Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jacqui Says

Michael Trend Precedent is Worrying for Jacqui Smith

Sir Michael White reckons that Jacqui Snith will get away with it. Guido, ever the optimist, is not so sure. The atmosphere currently is very unsympathetic to expense fiddles by politicians, particularly fiddles on this scale. The Michael Trend precedent is not encouraging for Jacqui, nor is is the precedent established by Mr & Mrs Balls.

You may wonder how that is so – after all Ed and Yvette got away with their fiddle. Yes they did, but only after arguing that their constituency home was their main residence. They claimed that they spent more time at the constituency home and therefore that was their primary residence, allowing them to claim expenses for their more expensive London home. That argument was accepted by the authorities.

Jacqui wants us to accept the opposite. That her main home is her sister’s London home where she lodges, so she can claim for her more expensive constituency home. She will have to show that she spends more time at the London flat than seeing her own kids. Crucially, is it three or is it four days a week that she spends away from her kids? The Balls’ argued successfully that in the recess and school holidays they spent the majority of the time away from London, it is hard to believe that Jacqui would stay in London when parliament is in recess and remain away from her family. Why would she do that when she was previously a whip? There would be no reason to stay away from her family and constituency.
That recent Balls precedent is going to be a difficult obstacle. However the Michael Trend precedent is even more worrying for Jacqui. In 2003 the Tory MP was found guilty of abusing the allowances system and ordered to repay £90,277, he was also suspended from parliament and stood down in disgrace at the following election. His crime was to claim the same allowance as Jacqui has when he was staying with a friend in London. Trend claimed he “believed that I could properly continue to designate London as ‘home’ for the purposes of ACA, even though, in domestic terms, Windsor had become my “main residence”.” This is apparently Jacqui’s position. It was not accepted. There was no doubt in the Standard’s Committee’s minds that there was no “real scope for doubt that the words “main residence” were intended to have other than their natural meaning.”

The Committee ruled that “Mr Trend should have recognised that, by claiming Additional Costs Allowance in relation to his Windsor home, the taxpayer was meeting some of the core running costs of what was in reality his main residence. He should have realised that this was wrong. Accordingly, we agree with the Commissioner that Mr Trend was negligent and has breached the Code of Conduct by making improper use of the Additional Costs Allowance and by failing strictly to observe the administrative rules relating to the Allowance.”

It is hard to see how, in these parallel circumstances, Jacqui Smith should not suffer the same fate. Ordered to repay the fiddled £116,000 and suspended from parliament. In which case she will have to resign as Home Secretary.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Anti-Corruption Group Calls for Investigation of Jacqui Smith

The Centre for Open Politics has written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards making a formal complaint regarding Jacqui Smith’s expense fiddles:

Jacqui Smith Complaint to Parliamentary Standards Commissioner

Interesting dilemma: if there is any question of a police investigation of her “Obtaining by Deception” under the Fraud Act, she would have to resign as Home Secretary.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Labour Sleaze : "Second Home Secretary" is on the Take

The Mail on Sunday has caught Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, fiddling her expenses to the tune of £116,000 – bang to rights.
  • She claims her “main home” is the one she stays in when in London – except it belongs to her sister.
  • She claims her “second home” is the home she owns in her constituency. However her own official website says she and her family live there.
Her SpAd claims “It has been cleared by the Commons Fees Office.” The Fees Office don’t clear anything, they take an “Honourable” Member’s word. The property records indicate sole-ownership of the property she claims is her “main home” is in her sister’s name. If she is in fact merely lodging with her sister, who is pocketing the taxpayer’s £500-a-week tax free? Can we have a Home Secretary who steals £116,000 from the taxpayers?

UPDATE : Don’t forget her husband is also on the payroll (£40,000) doing “research” – when he isn’t sending letters supporting her to the local paper – without mentioning his financial and marital relationship.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Make Blunkett Happy

David Blunkett is campaigning to return to the cabinet for the use of yellow buses for schools.

Why don’t we just tell him his campaign has won and make the old guy happy?

UPDATE : Well fancy that, Guido only intended to make a jokey comment and the co-conspirators in the comments pointed out he is paid £25,000-year by a bus company. What do you bet they want to get into the yellow school bus market?

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?

Seen Elsewhere

Does Europe Really Want Britain to Quit? | Nick Wood
Immigration Nation | Hopi Sen
Tories Choose Anti-Israel Candidate in Rochester | JC
Osborne’s Daycare Obsession is a Time Bomb | Kathy Gyngell
BBC Marr Pinko Trying to Ban the Queen | Speccie
Eric Hobsbawm: Companion of Dishonour | Standpoint
Guido Party Gossip | Iain Dale
Russell Brand Comes Out as 9/11 Truther | Guardian
Health Revolution is Underway | Fraser Nelson
UKIP Gets Professional | Red Box
Kelly Tolhurst Wins Rochester Open Primary | BBC


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Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann on Cameron’s refusal to pay the £1.7 billion EU bill by December 1st:

“Well, then he’s gonna pay on December 2nd”



Mycroft says:

Have you read the last bit of Animal Farm?

You know where the animals are looking through the Farmhouse window?

My TV screen was that window at lunch-time today.

Be careful, the sudden self-congratulatory tone, the slightly pudgy outline of indulgence and you become exactly what you should despise.

The jolly face of the Quisling Cameron poses for your camera has mesmerised and deceived you, you who were once not so deceived.

You were no firebrand, you were a damp squib in my opinion, sorry.

You need a damned good kick up the ahse!


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