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…