett MEP has called, he says of the Tory Euro-MPs troubles:
“I suppose I should be jumping up and down with glee but I’m afraid we all get tarnished with the same brush.”

He says that they have fully audited expenses for all Labour MEPs and that he is “not aware of any service companies… Any member of the European Parliament found to transgress the rules should be dealt with appropriately. Labour MEPs have their accounts monitored by independent auditors since 2000. Will you mention my blog?”

Guido is getting his tarnishing brush…

+++ Cameron : MEPs Must Justify Expenses in 48 Hours +++

ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie has been on to Team Cameron. He is reporting that Den Dover and Giles Chichester have 48 hours to explain themselves or have the whip withdrawn – “Zero Tolerance”.

He Says "Whoops-a-Daisy", We Say "Corrupt"

Tory MEPs are led by Giles Chichester, who has been caught paying £445,000 of public funds to a company of which at one time only he and his wife were remunerated directors. Now he has been caught red-handed profiteering from

[…]

+ READ MORE +

MPs to Voters : "We Are Worth More Than You"

The recommendation that MPs get a tax-free £23,000 lump sum payment is a piss-take. This is equivalent to an extra £40,000 on their salary, which together with the pay rise they want will bring their package up to £115,000 plus […]

+ READ MORE +

What Have Tory MEPs Got to Hide?

“You lie and you spin, you fiddle your expenses and you break your promises…. To describe this disengagement and cynicism as a ‘mood’ is to underestimate both the depth and the intensity of the breakdown in relations between the government

[…]

+ READ MORE +

The Price of Freedom of Information

After spending over £100,000 and losing his appeal the Speaker is going to finally hand over the 14 MPs expenses to Heather Brooke tomorrow at 4pm. She will then be chauffeur driven to Wapping, where the Sunday Times will

[…]

+ READ MORE +



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