Jack Straw's Sweatshop

This just in* from a bit of Hansard that Carter-Ruck have not tried to injunct:

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many hours were worked by each special adviser in his Department in each week between 8 June 2009 to 3 July 2009.

Mr. Straw: As working for me as a Special Adviser is, I am told, pure pleasure and stress free, my Special Advisers work exceptionally long hours, often at weekends and late into the evening without complaint, and have not therefore felt the need which they otherwise might to complete timesheets to show that I was sweating their labour.

*Paddy from Grayling was the tipster co-conspirator.

Jacqui Smith : Crime Without Punishment

Crime Without Punishment

Guido is grateful to Newsnight’s David Grossman for revealing how it passed that Jacqui Smith’s investigation by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and critical report to to the Committee on Standards and Privileges resulted in a mere slap on the wrist.

Guido has, for once, no complaints about Commissioner John Lyon’s report to the Committee.  Paul Waugh says that the Commissioner “confided during the course of his inquiry that he has to “keep a keen eye on the blogs”. Government sources feel that Lyon believed he was under heavy pressure to do a tough report…” Good.  It is fair to say that John Lyon and the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics were in correspondence from the outset – remember the Commissioner at first rejected Sunlight’s original request for an investigation into Jacqui Smith.  Sunlight persisted, citing precedent and the existence of witnesses and he reluctantly began an investigation.  (Sunlight’s correspondence was noticeably omitted from the final report.)

The former Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Alastair Graham, is shocked that despite the findings, which include that the former Home Secretary attempted to mislead the investigation as to where she spent most of her nights, the MPs’ Committee on Standards and Privileges ruled she just had to apologise.  Guido has said it before; MPs judging MPs will always give them the benefit of the doubt, it is like selecting jurors from prison.  In this case the composition of the Committee was disgraceful.  One Tory, Greg Knight, was outnumbered by five Labour MPs, Andrew Dismore, Chris Mullin, Kevin Barron, Paddy Tippin and Dr Alan Whitehead.  So despite being found to have wrongly claimed £116,000, to have mislead the investigation and broken the rules, her ‘honourable’ friends ruled she had to merely apologise.  She was not ordered to repay a  single penny.  This is crime without punishment…

Guardian Gagged from Reporting Parliament

According to the Guardian, despite the 1688 Bill of Rights, it has been gagged from reporting a question to be asked in parliament later this week.  The gag was obtained by Carter-Ruck.  Wonder if it is this question:

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.

Note to Carter-Ruck – Guido’s publishers will only accept service as per the requirements of the Hague Convention. Come to Charlestown, the weather is fantastic…

UPDATE : Apparently Carter-Ruck are trying to suppress this reportNot doing a very good job of it are they?

+++ Gordon Brown Ordered to Repay £12,415.10 +++

brown_legg_letterNick Clegg is repaying £910 that he spent on his roses.

David Cameron has been asked to provide more information about his mortgage.

Legg is kicking a few troughs over…

Anti-Sleaze Campaigners Tell Jacqui "Pay It Back"

This letter was sent to Jacqui Smith’s office this morning:

Given she did not offer re-payment with her apology this afternoon, the Sunlight campaigners say they will not let matters rest here…

+++ Jacqui : 'Unreserved Apology' for Porno Claims +++

No offer of repayment.

MPs' Standards Committee Says :Jacqui Can Keep Every Penny She Fiddled if She Says 'Sorry'

The Standards and Privileges Committee concludes

Whilst we acknowledge that there are mitigating circumstances, Ms Smith clearly breached the rules of the house by wrongly designating her main home from 2004 to 2009. We recommend that Ms Smith apologise to the House by means of a personal statement.

Guido is not sure that it should rest there.

Ms Smith accepts that she also breached the rules by failing to notify the house authorities for one year that she had changed the address of her designated main home. Ms Smith gained nothing from this lapse, and the public interest was not harmed. We therefore recommend no further action.

Absolutely untrue. If she had only been able to claim for the rent of her sisters spare room she would not have been able to refurbish her main family home at the taxpayers’ expense. She gained everything from the kitchen sink to bath plugs – which she would not have been able to do if she was just claiming for the rent on her sister’s place.

When her duplicity was first exposed in the media she also, let us not forget, claimed in interviews to spend most of her time in London. When her diary and police records were examined by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, this was found to be untrue.

She has not been asked by the Standards and Privileges Committee to repay a single penny.

+++ Jacqui Smith Ruling : She Broke the Rules +++

Listen to the Piggies Squeal

Stuart BellThe Political Porker-in-Chief, Sir Stuart Bell, who sits on the discredited Commons Members Estimate Committee, is going from broadcast studio to broadcast studio squealing that Sir Thomas Legg “is not staying within that remit, he’s not respecting the decisions that were made by the Fees Office in accordance with the rules at the time.”

Bell is as usual being disingenuous, the Fees Office had little authority or competence to enforce rules, it simply took ‘honourable’ members at their word and paid them the cash, no questions asked.  The Fees Office saw its role as working for MPs not the paying public.  Only in the most outrageous and unjustifiable cases did the Fees Office balk at paying out – for example Tam Dalyell’s claim of £18,000 for bookcases was rejected.

If MPs dare to go to Court to fight for their ill-gotten gains, Guido will be waiting…

UPDATE : Mandy says that he feels that retrospective action taken by Sir Thomas Legg, urging MPs to repay allowances claimed under the previous system, was “a little unfair”.  So because they thought they had got away with it, they think it is unfair that they got caught?  Tell it to the judge…

Rich & Mark's Monday Morning View

Highwayman Legge

Sunday Sleaze

Sunday Sleaze

target-baronessBaroness Scotland is being investigated by the Bar Standards Board, the barristers’ watchdog, reports the Mail on Sunday.  She is accused of bringing the profession into disrepute.  A quick run down the charge sheet for those who have forgotten: she broke employment laws by not providing payslips or paying all the taxes due at the time, she provided no written contract of employment and effectively paid her housekeeper cash in hand.  She was fined £5,000 for breaking the laws she herself introduced that were designed to punish unscrupulous employers from hiring illegal immigrants.  She has hardly enhanced the reputation of the Bar has she?

The Sunlight Centre For Open Politics claimed in formal submissions to the Bar Standards Board that the Baroness had ‘breached the Barrister’s Code of Conduct by acting in a way that damages the profession’s reputation’. Incidentally, Baroness Scotland, as the highest law officer in the land, is nominally the head of the Bar.  Unlike many of her illustrious predecessors, she is however clearly without shame…

In the coming weeks Guido is looking forward to the next round of expense scandal, the 2008 – ’09 expenses are soon to be released and the Legg letters are going to demand re-payments from MPs who ‘mis-claimed’.   Hundreds of MPs will have to repay over-claims (they are always over-claims) for mortgage repayments that paid down mortgage capital rather than merely covered the interest.  Tory grandees will be asked to repay claims for their stately homes, Nick Clegg will have to justify his serial refurbishment of home(s) at our expense, Gordon Brown will have to justify and probably repay his claims for a Sky Sports subscription and did we really need to pay to have his shirts ironed? It is not as if his wife has a job…

Not forgetting that we have Sir Christopher Kelly’s report with recommendations to the Committee on Standards in Public Life due soon.  The shadow report was tough on sleaze, tough on the causes of sleaze…

UPDATE : Guido almost forgot to mention multi-millionaire Labour peer Lord Paul, a big party donor and financial supporter of Gordon’s ambitions, blatantly fiddling his expenses. They are all at it…

Hislop Bitch Slaps Yvette on Inheritance Tax

[bbc-news video=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8298203.stm width=480 height=380]

Bit late with this.  Can’t understand why Tory spokesmen don’t make this point more often – Labour thought cutting inheritance tax was such a bad idea that they copied it. Doh!

+++ Brown Visits Moorfields Eye Hospital ++++++ Specialists Identify Two Minor Tears on His Retina +++

Downing Street confirms.

Brown has always kept his medical problems secret in the past, following that Marr question we were told it was a private matter.  Are we being softened up for a health related stand down?

He has run away from every competitive election he ever faced…

Saturday Seven Up

7upIf you were not one of the 59,754 visitors viewing 392,466 blog pages over the last seven days, here are the seven most popular stories that you missed:

    Marr Asks Dave “Are You Worth £30 Million?”

    Tories Ecstatically Optimistic

    Attack Dog Chases Own Tale

    Friday Caption Contest (Katherine Jenkins Edition)

    Lord Falconer at Tory Conference

    Night in the Cell for Champagne Grabber

    Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

You are either in front of Guido, or behind…

The State of Play Post-Conference

rsz_yg-today-votingintentionNote that Labour’s number drops back before the end of their conference, immediately after Brown’s speech.  In contrast the speeches of Clegg and Cameron lifted their respective party’s numbers.  He is a Jonah for the Labour Party and the country…

Taking Offence: Satire and Offence

freewordIf you are in the Islington area tonight, Guido is chairing a discussion with Martin Rowson, leading cartoonist and author, Caspar Melville, editor of New Humanist, to discuss the impact of the growing sensitivity to offence on political debate.

More details here.

Kaminski : "New Statesman's Shoddy Journalism"

Almost every time Guido writes about James Macintyre an email arrives in the inbox complaining about everything from mis-spelling his name to not giving the whole truth. Once he complained bitterly that some nuance was wrong (that he hadn’t formally applied for a job with Ed Miliband, but had been considered for a SpAd job with Miliband and was furious when he discovered that his close buddy Derek Draper told Ed not to hire him – if you are really interested).

The tone is often: “Are you going to correct that o’ fearless truth seeker? Or just bathe in inaccuracy as ever? Which one?”

Macintyre’s journalism, such as it is, and Guido is in a position to verify this with documentary evidence, often amounts to little more than emailing a Labour spin doctor, and asking them have they “got any dirt”. He was not so long ago sniffing (pardon the pun) around for cocaine-related dirt on Cameron. Fair enough, Guido is in no position to criticise Macintyre for muck-racking. This was the manner in which he got his famous “Obama thinks Cameron is a lightweight” line. It was fed to him.

Macintyre has been pushing the Labour spin line that Michael Kaminski, the Tory ally in the European parliament, is some kind of anti-semitic, far-right extremist. Some have been urging Kaminski to sue the New Statesman, Kaminski tells Iain Dale in this month’s Total Politics

What I’m facing here in the UK is not only a very disappointing standard of political debate, but very disappointing standards of journalism.  Rabbi Schudrich made a statement about the allegations in this magazine. He sent them a statement and they ignored it. They didn’t print it.  Rabbi Schudrich made it very clear that he didn’t want to make any political statements about me, but he wanted to make clear that he has nothing against me and does not regard me as an anti-Semite.  Come on. Just recently, I came back from Israel where I was received at the top level of government.  I had my statement posted on the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs.  The Israeli ambassador to Brussels accepted my invitation to visit our group next week; can you imagine that the Israeli state would receive me if they had any doubts about my attitude towards the Jewish people and the state of Israel?

Now it is clear that either Kaminski or Macintyre are not telling the whole truth, and the Rabbi is the one in a position to settle this outright once and for all. The word is that Rabbi Schudric is going to make a definitive statement.

Friday Caption Contest (Katherine Jenkins Edition)

Dave + Katherine Jenkins

Sir Michael Clarifies His Mistooks

In a piece mocking my old friend Sir Michael White earlier this week, Guido incorrectly suggested that at a fringe  meeting he mistook someone for Ray Lewis, when in fact he says he mistook them for Shaun Bailey.  On the Guardian politics blog this morning Sir Michael writes that Guido is a loyal and credulous Tory on the basis of this logo posted after the Cameron speech:

its-in-the-bag

Which is of course such an off message piss-take, rather than a credulous knicker-wetting show of enthusiasm, that it made CCHQ press officers wince.  Sir Michael should really count to ten before writing his 1000 word huffs…

Change You Can Believe In?

ready-for-changeReflecting on Cameron’s speech it strikes Guido that it had some good themes, particularly the attack on Big Government; “government got too big, promised too much and pretended that it had all the answers” and the little reported promise of a return to sound money policies.  […] Read the rest

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