Probing Siôn Simon’s CV

Labour’s West Midlands mayoral candidate and former MP Siôn Simon has published his “CV” on his latest campaign leaflet. We asked his campaign to clarify his CV points…

Siôn’s “CV”

  • A self-employed small business person for over a decade – I know the pressure of the looming VAT return
  • Government Minister with overall responsibility for an £11 billion organisation
  • Senior manager in a global corporation

Simon claims to have been a “self-employed small business person for over a decade“. Simon tells Guido this refers to his work as a freelance journalist and consultant, which would indeed count as “self-employed“. Whether this really qualifies as a “small business” is a matter of interpretation. When you think “small business” you tend to think of a small firm…

Simon was a government minister. In 2008 he was a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills under Gordon Brown. Before leaving parliament in 2010 he also served as a minister at the same rank in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. PUSS’s are the most junior ministerial rank in the government structure. A junior minister cannot have “overall responsibility” for the budget of a government department. Simon says this referred to the Learning and Skills Council, for which he did oversee departmental sponsorship. The Learning and Skills Council had its own Chief Executive to manage its £11 billion budget…

Simon claims to have been a “senior manager in a global corporation”. He was employed by Diageo in the company’s Guinness division in his early 20s prior to entering journalism and politics. For two years…

A campaign spokesperson told Guido:

“Siôn was a writer and management consultant. Siôn was the sponsoring minister of the Learning and Skills Council. Siôn was a Senior Manager at Guinness PLC, then a FTSE top 20 company, exporting to almost every country in the world.”

His CV at all points stretches the truth, yet for some reason he neglects to mention studying PPE at Oxford, the subject chosen because he always wanted to be a politician. In reality Siôn has been a career politician for 3 decades who has risen on the coat-tails of his pal, Tom Watson…

Mail Goes Easy On May’s Red Toryism

Before the general election when Ed Miliband proposed fixing energy prices the Mail was scathing, branding it a return to the bad old days of 70s socialism from “Red Ed”. Today the Mail welcomes Theresa May’s return to the bad old days of price controls from the Red Tories…

Hat-tip: Matt Zarb

Unite Election’s “Independent” Overseer Supports Len McCluskey

As Unite’s bitterly fought general secretary election reaches its endgame, Guido can reveal the “independent commissioner” chosen to oversee complaints about the ballot once wrote in support of candidate Len McCluskey. In an article for OpenDemocracy website, Ewing defended Len McCluskey from a negative Guardian editorial on Unite’s leadership:

“After the vigour and excitement of the student demonstrations against the cuts, today’s Guardian leader derides Unite’s new general secretary Len McCluskey as a ‘Bourbon’. Why? Because he proposes trade union action and strikes rather than defeatist acceptance of the government’s unjust and counter-productive deficit reduction plans… What does the Guardian editorial team – embedded in secure jobs in a plush new office – expect of trade union leaders in the face of the most swingeing attacks on jobs and services in a generation… “

Professor Keith Ewing has numerous other connections to Red Len:

Unite rules state:

“The union’s rules provide for an independent Election Commissioner to adjudicate on complaints by candidates or the Executive Council. This is Professor Keith Ewing. Both the Returning Officer and Professor Ewing can be reached through the union’s Head Office.”

Len has cronies in the right places…

New European’s Sneering at Skegness Plan to “Stir Up Controversy”

Remain-cheerleading newspaper The New European has accidentally released an internal marketing note detailing its plan to “stir up controversy” and inflame community tensions across Britain’s Brexit heartlands. Guido today unveils the newspaper’s shocking front cover image which will lampoon residents of the Lincolnshire town of Skegness. The staggering picture – set to be displayed on newsstands across Britain within hours – belittles Skegness’s iconic ‘jolly fisherman’, depicting him as a two-finger saluting, evil-clown-faced Leave voter wearing a “Go Away” sweater, accompanied by the headline “Skegness is SO Brexit” and the strapline “Anthony Clavane visits the seaside to see if they still love Leave”.

The sneering front page was emailed out this afternoon accompanied by a note revealing The New European‘s ploy to sow division in order to boost sales:

“The cover story – Skegness: The seaside town that Brexit could close down; this is unlikely to go down well, locally, and there is an opportunity to stir up some controversy locally – worth sending the cover and the story to local television and newspapers (as I don’t suppose we sell many copies there).”

The image is indeed “unlikely to go down well locally” . Lincolnshire recorded the highest vote (75%) for Brexit in Boston, a town just 40 minutes drive from Skegness. Never mind Skegness, does the paper sell many copies anywhere?

UPDATE: Embarrassed New European has sent out a new email recalling its first message:

Nasty stuff…

Victory for Melania Over Mail

Melania Trump today accepted an apology and damages from the Daily Mail and MailOnline over allegations about her work as a model. The figure is undisclosed. A retraction had already been published. The apology reads:

“The Mail Online website and the Daily Mail newspaper published an article on 20th August 2016 about Melania Trump which questioned the nature of her work as a professional model, and republished allegations that she provided services beyond simply modelling. The article included statements that Mrs. Trump denied the allegations and Paulo Zampolli, who ran the modelling agency, also denied the allegations, and the article also stated that there was no evidence to support the allegations. The article also claimed that Mr and Mrs Trump may have met three years before they actually met, and “staged” their actual meeting as a “ruse.”

“We accept that these allegations about Mrs Trump are not true and we retract and withdraw them. We apologise to Mrs Trump for any distress that our publication caused her. To settle Mrs Trump’s two lawsuits against us, we have agreed to pay her damages and costs.”

The Mail has been Trumped!

UPDATE: Both CNN and Reuters reporting that the total payout – including costs – was around $3 million.

Labour Breaks Own Leveson Pledge

In a 2014 speech delivered to mark the second anniversary of the Leveson Inquiry, Labour media supremo Tom Watson said:

“We all – every party including my own – need to comply with the Leveson recommendations on the contacts we have with senior journalists, editors and proprietors. There is a lot of talk about the public’s right to know, well given the shabby history, the public has a clear right to know when their elected representatives are mixing with these people and why.

“All parties need to do what the judge asked on that point.”

The Tories have written to Jeremy Corbyn to raise the issue “that the Labour Party has not published any transparency data relating to meetings with proprietors, editors and senior media executives since the last general election.” Transparency details used to appear on the party’s website, listing contact between frontbenchers and the media. Today Guido cannot find any such information. Despite Max Mosley giving £500,000 to Tom Watson to get him to push the Leveson agenda, Labour has broken its very own Leveson pledge…

We do not now know which media moguls and senior editors Jeremy Corbyn has met. Morning Star’s editor will probably be on the list…

Britain Enjoys Joint Highest Employment Rate Since 1971

The latest employment figures are out. According to the ONS:

  • The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 74.6%, the joint highest since comparable records began in 1971.
  • The unemployment rate was 4.7%, down from 5.1% for a year earlier. It has not been lower since June to August 1975. The unemployment rate is the proportion of the labour force (those in work plus those unemployed) that were unemployed.
  • There were 1.56 million unemployed people (people not in work but seeking and available to work), 45,000 fewer than for September to November 2016 and 141,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

Nice reading for the government this morning…

Toxic European Parliament: Legionella Outbreak Hits Hot Water

The EU Parliament’s Directorate-General for Infrastructure and Logistics has ordered the immediate closure of the distribution of warm water in Brussels and Strasbourg Members’ offices following detection of Legionella bacteria. It has happened before in 2002 – the futuristic building was only opened in 1999. The problem is the offices are empty more than half the time with water stagnating…

UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge tells Guido

“If it wasn’t so serious it would be comical. On one hand the European Union is fighting to retain control of the UKs fishing waters, yet in Brussels it cannot manage to control a little warm water to MEPs offices. With these offices only fully used half the time due to constituency work and the ridiculous monthly move to Strasbourg, the stagnating water in the Brussels pipes is a disaster waiting to happen. The Parliament here is similar to the water; infested, dangerous and cold. Roll on 2019.”

It would be terrible if all those MEPs were struck down by Legionella. One of the early symptoms is “mental confusion”. So be on the look out for MEPs exhibiting this symptom…

Labour Candidate: “Don’t Vote for Me”

Last week Guido told how Labour fielded two candidates in the same council ward election. Now one of the Labour candidates, Sean Rowell, is having to take it on the chin and throw his support behind the other, Rosie Adams. Rowell wrote on Facebook:

“So, the Tories got a hold of this and are now doing everything in their power to shame Labour. This was not the party’s fault, it was a mistake by an individual doing the best for the voters in the divisions available in North Yorkshire.

“As a decent bloke, I have asked that people do not vote for me, this hopefully will give the other candidate, Rosie Adams a better return than what there would have been with two candidates from the same party. And the Tories are jumping all over this as well.

“Yes, I’m annoyed that it has happened, even though I knew I would not win, this has just made us all in Labour look incompetent. I know some people will be upset that I have asked them not to vote for me, but do vote for Rosie.”

“This has just made us all in Labour look incompetent…”

Plans to Fly “Expel Ken” Plane over Wembley Stadium

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to fly a plane towing a banner over Wembley Stadium with the message: “Expel Ken #CorbynOut.” The anti-Ken flypast is set to take place during the televised Arsenal v Man City FA Cup semi-final on Sunday 23rd April. The campaign hopes to reach £6000 and has so-far raised nearly £1000 in a few hours. One individual donated £500. A message posted on the JustGiving site by the organisers reads:

“Enough is enough. He needs to go. #CorbynOut. Say No to Racism. At the Arsenal v City semi-final let’s spell it out high above the Wembley sky to a global television audience: Expel Ken #CorbynOut “

Who will go first: Arsene Wenger or Ken Livingstone?

Owen Smith Desperate for a Retweet

Owen Smith’s twitter is an odd sight at the moment: 11 tweets have been posted asking for a retweet regarding a youth group in Pontypridd. Either hacked or really, really desperate for a re-tweet…

SNP’s Controversial NYC Visit: Timeline of What We Know

A row is brewing over allegations that the SNP used ‘short money’ – taxpayer’s cash given to opposition parties for parliamentary activities only – to fund a trip to New York City. Reports say four SNP MPs – Paul Monaghan, Joanna Cherry, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Corri Wilson – travelled to the big apple on the public purse. Foreign trips by MPs are common, but questions are being asked as short money is subject to strict rules saying travel expenses must be incurred only “in relation to the party’s parliamentary business”Concerns were raised when the MPs were spotted holding an SNP banner during the city’s Tartan Day Parade…

The Scottish Daily Mail reports that the SNP has refused to release the full itinerary for the trip. Paul Monaghan and Corri Wilson do not hold a front bench portfolios. Joanna Cherry is SNP Spokesperson on Justice and Home Affairs. Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh is SNP International Trade spokesperson. Have they been undertaking activities relevant to the party’s parliamentary business or to their remit? 

Thursday April 6 – Group begins to arrive in NYC. Joanna Cherry travels from Montreal:


Friday 7th April – Attending launch of a musical album at the exclusive private members Norwood Club, Manhattan:

Saturday 8th April – Visiting the New York Times building

Saturday 8th April  – Attending a reception at the St Andrew’s Society of New York State with Nicola Sturgeon

Sunday 9th April – Meet UN bodies: UNDP, UN Women and UN Youth Envoy

Sunday 9th April – Attending a ceilidh at the New York Caledonian Club

Sunday 9th April – Attending the Tartan Day brunch

Sunday 9th April – Waving an SNP banner at the New York Tartan Day Parade

This is not a complete timeline and is not necessarily indicative of the substance of the entire trip. That remains unknown…

An SNP spokesman said the MPs were “representing the SNP Westminster Group” and that the trip consisted of:

“High level talks with representatives from UN Women, UNDP and UN Youth Envoy discussing work on gender and equalities, people living with disabilities, and international youth engagement”.

The MPs now appear to be back in the UK…

Having Us E.ON: Corbyn Names and Shames Energy Firm That Sponsored Labour Conference

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the Federation of Small Businesses was overshadowed this morning when the Labour leader blocked a question on Syria. So let’s get back to business. Announcing plans to woo small firms with a crackdown on late payments by large companies to suppliers, Corbyn named and shamed energy giant E.ON:

“Some of the biggest names in business are holding huge cash piles that don’t actually belong to them. I’m going to name some names based on reports of a reputable credit agency… E.ON, the German energy provider currently pays 78 days over terms.”

That would be the same E.ON who Labour got to sponsor an event at party conference in 2016. E.ON’s Director of Strategy and Regulation worked the room alongside Labour MPs…

And at conference 2014, E.ON was allowed space to “build a kind of Wendy house” for Labour MPs and members to sit in and chat energy with the firm. E.ON branding also appeared on the side of the conference hall:

You’re having us E.ON!

Corbyn Blocks Question on Syria from BBC Reporter

Commotion at Jeremy Corbyn’s Federation of Small Businesses presser just now when questions to the Labour leader on Syria were dramatically shouted down by some of those present. BBC journalist Mark Lobel wanted to ask the leader of the opposition about the top international story of the day but was obstructed, apparently contrary to the advice of Corbyn’s press team.

Bizarrely, Corbyn departed the podium to remonstrate with Lobel. Looks like questions on other topics weren’t getting anywhere either:

It’s understood Corbyn did do interviews about Syria once he was off the platform.

Taking one question about a major news story does not preclude other questions on business policy – that’s not how it works…

New York Times Thinks Sketch is Serious

The New York Times has interpreted a British newspaper sketch as if it were a serious news report. Patrick Kidd – parliamentary sketch writer for The Timeswrote of an Emmanuel Macron rally:

“My masters at school, I will be honest, had not properly prepared me for the task of following an hour-long speech in rapid French. Mr Macron did not ask for directions to la gare once, for example. Nor did he invite anyone in the audience to come to une boum chez lui ce week-end. He didn’t even say “zut” or “bof”. One wondered if he was French at all.”

But in a brilliant example of our ‘separation by a common language’, the gray lady missed the joke. In an online photo essay ominously titled ‘Will London Fall‘, Sarah Lyall wrote:

“He could not tell his readers exactly what Mr. Macron said, however, because, as he boasted in the article, he does not really speak French, although he studied it in school. But why should he make an effort, seemed to be the idea, when it is so easy to ridicule the French for being French, and when to be English is to feel superior to your neighbors?…

“Mr. Kidd’s hauteur isn’t surprising, given that Mr. Murdoch’s papers and the rest of the country’s right-leaning news media have spent decades nurturing an ancient anti-Europe narrative long reflected in the Conservative Party’s Euroskeptic wing. If London, or at least much of London, has welcomed or tolerated all the changes, many people around Britain, particularly from older generations, have lamented that they no longer recognize the country of their childhoods.”

To which Mr Kidd replies this morning:

God bless the “failing New York Times”…

H/T: Ned Donovan

How Do You Solve a Problem Like 73 Empty Seats?

Meanwhile in Brussels… the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs is meeting today to scratch their heads on a tricky problem: Brexit Britain will leave behind 73 empty seats in the chamber. The next European Parliament elections are in 2019. What to do with those empty seats…

  1. Abolish them: The simple answer would be to abolish the United Kingdom’s seats and shrink the European Parliament (from 751 to 678 – not exactly a deep cut). But cutting the number of MEPs would mean leaving a lot of officials with less work to do and would be a symbolic body-blow. Is this likely to happen in a super-massive bureaucracy?
  2. Redistribute to other member states: The obvious answer – but then the question becomes how to distribute 73 seats between the remaining EU-27. You could even out the number of seats so as to distribute them equally between the remaining countries. Or you could distribute them proportionally according to the current number of MEPs per country. Or you could distribute them to less-represented countries. The numbers on this are being crunched
  3. Create a pan-European list: The most intriguing possibility is that Britain’s seats could be re-allocated to form a pan-European list, meaning every EU citizen could have a say in who should replace British MEPs. A European electoral college would run alongside the current party system. The idea ran into trouble in committee earlier this year but is still being actively campaigned forEurophiles call this “making elections European again”…
There is one other answer, of course. Who cares?

Fat Cats Gallery: The Council Bosses Who Cost You Millions

Britain’s biggest council fat cats are named and shamed this morning in a report that reveals mind-blowing levels of local authority remuneration. The TaxPayers’ Alliance Town Hall Rich List exposes the staggering pay of council employees across the United Kingdom:

  • At least 2,314 council employees received total remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2015-16;
  • This is 89 more than the previous year;
  • 539 council employees received total remuneration in excess of £150,000 in 2015-16;
  • This is 53 more than the previous year.

Frustratingly, only seven of the top ten best-paid council officials in Britain have been named. This is Guido’s fat cats gallery..

Dave Smith, Chief Executive, Sunderland, £625, 570Sonia Tongnarelli, Director of Finance, Sunderland, £605,958 Alastair Crichton, Director of Finance and Customer Services, North Lanarkshire, £486,208

David McElhinney, CEO LDL, Liverpool, £461,823
 Sharon Lea, Director of Place, Birmingham, £414,10
 Phil Morton, Hambleton, £397,967
Bruce McDonald, Kingston Upon Thames, £387,000

Note that this list does not include:

  • The unknown fifth highest earner: Exec Director of People’s Services in Sunderland (£444,495);
  • The unknown eighth highest earner: Director of Community in Fareham (£387,451);
  • The unknown tenth highest earner: MD, People and Places, West Lancashire, (£386,116).

Council tax bill gone up this year? The full report should help you figure out why…

Ballot Balls-Ups: Admin Errors Plague Unite Election

A Unite member was confused on receiving a voting pack for the union’s general secretary election which mistakenly included two candidate statements by Len McCluskey – instead of one each from Len and contender Gerard Coyne. The candidate statements leaflet was a Len-only document…

Meanwhile, ballot papers were mailed to Unite members for the National Young Members’ seat on the Executive Council. That mail-shot was sent again when the Union realised it had broken the ‘spirit’ of its own rule book…

Last year Unite acting general secretary Gail Cartmail wrote of the early general secretary election:

“The decision was taken by the union’s executive council in order to save the union about £1m by aligning the ballot with that for the union’s executive council.”

A lot seems to be going on postage…

B-Rex: Boris Johnson Meets Rex Tillerson

The G7 meeting of foreign ministers is underway in the picturesque Italian city of Lucca, Tuscany. Boris Johnson – under fire all weekend for a decision to cancel a planned trip to Moscow – has already met US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the margins of the meeting. Earlier BoJo name-checked Rex, saying Britain would “support… efforts by Rex Tillerson to try to move the process forward”…

Lib Dem Metro Mayor Candidate Already Mayor on Facebook

It seems the LibDem’s candidate for the first West of England Metropolitan Mayor is confident of victory. Stephen Williams lists the mayoralty as his current job on Facebook, despite the election not taking place until 4th May:

Easy to be mayor on Facebook isn’t it…[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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