The Conservative Party Police and Crime Commissioner candidate for Cambridgeshire has a secret: he is not a member of the Conservative Party. John Pye is running on a Tory ticket despite the fact that he is not a member of the party, and is crucially is still refusing to join. That’s despite him describing himself as a Conservative with a capital ‘C’ in a letter he sent to voters:
Sources in Cambridge have confirmed that Pye effectively admitted to not being a member when he was required to declare his interests two weeks ago, and despite the best efforts of local Conservatives he is determined not to carry the party card. Guido was aware that the Tories were having problems with their membership numbers, but running a fake candidate is something else…
In last night’s statement Wandsworth Council declared that they would be suspending Tory fraud suspect Councillor Robert Morritt at their next council meeting. What they did not mention is the fact that the next full council meeting is at the end of October. Council sources also indicate that Robert Morritt has not had the Conservative whip withdrawn. Wandsworth Tories are back to ignoring Guido’s follow up questions. Despite being suspected of defrauding Wordsworth Conservatives, it has fallen to the council to take to action. The local party seems in complete paralysis – Morritt has refused to resign and is digging his heels in.
The statement itself is once again riddled with inaccuracy. For example, the claim that “all the allegations concern his alleged activity before he became a councillor.” This is just not true. Agent Morritt became a Councillor Morritt on election day in May 2010. When he was sacked from Wandsworth Tories, he was a councillor. A clear allegation made by Guido here certainly relates to when Morritt was a councillor. Subsequent investigations that resulted in Morritt paying back £5,000 all took place in late 2010 when Morritt was sitting on the Wandsworth Council. Silence though…
For the sake of transparency, here are the questions that Wandsworth Council and Wandsworth Tories are avoiding:
- The next council meeting is not until 17 October, so Morritt’s suspension will not be effected for nearly nine weeks. Will he continue to attend committee meetings until that time?
- Will his expenses and attendance fees connected with committee membership be withdrawn immediately, when he is formally suspended, or not at all?
- Does he remain a member of the Conservative Group on Wandsworth Council? If so, does he continue to attend political meetings with fellow Conservative councillors? Does he continue to receive Conservative Group papers and communications?
- If he is still a member of the Conservative Group on Wandsworth Council, what steps have been taken to suspend him from it? When will his suspension be effected?
- Is he still deputy chairman of Putney Conservative Association? Have there been any discussions with CCHQ about this? What is Justine Greening’s view?
- If he is still deputy chairman of Putney Conservative Association, what steps have been taken to remove him from this post? When will this be effected?
- What investigation is it that Council Leader Ravi Govindia now anticipates will be undertaken into this affair? Who will lead it? What will its terms of reference be?
As Guido said at the beginning of this expose, this goes all the way up.
Wandsworth Conservatives seem to be making it particularly hard for themselves by thinking if they say nothing it will all go away.
Lord Tebbit is not very happy with Mrs Mensch and the wider Tory malaise he sees her as representing. Taking to his Telegraph blog, he’s on the rampage:
“…since my day as Party Chairman, Tory Central Office has usurped almost all of the power to choose candidates from the local Conservative Associations. I warned against such a move, which has predictably contributed to the near collapse of grassroots membership of the Party. Trust is a two-way street and neither trust nor respect can be earned by shouting orders. Nor has it done much to strengthen the bond between Members and their constituents.
Secondly, when I entered the Commons in 1970, to be a Member of Parliament was regarded as an honour and a privilege that came with obligations. It was not a job sought for the pay and perks. I cannot look into the heart of Mrs Mensch, but it appears that she has put her newly acquired husband above the constituents that her website still says she was “honoured to have been elected to represent” only two years ago.
Of course it might be said that I left the Commons to care for my wife, but that was in the light of her injuries and after 22 years in the House having given good notice before the end of my term that I would not seek to stand again. It is the apparently casual attitude of Mrs Mensch towards the obligations she had undertaken which concerns me: it is as if these days being a Member of Parliament is no more than a job.”
As Guido reported this morning, CCHQ have not learnt the candidate selection lesson yet…
Guido is a getting a bit worried about Peter Hain. Yesterday the former Labour minister was lounging by the pool in sunny Spain and decided to pick a fight. Today he came back for more, which is never a good idea. There is not room for the whole conversation here, but this is a flavour:
The sun must have gone to his head…
Being accused by US regulators of laundering money for the Iranian government has unsurprisingly given Standard Chartered bosses a PR headache. While the bank’s share price plummeted some 18% this morning. StanChar’s top dogs have responded by bringing in the spinmeisters Maitland – the same comms team employed by Bob Diamond to spin his way out of the Libor scandal so successfully. The bank is insisting that the decision to axe their old alliance with Roland Rudd’s team at Finsbury today after ten years and replace them with a team of crisis management spinning experts is purely coincidental. But then they would say that…
Wandsworth Council have finally opened their eyes to the ongoing fraud scandal at Wandsworth Conservatives. This statement was put out last night:
COUNCILLOR ROBERT MORRITT
Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, is to ask the next ordinary meeting of the Council to stand Councillor Robert Morritt down from all Council committees, following the publication of a series of allegations concerning his period as Conservative Party agent, prior to his election as a councillor.
Councillor Govindia says: “I have been disturbed to read a series of allegations in recent days concerning Councillor Robert Morritt. All the allegations concern his alleged activity before he became a councillor, and none concern council taxpayers’ money, but I believe it is essential to get to the bottom of what has happened. I do not wish to distract from the vital work of the council committees that he sits on and will therefore ask the next ordinary Council meeting to suspend his membership of them.”
Councillor Morritt is a member of Wandsworth Council’s Finance and Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee, General Purposes Committee, Adult Care and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Joint Staff Committee, Chief Officers Joint Consultative Committee and Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education.
Guido will look into some of the detail included here later, but there are conflicting reports over whether the Tories have suspended the whip as well. Guido understands that senior figures in the local party have begged Morritt to resign, but he is digging in and refusing to go. He’s currently still the Deputy Chairman of Justine Greening’s constituency of Putney…
Mark Elliott, Chairman of Putney Conservatives and Ravi Govindia, the Leader of Wandsworth Council are on holiday this week, which has slowed things down. Either way it’s clear to see that the original statements put out by Wandsworth Tories accusing Guido of lying and making this scandal up were woefully inaccurate…
You can read the full background to the suspension here.
Wannabe Tories on the party’s approved candidates list were left unimpressed last night when this hit their inboxes:
From: Chairman of Candidates
Date: 6 August 2012 17:58
Subject: Corby and East Northamptonshire
The Party now has a pending Parliamentary by-election in Corby and East Northamptonshire and we are asking every candidate on the Approved List to rise to the challenge. Our call centre in CCHQ Midlands, based in Coleshill will be open from 10.00am until 8.00pm on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, or you can make evening calls from CCHQ.
To take part please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with the dates you are available to help.
If there are reasons why you cannot give your support at this time, please let Gareth know by emailing email@example.com or Davina on firstname.lastname@example.org
Chairman of Candidates
Before asking people to sacrifice their time and effort in the name of a by-election, would it not have been more sensible to tell the hopefuls the process, if one exists, by which one of them could become the candidate? Or is this by-election selection, as widely speculated, going to be another back-room stitch up? The A-list parachuting operation went so well last time…