Jail For Government Credit Card Misuse

According to The Times “Dozens of civil servants have been reprimanded, cautioned or jailed after spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money by misusing government credit cards.” From behind the pay-wall we learn that “at least 30 officials, of whom four have served prison sentences, fraudulently spent a total of £20,756 on government credit cards in the past five years.” Prescott must be sweating a little more than usual at this news…

Under the new transparency rules, only expenditure over £500 will be published, which means without the leak of Prezza’s whole credit card bill we would never have known about his sandwich binges, £400 taxpayer-funded chinese meals, mysterious cash withdrawals, or the £456 he spent in an Australian casino.

Why isn’t it all published down to the last public penny?

Quote of the Day

George Osborne told MPs…

“Britain will not be putting money into the bail-out fund either directly or through the IMF…. The IMF exists to support countries, it does not exist to support currencies… The IMF contributing money to the eurozone bail-out fund, no; Britain contributing money to the eurozone bail-out fund, no. That is Britain’s clear position.”

Guardian Hack: "I'm a Dodger"

A classic snippet from Kevin Maguire’s column that Guido thought deserved more than New Statesman’s niche, and still declining, audience:

“Boris Johnson’s pledge to take the last of London’s bendy buses off the road by Christmas could prove costly for Zoe Williams, the Mayor of London’s foe-in-chief at the Guardian.Williams, I discovered, is a self-confessed fare dodger. Your columnist’s eye was directed to a hitherto overlooked admission in the pages of her rag. “I actually had a lot of affection for bendy buses, mainly because evading your fare was so easy that to pay was almost missing the point,” wrote Williams in May. “We used to call it ‘freebussing’. I said that to the photographer and she said: ‘But they only came in a few years ago. You weren’t 12 . . . You weren’t even a student. You were . . .’ I was 31. Can I be arrested for saying this? Ach, I will just pretend it was a joke.”

Do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do from a Guardian hack? Well, well. Perhaps Rusbridger can use the same “it was just a joke” line when it comes to their investment and tax affairs

Khan "In Touch" On Prisons

“By abolishing indeterminate sentences, the Government shows how out of touch they are on crime and law and order” screams a press release from Labour’s Sadiq Khan. Something he must know rather a lot about given that this week we learn that a third personal friend has done time in Wandsworth nick – the prison in his very own constituency. Khan used an interview with the Standard to put a positive spin on yet another dodgy connection:

“Shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan was being shown around Wandsworth Prison by the governor when a voice rang out from behind the locked gates: “Saadiq! Saadiq!” Mr Khan stopped instantly in his tracks. Only childhood friends pronounced his name in that way. “I spun round,” recalled Mr Khan, “and I recognised him straight off as one of my best friends from when I was 12 and lived on the Henry Prince Estate in Tooting. We used to play football and cycle round together for hours.”

Was his other childhood friend Babar Ahmed there too?  We are still waiting for an explanation from Khan about his relationship with a chum who just happened to build a couple of websites for Chechen and Afghan insurgents. Silence…

The press release  goes on: “the public want to be protected from serious violent offenders and safe in the knowledge that they won’t be released from prison.”  Is that not a bit rich coming from a man who spent most of his life before parliament trying to get dangerous types freed?  Sadiq wasn’t very tough on crime when he was helping Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s Reza Pankhurst. Then we had his cosy love in with Ali Dizaei, maybe he could become an advisor on policing? Either way he’s certainly “in touch” on prisons…

St Paul's Occupiers Raise Offence Stakes

Not content irritating their own country, it seems the assorted communists, hippies and misfits that are occupying St Paul’s are about to trigger a diplomatic incident. The New York Times has the first clue:

“As they have for 50 years, Americans in London packed St. Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday for an annual Thanksgiving service… Four marines from the detachment at the U.S. Embassy in London, three of them veterans of the Iraq war, carried the Stars and Stripes and the Marine Corps colors across the marbled floor beneath the cathedral’s dome and laid them before the altar. As the banners were borne out again at the service’s end, the congregation of 3,500, many of them families with small children, raised a moving crescendo for the last verse of “America the Beautiful.”

This year that could be a bit of a problem. Guido hears that concern is growing at the US Embassy about the security surrounding the event pencilled in for November 24. Given that the Ambassador and other dignitaries will be there, a full scale security operation takes place. Officially the Embassy have refused to comment on security issues, but a source familiar with the situation has confirmed that even on a normal year bags would be screened, metal barriers put in place, and armed guards stationed around the area. Obviously with the hippy encampment outside the threat level is dramatically increased. Even if these obstacles are over come, Guido isn’t sure that the occupiers coming face to face with the US Marines in their full regalia is going to do the Special Relationship any favours…

Guido put this news to City of London Councilman Alex Deane who said:

“It’s shocking to think that the presence of these squatters may mean that our longstanding allies and friends, who stood beside us when our country was in peril, may be prevented from marking their national celebration at an historic ceremony. I urge the self-appointed “protesters” to clear the site voluntarily. They’re given to mindlessly chanting that “this is what democracy looks like” – so, just maybe, it will mean something to them that we all want our American friends to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving in time-honoured fashion.”

Fellow Councilman Matthew Richardson added: “These part time squatters should hang their heads in shame that they have disgraced the memory of those who gave them the rights they so wilfully and selfishly abuse.” When the US Ambassador Louis B. Susman addressed the service last year he hammered home one point in particular:

“It is an honor to celebrate Thanksgiving, which is so special to Americans, in a place so venerated by the British people. Like many of you, I can remember those iconic images of St. Paul’s, standing dark and defiant amid the smoke, sirens and searchlights of the London Blitz, as if steadfast in the knowledge that this would pass, and victory would come.”

Not this year it seems…

Video: Aidan Burley's Pilgrim Bashing

It made the Labour benches incandescent:

Although the mics don’t pick up what they said, Guido has ears everywhere…

Prezz A Manger

Prezza’s spending wasn’t confined to the land of Oz. Guido has now seen Prescott’s government credit card bill from 2004 through to 2006. It seems he was a big fan of upmarket Westminster canteen Shepherds and has spent £2,073  in Pret a Manger, including £240 in one sitting.  Prezza enjoyed the high and low life, with The Cinnamon Club and Clacket Lane Service Station all featuring. What government business was the Deputy Prime Minister doing in a Morrisons supermarket cafe? Three hundred quid steak dinners on the taxpayer? Why not…

How anyone managed to spend £400 in Mr Chus Chinese in Hull beggars belief…

UPDATE: You can see the food and drink section of the bill here. Next up leisure activities…

Prezza's Aussie ATM Binge

Prezza’s spending on government credit cards knows no bounds. The Telegraph have gone big on the £456 he spent at the Star City casino in Sydney, the  £490 at Doyle’s seafood restaurant in Watson’s Bay and £75 at an aquarium in 2004. However Guido understands there is even more to come on this one. Why for example is there an entry for “Miscellaneous Cash” from an Australian hole-in-the-wall:

28/11/04 £3.10 CASH ADVANCE HANDLING FEE
28/11/04 £154.86 LCA

Leaving aside the obvious financial malpractice of withdrawing cash on a credit card, especially in a foreign country, why on earth was this happening in the first place. What was the £160 spent on and where are the receipts?

Pilgrims Harangued

Guido is waiting for the video, but last night’s adjournment debate was certainly one of the more lively ones in recent history. Instead of a backbencher and a Minister discussing seagulls, Aidan Burley’s rampage against the “Spanish practices of taxpayer-funded trade union officials pulled a solid crowd and sent Labour’s union heavies off the scale. Eric Pickles appeared on the frontbench which is a good sign that he will keep his promises…

Burley’s whole speech is here and well worth a read, especially given that the term Pilgrim has now been cemented in official record:

By way of an example, the excellent, independent and non-taxpayer funded campaigning website order-order, or the Guido Fawkes blog, has been highlighting the practice of paying union officials out of the taxpayer purse. Following its campaign, full-time taxpayer-funded trade union officials have become known as “Pilgrims” in the media, after Guido Fawkes exposed one such full-time union rep named Jane Pilgrim as a full-time trade union organiser working in the NHS for Unison. She came to public attention in 2011 after criticising the Government’s health policies. Despite being billed as a nurse, she was found to be a full-time trade union official, being paid £40,000 by the hospital. She is now under investigation by both St George’s hospital and Unison for running a private health consultancy—called The Pilgrim Way—on the side, creating a conflict of interests. As the website states: “There is no justification for the taxpayer paying a lobbying organisation to fight for an unsustainable mess in the interests of a vocal minority group. We don’t pay the arms dealers and the tobacco lobbyists’ staffing bills”.

Guido is tempted to bike a copy of Hansard down to St Georges Tooting…

Charles Dallara representing 450 private sector lenders…

“There has been no agreement on any Greek deal or a specific haircut”

Forty Cases of Financial Mismanagement in Cable's Expenses

Dr. and St. Vince Cable has said he made “an honest mistake” over his VAT avoidance and that it was “embarrassing and I should have spotted it sooner”. He’s attempting to make this look like a one-off piece of financial mismanagement in order to minimise the obvious “if he can’t run his own business affairs, why should anyone else listen to him” line of questioning. But is this case really a one-off? 

A look at Vince’s parliamentary expenses claims from the last few years show a trail of financial mismanagement. His claims are littered with with late fees, reminder letters and overdue notices. His electricity supplier, British Gas and BT have all sent letters stating their intention to disconnect him for non-payment. It appears he also thought it appropriate to charge the taxpayer for £240 of fines for not paying his fees on time. By Guido’s count there were nineteen late notices or threats in 05-06, thirteen in 06-07, and eight in 07-08. Were these honest mistakes too, or complete incompetence? 

CBI Beats TUC at Football Now Fighting for Right to Hire and Fire

Yesterday saw the third CBI-TUC annual footy match; the pro-business lobby beat the anti-business lobby 4-3 to win the cup pictured above. There must be a metaphor there somewhere, especially given that Guido hears that things were quite heated with penalties awarded against both sides. The row has continued off of the pitch today in the wake of the brave suggestions, leaked to the Telegraph, from Adrian Beecroft. The venture capitalist advising the government has finally put the employment “rights” stranglehold on growth to the top of the policy agenda:

“The rules both make it difficult to prove that someone deserves to be dismissed, and demand a process for doing so which is so lengthy and complex that it is hard to implement… This makes it too easy for employees to claim they have been unfairly treated and to gain significant compensation.”

These employment rules are far more complicated than the offside rule and prevent British businesses from competing on a level playing field with international competitors. Interviewed on Sky News, Mark Littlewood of the IEA called the rules “a real burden and a real fear” in the business world, and it’s true that there are now untouchable elements within all sectors, but the public-sector in particular. It’s nearly impossible to sack a useless teacher…

There are five million small businesses in the UK. If just half of them can be persuaded to take on one more member of staff then this country would not be facing an unemployment crisis. If businesses could hire and fire flexibly they would be less reluctant to take the risk of hiring new staff. There is some suspicion that this report has been trailed today in an effort to move on the debate from Europe with something that appeals to right-wingers, but if anything it is yet again reminding Tory backbenchers of the disproportionate power the LibDems have in government. Before a proper debate has even begun, Norman Lamb, the voice of Nick Clegg, has already come out to say that it’s “madness” and they will block such a move. Sound familiar..?

VAT Vince Dodged Full Fine


With St Vince reeling from another scandal, Guido and several co-conspirators have noticed that he has got away with this one surprisingly leniently. If this tax-avoidance had gone on while he was in government it would have ended him, but given it was so long ago, surely he should have paid more than the £500 slap-on-the-wrist for his £25,000 “oversight“? The Treasury’s rules are perfectly clear:

10% is £2,500, not £500. Pay up Vince, or are the rules different for Ministers over the small businesses they punish?

Merkel gives a glimmer of hope:

“If the euro fails, Europe fails…”

PMQs LIVE: The Battle, Not the War Edition

[orderorder-live-event altcast_code=”930f94e30f” height=”700″ width=”480″]

Mirror's Lawyers Increasing Work Load

Back in July, Trinity Mirror Group brought in City lawyers Herbert Smith “to help it in its dealings with the judge-led inquiry”. Guido has to wonder what this “help” really means and whether we will see some Harbottle & Lewis/ News International style “dealings”. Whether we will get a whitewash remains to be seen, but Mirror Group’s actions thus far don’t exactly inspire confidence. Either way their work load must be on the increase, especially given that the Mirror Group have already had the finger pointed at them

Heated Confusion

After their tent village was exposed as a sham yesterday, it seems the Occupy London protestors, and especially their designated spin-doctors, are getting a little bit grumpy. Guido hears that a Bryn phoned up the UKIP press office to make a complaint about Nigel Farage’s comments in yesterday’s Express about the threat to Remembrance Sunday. Guido didn’t have them down as Express readers, but maybe they picked up a copy in Starbucks. The gist of their strange complaint was that Farage was making “political capital” out of the protest. It’s not about politics, apparently…

Play Them at Their Own Game

If you can’t beat them then join them. Old Holborn suggests that the Europhiles should be played at their own game; keep asking them the same question until you get the answer that you want. Guido is inclined to agree:

 Sign here if you do too…

Rupert Murdoch Won By Bigger Margin Than Tom Watson

The News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch was up for re-election by shareholders last week. Tom Watson MP led a campaign, backed by commercial rivals The Guardian, to unseat him from the board. Tom travelled to Los Angeles (courtesy of union subs) to vote union pension fund proxy votes. Watson’s attempt failed with Rupert Murdoch getting 86% of the shareholder vote, which compares favourably to Watson’s mere 46% of the vote in his West Bromwich East constituency at his re-election (his share of the vote sank 9.2% at the general election). To add insult to injury, News Corp shares have rocketed up 16% this month alone. Hold on to those shares comrades, no one went poor betting on Murdoch…

Never mind, in consolation he got a night out partying on tequila and singing “Come on Eileen” in La La Land…

CCHQ Spinners Verdict: Dave Loses Media War

The CCHQ press office email press clippings and media snippets to MPs some four of five times a day. They don’t normally make for much of read, but their surprisingly candid verdict on today’s proceedings has brought a smile one chunk of the Tory benches:

Lead Story: David Cameron suffers biggest Conservative rebellion over Europe

Clips: PM, Nick Clegg MP, Adam Holloway MP (debate footage), Tim Montgomerie (Conservative Home)

Commentary: The PM says there is no bad blood or bitterness over Conservative Commons rebellion over Europe.

[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner:

“We have no plans to write off existing student debt.”

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