Tears of a Sleaze

Keith Vaz cuts a lonely figure tonight as his sits deep in contemplation in the bar of the Manchester Radisson. Surrounded by paperwork and an iPad wielding flunky, delegates are keeping their distance as he occasionally barks into his mobile. Guido has been sitting here for thirty minutes watching as the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee massages his temples and stares pensively into the middle distance.

The revelations in today’s Telegraph that the police investigated half-a-million pounds of suspect payments to the Labour MP seem to be sitting heavy. Guido is no expert, but he would hazard a guess from the eyes that Vaz has been crying in the last twenty-four hours. Expecting more bad news tomorrow?

Vote for Me, I'm an Expense Fiddling MP!

The Standard have an interesting scoop this afternoon: a number of shamed expenses-hungry Labour MPs who lost their jobs at the last election are apparently planning comebacks in 2015. Guido is generously offering to run their campaigns free of charge:

  • Dawn Butler – Dawn has lived in Brent all her life so she knows the issues that matter to you first hand. In fact, she’s such a dedicated Londoner that she claimed nearly £40,000 of your money for a second home, despite living within ten miles of Westminster! In her spare time Dawn likes to enjoy her “whirlpool” bath paid for by, you guessed it, the taxpayer (allegedly). Vote Dawn – no expense spared for a better Brent!
  • Shahid Malik – They say there’s no rest for the wicked, but don’t tell that to Shahid. After a long day helping constituents the Dewsbury through-and-through Labour stalwart likes nothing more than to relax in his massage armchair. You’ve already shown your appreciation, you paid for it! Don’t sit around – vote for Shahid!
  • Parmjit Dhanda – George Osborne certainly doesn’t have the experience to get us out of this economic mess, but Parmjit does. He’s a money expert, reportedly managing to get away with sneaking an extra £2,000 in mortgage payments by blaming it on “accounting adjustments”. If that’s the sort of financial nous you think we need in government – vote Dhanda!

Labour’s 2015 intake could really be something special

Balls on Wearing Nazi Uniform: It Was a Laugh

Ed Balls has spoken out for the first time about wearing a Nazi uniform in his spare time at Oxford. Kudos to Mehdi Hasan for asking him the awkward question. His flippant response might well upset some in his party: “Of course I’m not embarrassed by it. If I had the choice again, would I do it? No. Is there a difference between being 20 and being 40? Yes.” Apparently he “went along with it for a laugh. In retrospect I wouldn’t do it again.” Guess you had to be there…

Five Most Popular Fringe Events at Labour Conference

The most popular fringe events today at Labour Party conference are according to FringeList.com as of the time this went to pixel:

#1 Ed Balls MP in conversation with New Statesman

#2 Europe Reception

#3 From opposition to opportunity: How can Labour develop good policy for government?

#4 It’s innovation, stupid: Is the strategy for growth working?

#5 Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East reception sponsored by Unite

Based on advanced registrations by users of the FringeList App.

Two-Faced Chuka Chokes Up Over Shameful Past

Chuka’s speech to the Labour conference hall today was notably understated. While Ed Balls strayed into leader’s speech territory, it’s no coincidence that the ambitious shadow business secretary kept things low-key. The lobby saw straight through him:

Much more interesting than Chuka’s speech was his little chat with the Channel 4 team last night. Putting on his caring, emotional face, Chuka admitted:

“The people who work for me, as far as I’m concerned, are underpaid, they work 24/7 for the Labour party and because they are deemed to be an expense they are not paid what they deserve for serving my community or serving us nationally as a party. I think it is outrageous. I’m ashamed of what we pay the people who work for us.”

That hasn’t stopped him from advertising for unpaid “volunteers” not once, not twice, but three times. His two-faced hypocrisy knows no bounds. Which Chuka will we see tomorrow?

Check out the latest Telegraph totty…

…Over on MediaGuido

Telegraph Totty Watch

The big media move today sees the Telegraph set up its new girls-only Wonder Women feature. Promising “sassy, irreverent and intelligent content about politics, business, family, life and sex”, the new women’s section has attracted an array of talent. Edited by tech hack Emma Barnett, Wonder Women’s star recruitments include comedian Katy Brand and Cathy Newman from Channel 4 News. Former high class call girl Belle de Jour, now known as Brooke Magnanti, will be talking sex and entrepreneur Emma Sinclair is giving business advice.

They’re only available online…

Video: Butch Balls Blasts Dave

Promising to take a long, hard look at spending whilst not actually committing to cutting anything is classic Balls. Guido enjoyed his line that “If David Cameron is butch, where does that leave George Osborne?”, and the conference hall loved the “Flatline Kid” gag. It was a leader’s speech…

Video via @liarpoliticians

Treasury Sources Kick Back at Balls Before He's Opened Mouth

Balls seems to have briefed the entirety of his upcoming conference speech already. One of the downsides of doing this before he’s even reached the podium is that it gives his opponents the chance to shoot it down before he’s opened his mouth. Treasury sources are pointing out the HMRC’s own report into the last time Stamp Duty was frozen for first time buyers:

“The tax relief has not had a significant impact on improving affordability for first time buyers. It is estimated that most of the people who benefited would have purchased property in the absence of the relief anyway.”

The only significant impact will be to give Balls at least one policy, however pointless.

It’s well known that Balls still has ‘people’ inside the Treasury and there is plenty of speculation doing the rounds that he had got wind of the 4G auction goodies fund and has pulled a fast one on the Chancellor. Just like George did in 2007 with the inheritance tax threshold hike…

Justine's X-Rated Ed Rant Daily Star Sunday Column Now Online

If you had picked up your Daily Star Sunday yesterday you would already know all about Ed’s x-rated argument with his wife Justine:

“It has happened to us all – you’re about to leave home for an important appointment and you can’t find your bits and bobs. Midweek, Guido was told Ed Miliband “came into my opticians wanting new contact lenses in a hurry. Couldn’t wait. His wife was swearing at him ‘They’re your lenses. You f**king lost them’. He was well flustered”. If you had a big speech to read from an autocue, you would be too.”

Elsewhere you can read all about the latest on Labour’s three red princes, Harriet Harman’s take on Fifty Shades of Grey and which fraternal figure will be leaving Manchester early. Yesterday’s column is now online here.

Broke Guardian Cancel Conference Party

On the train to Manchester Guido turned his attention to tonight’s fun and games: mainly crashing the Guardian party again and worshipping at the alter of Alan. Sadly, upon inquiring when and where the shindig was going down, he was informed that this year’s party had been cancelled due to staff cuts. Apparently it was “thought it would look bad so not doing any conference receptions this year”. Troubled times…

With News International still licking their wounds, it looks like the Sky News party is going to be the place to be.

Read all about the outrageous expenses claims made by BBC bosses…

Only over on MediaGuido

Senior BBC Bosses Claim £400,000-a-Year Expenses Top Brass Splash Cash From LA to the Lowry

Luxury hotels, extravagant drinks parties and first class travel across the world – just some of the things top BBC bosses have been claiming in expenses bankrolled by licence fee payers. Guido can reveal that the exclusive circle at the top of the BBC‘s management has claimed £399,870 in expenses in the last year. Licence fee payers will be shocked at the huge number of spurious claims made by executives on six-figure salaries.

Last week the Beeb fired creative director Alan Yentob from their management board after he claimed nearly £8,000 in business class flights to Los Angeles and New York. £183,000-a-year Yentob also demanded that the licence fee payer fork out £17 for a BlackBerry charger. Some of the most eye-opening claims relate to luxury hotels booked by BBC top brass. Risk director Mike Ford, whose salary exceeds £150,000, stayed in posh Kensington hotels such as the Copthorne Tara over a hundred times in the last year. Sue Inglish might be responsible for cutting back on this year’s party conference coverage but that didn’t stop her from staying at Liverpool’s famous Liner hotel for last September’s Labour conference. £270,000-a-year BBC One controller Danny Cohen stayed in Manchester’s five-star Lowry hotel on numerous occasions, more usually frequented by Premier League footballers. Tens of thousands were spent by BBC managers on first class train travel from London to Manchester following the relocation to the north last year.

Some of the more ridiculous receipts include the deliciously ironic Vision boss Tessa Finch’s £20 eye test and news manager Phil Fearnley’s claim for a short £7 taxi ride because it was “too late at night to walk”. Liam Keelan, Zarin Patel and Roger Wright asked for almost £1,000 between them to pay for expensive leaving parties. New director general George Entwistle claimed £457  for a ticket to Labour wonk-shop IPPR’s Oxford media convention.

Remember, this is all paid for by a flat tax licence fee of which the public has no choice but to pay. This comes out of your pocket…

These Aren't Just Spending Cuts, They're M&S Spending Cuts

The Labour party conference is under way and Ed is already taking flak from unexpected quarters – and not just his brother. Yesterday Marks and Spencers were the latest to twist the knife, with their stand in the conference zone cheekily declaring support for “Plan A. Because there is no Plan B”.

Obviously they’re only talking about plastic bags and it’s nothing to do with M&S chairman Sir Stuart Rose being a Tory donor and a signatory to the infamous Telegraph letter backing George Osborne’s spending review in 2010. Obviously…

Boris in The Telegraph on the party leader:

“They say old school ties are strong in this country, but there is a limit. Yes, it is perfectly true that I was at the same school as the party leader, and yes, we went to the same university. I have absolutely nothing against him personally — he has a very nice wife, after all, and a good degree (admittedly in PPE). But the time has come to say it loud and clear: he is emerging as a total disappointment; and as leader of a major political party, he looks to me like a drip of the first order.”

Unexplained Vaz Cash

Police documents show that in 1997 £136,566 was paid in and £130,427 taken out of an HSBC account; rising in 1998 to £187,103 paid in, including nearly £29,000 in cash, and £191,999 taken out. The following year, £120,394 was deposited and £123,991 withdrawn. In 2000, when the first parliamentary investigation into Mr Vaz’s conduct began, the deposits fell to £8,410. The police report stated that another account was used for salary payments. It concluded: “There are numerous unexplained payments into the accounts and large transfers between accounts that require further investigation.”

Vaz told The Telegraph that he “had never banked with HSBC”. Yet in his parliamentary expenses files, Vaz refunded money to parliament using a cheque from an account held at First Direct, which is part of HSBC. Vaz is as slippery as they come. He should be required by the Standards Commissioner to explain the source of these funds.

Rich & Mark's Monday Morning View



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Quote of the Day

Michael Crick on Safe Seats:

“In effect, new MPs are being elected day by day now, as, amid huge secrecy, small cabals of party bigwigs pick candidates for safe seats.”

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