Yet another job for an Old Etonion.
The Osborne train story has been blown out of the water by Mitchell, coincidentally but it’s worth noting that Virgin Trains has come down on Osborne’s side over the train row. The Treasury spokesman claims:
“The Chancellor got a different train than planned due to diary change following a series of meetings in his constituency. As he had no seat reservation on the new train which was crowded, he decided to upgrade – and obviously intended and was happy to pay. An aide sought out the train manager and paid the ticket upgrade.”
And the Virgin Trains statement echoes:
“Rt Hon George Osborne, Chancellor, was travelling on Virgin Trains’ 15:11 Wilmslow to London Euston service this afternoon (19 October).
The Chancellor, who was travelling in First Class accommodation, held a Standard Class ticket. As soon as the train left Wilmslow an aide went to find the Train Manager to explain the situation and arrange to pay for an upgrade. It was agreed that the Chancellor would remain in First Class and an amount of £189.50 was paid by the aide to cover the upgrade for Mr Osborne and his PA. The situation was dealt with amicably between the Train Manager and George Osborne’s aide. At no time was there a disagreement or a refusal to pay for the upgrade. Nor was there any discussion between the Train Manager and Mr Osborne.”
Almost word for word. Can anyone think why the government might be back in favour with Virgin?
Tories are having an absolute mare of a day. This has to be the first time anyone has sworn in resignation to the PM:
Well that should kill the Osborne story…
UPDATE: What did it for Mitchell?
This was denied on Thursday, despite Guido’s witnesses.
Sunday papers were also getting very close on another aspect of Mitchell’s life…
When the train with Osborne arrived the rest of us plebs were kept away by police and iron gates.
Guido managed to snap Osborne and his entourage being smuggled out of a side entrance.
The Chancellor did not do a Mitchell, but this little pr disaster could have been avoided:
That better be out of his pocket given the very clear IPSA rules on MPs travel…
Chris Bryant may have been rude and obnoxious at PMQs when asking Cameron about his Leveson evidence and emails to Rebekah Brooks, but that’s not to say he didn’t have a point. The Prime Minister is still refusing to directly engage with Bryant, instead referring him to this letter he sent to Harman yesterday:
Thank you for your letter of 17 October about my evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.
As you will be aware, on 25 April, Chris Bryant made a point of order in the House in which he suggested that I had misled the House. In making this statement, based on confidential information obtained as a Core Participant to the Leveson Inquiry, he broke an Order made under the Inquiries Act 2005.
The information he used was inaccurate and therefore the suggestion that I had misled the House was not correct. Chris Bryant has apologised to Lord Justice Leveson for his actions and he has apologised to the House for misleading it. However, he has not yet apologised to me.
I am, however, happy to respond to your questions in full. As you know, I set up the Leveson Inquiry. I have co-operated fully with the Inquiry and given them all the material that they have asked for.
I am placing a copy of this letter in the Library of the House.
Why not just answer straight up?
The Manchester Evening News is reporting that Andy Burnham is a rent-swapper. They accuse him of letting out a London home while renting another property in the capital at the taxpayers’ expense. It’s a bit odd given that the Guido did some digging around Burnham this morning and found that he has been claiming thousands of pounds worth of mortgage interest for his home on expenses. Either way a member of the Shadow Cabinet is taking public money to subsidise living in his London flat while renting out another London property at the same time. The people of Leigh should remember that in 2015. Many, many more to come…
IPSA say MPs renting out property they own “is an issue of their own private financial affairs over which we rightly have no authority”, hinting that they will review the loophole that allows MPs to rent from other MPs. It will be part of a public consultation next month and Guido suspects that the public are not going to like the fact that some 124 MPs have income from renting property they own and 27 of them are renting flats in London despite the fact that they already own property in the capital.
Despite this, Guido hears the more feeble parts of the Lobby are hesitant with hacks divided as to how heavy to go on this taxpayer subsidised property racket. Hacks for the popular press are grumbling that ‘the FT and Bloomberg are behaving like hand-jobs’ for MPs while the Telegraph, Sun and the Mail want to gun for them over the latest expenses scandal. The argument that because IPSA signed this off it must sounds dangerously like the defence employed in 2009. It didn’t last long that time either…
Peter Luff was one of the worst expense troughers – his expensive tastes demands from the taxpayers last time around included a £625 china service, £1,583 on dining room table, £500 for Aga servicing, £809.91 for a TV and another china set for £367 a few years later. In short he was one of the worst troughers caught in 2009 to survive the 2010 election.
He has responded to revelations that he is, surprise-surprise, a rent-swapper with a David Laws style defence that the taxpayer would have saved money if he had broken the rules rather than merely gamed the system. In the interests of fairness Guido reproduces his argument in full:
“The new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) expenses scheme did not allow MPs to claim the cost of mortgage interest. I could not, therefore, afford to live in my London flat and I had no choice but to sell it or to rent it out. Having only recently purchased it, I chose to rent it out and this information has been in the public domain for two years, it having been properly declared in the Register of Members’ Interests.
IPSA specified that when MPs are away from home they must live in rented property or stay in a hotel. When I am in London, I now therefore live in a rented flat. This is not my preference – I would have preferred to continue to live in the flat I own, but IPSA’s well-meaning rules designed to safeguard the taxpayers’ interests and promote transparency oblige me to do so. Ironically, the costs to the taxpayer would have been lower had I been allowed to continue with my previous arrangements.”
The obvious question that is unanswered is why a Tory MP on £65,738 thinks that he can’t afford to live in the Kennington flat we have so lavishly furnished with tea sets for him – the mortgage was just £657 a month in 2007 and would be considerably less today with lower interest rates. The average wage in London is less than half what Luff earns. Luff is standing down at the next election before the voters kick him out. Good riddance…
Hidden deep in the minutiae of BBC editorial policy is the so-called ‘managed risk programme list’. BBC bosses will put a programme on the risk list if they feel there are “specific editorial risks, intrinsic or reputational risks”, specifically which could “damage the reputation of the BBC”.
Airing the now infamous Newsnight Savile report would undoubtedly have posed an editorial, intrinsic and reputational risk to the BBC. Tory MP Rob Wilson has today written to George Entwistle demanding an urgent response to the charge that BBC chiefs put the Savile report on the risk list, thereby preventing it from being aired and covering it up. This is serious stuff. Did BBC bosses put the Savile report on their risk list?
The names are coming out. The names of MPs fiddling the system to maximise their expenses by renting their mortgaged property out so that they can then rent another property with the taxpayers picking up the bills for both. Say goodbye at the next election to Linda Riordan, the Labour MP for Halifax, not satisfied with earning three times as much as her constituents she employs her partner in her office on £42,500. Pushing their take from the taxpayer over the £100,000-a-year level.
That just isn’t enough for this little piggie, she rents out her London flat to another MP and skims off an extra £1,000-a-month in profit from the taxpayer, charging a rent of £1,560 on a property where her mortgage costs her some £500-a-month. She also claims £1,473 from the taxpayer to pay the rent for her own property. The combined £3,000 monthly claim represents an extra burden on the taxpayer which would not have been necessary had Riordan not contrived her tenancy. Housing benefits fraudsters go to jail for less.
UPDATE: Linda Riordan is a member of the hard left Socialist Campaign Group.
Her friend Helen Goodman MP thinks Guido is motivated by sexism:
Incidentally, we’re working on more names – mostly male- from all parties…