Thursday, January 29, 2009

+++ Source : Conway to be Fined +++

This will be the second Standards and Privileges Committee report (due at 11.00). Derek had to repay money given to Freddie, this is in respect of his other son Henry.

Why isn’t he being charged for fraud?

UPDATE 11.00 : Ordered to re-pay another £3,757 paid to his son. A small fine. and ordered to write a written apology. Not really proportionate to the amount that was defrauded, is it?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Expense Cover-Up – What Really Happened

Margaret Beckett was embarassed on the BBC’s Daily Politics yesterday after PMQs, by vehemently insisting it was clear the Prime Mentalist had just promised a free vote on the expenses Statutory Instrument. Beckett was all over the place and Brillo had some sport out of her discomfort.

In the morning at the Lobby briefing, Downing Street briefed that the expenses Statutory Instrument was to be a whipped vote, yet during PMQs Brown seemed to announce a free vote, until finally it was confirmed at the afternoon Lobby briefing that it had been withdrawn. Downing Street blames Harriet Harman in her capacity as the Leader of the House of Commons.

Guido suspects that the return to a dithering shambles in government spin owes something to the “deputy PM” Lord Mandelson being in India trying to smooth over the mess left by Miliband – though the Indian PM is refusing to meet him in a deliberate snub.

The mySociety organised online campaign against the MPs expenses cover-up saw 90% of MPs contacted by voters opposed to the move. Thousands were mobilised very quickly. Despite this a back room deal was still all set to go ahead until Dave vetoed it.

Shadow Leader of the House Alan Duncan now claims that the Tories rejected the moves on principle, it is fair to say that on this issue Cameron has “got religion” and thinks the old ways are finished. (The LibDems have always been sound on transparency.) However an old school axis of expense fiddlers exists which is cross party. Tory bed blockers and Labour backbenchers all have a highly developed sense of entitlement to pocketing the taxpayer’s money. This particular alliance with Labour, quietly sorted out by Sir Michael Spicer, chairman of the 1922 Committee, in his capacity as shop steward for Tory MPs had agreed a nod and a wink deal with Labour to get the motion passed. Cameron scuppered the deal when he ordered that all Tory MPs be whipped to vote against it. Brown only U-turned after it became clear that the deal was off.

Friday, January 16, 2009

If They Have Nothing to Hide, They Have Nothing to Fear

Whatever your views as to the rights and wrongs of another runway at Heathrow, Guido can see no reason why it should not be discussed in parliament. John McDonnell’s constituency will be blighted by the project, schools will be closed, green acres will be lost, homes will be demolished.

These pictures of McDonnell picking up the mace were not originally* broadcast and have come out from the raw video feed – much to the annoyance of the parliamentary authorities. Why the parliamentary authorities think it is up to them to censor what the people see going on in their parliament is beyond Guido. They work for you, the workings of parliament are not for them to reveal when they choose, it is the right of the people in a democracy to see into the democratic forum. An open democracy does not hide its workings from the voters.

Elsewhere the parliamentary authorities are suppressing full disclosure of MPs expenses. Jacqui Smith has (without reference to parliament) given herself the right to read Guido’s email without a warrant, yet MPs in contrast are changing the Freedom of Information laws to allow them to obscure our view of their petty fiddles. There is no other credible explanation. They claim that it would be too expensive to account for all expenditure – try putting that on your tax return. Some MPs are taking it upon themselves to voluntarily publish ALL their expenses, some will not, draw your own conclusions. If they have done nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide…

*Guido stands corrected. It appears that the BBC has (online at least) put the video up. There was a row yersterday because under the terms of the contract drawn up by MPs the BBC is not supposed to broadcast this type of disruption.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Paul Flynn Loses Allowance Over Rude Blog

Paul Flynn’s blog has occasional gems, such as describing Peter Hain as a “shape shifter”. The parliamentary authorities have withdrawn his allowance because it is partisan. Given that if blogs are boring and non-partisan no one reads them, isn’t it a given that they should not be funded by the taxpayers? John Redwood pays for his out of his own pocket. So should the rest of the troughing politicians.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Taxpayers Want Politicians to Share the Pain

The Fink had a go at punk tax cuttersyesterday despite always claiming that he is in favour of lower taxes (in the long term) – it is just that those pesky voters don’t believe politicians who promise them – so don’t promise tax cuts – is his argument. Well a new poll from ComRes suggests he is wrong and that if a credible politician made a credible promise, it would be popular. It found that:

  • 67% of people now think we are paying the price for government overspending.
  • 59% of people agree tax cuts would be a better response to the downturn than increased public spending. Only 18% disagree.
  • 68% supported an immediate and substantial cut in interest rates.
  • 67% agreed that Gordon Brown should take a 10% pay cut.
That last point is interesting, the Irish political class has taken a pay cut, why shouldn’t our rulers* follow suit? Share our pain, consider it pay for performance.

Incidentally, the ever energetic campaigner Susie Squire from the Taxpayers’ Alliance has uploaded her Ask the PM question for Gordon to answer next week:

*With the extended Christmas holiday this year, MPs will work fewer days this year than ever since universal suffrage began. Not as if we have any issues requiring politicial attention is it?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Credit Crunch : Irish Politicians Lead with Pay Cuts

Hopefully this is another Irish example that will be followed here. The Irish President Mary McAleese has announced that she will be taking a 10% pay cut in light of the current budgetary troubles. The finance Minister Brian Lenihan says he and his ministerial colleagues will also take a 10% wage cut. The opposition leader has instructed his party’s parliamentarians to take a 5% cut. The governor of the Irish Central Bank and Financial Services Authority has volunteered to also surrender 10% of pay. RTÉ’s top six executives are taking a “significant reduction” in pay. This follows the government’s announcement of a round of spending cuts as recession bites.

The Irish ruling elite realise that they need to show leadership by example in tough times.

Will British politicians follow suit? After all their pension’s profited from short selling. Will they get their snouts out of the hard-pressed taxpayer provided gold-plated troughs? Perhaps some of the senior executives at the BBC could follow the example of their counterparts at the Irish state broadcaster? They all want the bankers to sacrifice their bonuses, but don’t the Chairman of the FSA and the Governor of the Bank of England need to make sacrifices? It is not as if they have been brilliant at bank regulation. If they were all paid on a performance-related basis they should be losing 30% or more – the same as the stock market has cost pensioners…

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Evil Short Sellers Part IV – MPs’ Pension Funds

There was a little union sponsored demo in Birmingham against “Cameron’s cronies cashing in on the credit crunch” organised by Charlie Wheelan. Unfortunately they seem to have missed out on the biggest short seller of Bradford and Bingley. None other than his old crony Paul Myners’ GLG Partners. Brown’s favourite financier, donor and deputy chairman of the Smith Institute, as well as Gordon’s personal financial backer during the leadership campaign.
GLG partners declared to the FSA the largest short position in the market, the massive hedge fund profited the most from being short Bradford and Bingley before it went under. If Charlie’s dozen strong rent-a-crowd don’t fancy demonstrating outside GLG’s City offices they could try demonstrating outside the Guardian’s offices. Myners is also chairman of the Guardian’s holding company.

Labour has also taken £1 million from Jon Aisbitt, non-executive chairman of Man Group, Britain’s biggest quoted hedge fund group. Derek Tullet, who made his money providing derivatives broking services to hedge funds, also sent £400,000 into Labour’s coffers.

Guido has already pointed out that one of the LibDems biggest backers, Paul Marshall of Marshall Wace, is an evil short seller with no less than three of his funds on the FSA’s register of short sellers.

It gets even better, the FT has discovered that MPs’ own pensions are invested in a hedge fund manager, Quellos. Not only that, in addition the MPs’ pension fund also made money lending stocks out to hedge funds to enable them to short shares. The hypocrisy is huge here, they condemn short sellers publicly and yet they roll up the profits of short selling in their pension plans.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Return to Rationing?

An advertisement is not an endorsement.  However in the case of the British Legion campaign for better treatment for servicemen Guido is happy to give his support.  The treatment of ex-soldiers by this government is disgraceful.  Whitehall bureaucrats have gold-plated index linked pensions, MPs vote themselves phenomenal benefits and pensions to keep them in the manner they are accustomed to when they retire (courtesy of the taxpayer).  These are the people who determine the pensions of ex-servicemen.
An estimated one third of ex-servicemen are in poverty.  Something is very wrong.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

CCHQ Admits Cawte Declaration Errors Blames "Administrative Oversight"

When you are Chief-of-Staff to the Conservative Party chairman and she is under investigation for expense fiddling to pay for her nanny constituency secretary there is bound to be some scrutiny of your status. Simon Cawte has not yet satisfactorily explained how when she was in charge of the Tory local election campaigns he, as her Chief-of-Staff, was performing a non-partisan role paid out of her Parliamentary Staffing Allowance by the taxpayers.

Off the record and in the comments here CCHQ insiders say “everyone does it”. That is not a defence, that is an admission of guilt.

The Centre for Open Politics has been digging into Spelman’s expenses and discovered that, according to the register, Cawte was not being paid by CCHQ even though he was working at Millbank in the Party Chairman’s office (shaded in blue on the timeline graphic above). After two days of stonewalling by Cawte, CCHQ gave Guido an official response to his questions:

“Simon Cawte has previously declared to the House of Commons Registrar that he is paid for by Conservative Party funds. Whilst this declaration was made in January 2008 it has come to our attention that the declaration should have been made by August 2007. This was an administrative oversight and the registrar has been informed accordingly.”

CCHQ insist, despite the evidence of the register, that Cawte was actually paid by them since July 2007 for doing clearly partisan work. He was also paid by them in 2005 for doing partisan work. In 2006 he wasn’t paid by them, even though he was doing the same job, because it suddenly became a non-partisan job. Guido suspects that it is more likely that CCHQ was only willing to pay for one CCHQ staffer when Spelman was Local Government Shadow – Sheridan Westlake was seconded to her staff as the Local Government portfolio expert. Given that Spelman is about as popular as rabies with activists and donors she was, unlike other members of the Shadow Cabinet, unable to get private funding for her Chief-of-Staff so, in breach of the rules, she slipped him back onto the Parliamentary Staffing Allowance temporarily. She does after all have previous for expediently getting the taxpayer to pay for her private staff…

Monday, August 18, 2008

Coulson Cawte Out Over New Spelman Expenses Fiddle

Over the weekend the News of the World revealed that Conservative Party Chairman Caroline Spelman’s Chief-of-Staff, Simon Cawte, was paid out of her parliamentary expenses for two years (2006 & 2007). Parliamentary Staff Allowances are prohibited from being used for partisan purposes. Andy Coulson told his former colleagues at the News of the World that their story was rubbish.

The official spin from Coulson was:

“It is entirely wrong to suggest Simon Cawte was not paid in accordance with the rules. Simon Cawte was employed to support Caroline Spelman in her role as part of the Official Opposition in Parliament. He discharged duties such as speech writing and answering correspondence relating to Caroline Spelman’s role as the Shadow Local Government Secretary. This is entirely permissable within the rules.”

Errr, no it isn’t.

The Green Book states:

6.1.1. Scope of allowance
The staffing allowance is available to meet the costs wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred on the provision of staff to help you perform your Parliamentary duties. Further details of allowable expenditure are set out at paragraph 6.10.1.


6.2.1. Eligibility

Subject to the paragraphs which follow, all Members of Parliament may draw on the staffing allowance to pay their staff. It is a Member’s responsibility to ensure that staff paid from this allowance are: employed to meet a genuine need in supporting you, the Member, in performing your Parliamentary duties; able and (if necessary) qualified to do the job; actually doing the job and that the resulting costs, in so far as they are charged to this allowance, are reasonable and entirely attributable to the Member’s Parliamentary work.
The issue boils down to: Was Cawte’s work in assisting Spelman “entirely attributable to the Member’s Parliamentary work”?

Timeline of Declarations of CCHQ / Taxpayer Funding for Simon Cawte


Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
2004












2005

/










2006
X


X


X

X
X

2007
idth=”7%”>


X

X


X
X
X

2008
X





/





“X” = No declaration of CCHQ Chief-of-Staff funding, “/” = declaration of CCHQ Chief-of-Staff funding, note registers issued irregularly, these are all that were found.

Cawte was definitely paid for by CCHQ in 2005 – and properly declared that February – he was however back on Spelman’s parliamentary expenses in 2006/7 when he suddenly is supposed to have become apolitical, before once again going back on the CCHQ payroll in 2008 when she became Party Chairman. Spelman could hardly pretend that the Party Chairman’s Chief-of-Staff was a non-partisan role, could she?

Guido has had a look at some of the speeches Spelman’s supposedly non-partisan speech writer wrote for her. Here are the final paragraphs from some of the speeches Spelman delivered during that 2006 / 07 period:
The challenge for us is to help people, help themselves. As the Big Issue slogan says “A Hand Up Not a Hand Out”. And that is exactly what David Cameron’s modern, compassionate Conservative Party is all about.

I say continue, because let’s not forget, we are already coming back in places like Birmingham and Leeds and we control the councils of towns and cities like Bradford Coventry Dudley Walsall and Tamworth. Those places are feeling the effects of a modern Conservative Party in tune with the aspirations of today’s electorate. The challenge for us is to make sure the Conservative Party continues to strengthen its presence in or towns and cities and I hope that you, like me, will be straining every sinew in between now and May 4th to help deliver that.
Reconnecting with our cities 07/04/2006
This will be a new politics under a new conservative government. A new Conservative policy on regeneration needs to restore civic pride in community by raising up and building the capacity of local champions who in turn engage the whole community in bringing about change which people want to see and take ownership of. A new Conservative government will have to provide a framework where schools and education are at the heart of regeneration, a sustaining local economy underpins regeneration, and the regeneration of lives goes hand in hand with the restoration buildings. Our hand should be open to the needs of the poor to offer a hand up where money is leveraged by the goodwill and instinct of people to build a better world around them for those they know and love.”
There are plenty of speeches to choose from, all in the same style, almost all concluding with words to the effect “Vote Conservative” – which seems a tad partisan.

Most shadow cabinet Chiefs-of-Staff are paid for by private donors or CCHQ – not the taxpayers – precisely because they do the party political work. Cawte was also Spelman’s Chief-of-Staff when she was in charge of the local government election campaigns – did he really stay out of party politics when the campaign she was leading was going on? We were expected to believe that the professional nanny Tina Haynes was actually her constituency secretary not her child minder at the taxpayers’ expense, based outside the constituency and doing political stuff with a small “p”. We are now expected to believe that her Chief-of-Staff Simon Cawte was not doing partisan political stuff with a capital “P”. That is not credible. Her stories are full of holes…
+++ developing +++

Seen Elsewhere

Ed’s Constitutional Failure | ConHome
UKIP Poster Girl’s Naked Photos | Sun
Miliband’s Radical Old Labour Agenda | Fraser Nelson
Meet Team Miliband | Dan Hodges
Run Boris Run | Times
Tories Pledge to End Onshore Windfarm Subsidy | Telegraph
Labour’s Plan to Attack Part-Time Boris | Standard
Ex-Sun Hack Cleared After 582 Days on Bail | MediaGuido
11 Times Boris Denied He Would Stand for Parliament | Buzzfeed
Attacking UKIP’s Posters is Counter-Productive | Guardian
Sarkozy Tried it on With Hollande’s Ex | Times


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A confused Nick Griffin says Nigel Farage is a shill for the City, forgetting that City banks want to stay in the EU:

“Farage is a snake oil salesman, but a very good one. His supposed anti-immigration stance is all smoke and mirrors, as is his carefully cultivated image as a ‘man of the people’. The truth is that UKIP is a pro-immigration party that exists to lobby for the interests of the City of London.”



Alexrod says:

It’s money innit.


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