McLoughlin v McCaffrey

Tory chairman Patrick McLoughlin not happy with Sky’s Darren McCaffrey asking questions about the Tory election fraud, grabbing his phone in a vain attempt to prevent him filming. McLoughlin is usually pretty amiable, tensions must be high in CCHQ…

May: Now is Not the Time for #indyref2

May speaks and says ‘not now’, i.e. not before Brexit is complete. Nats meltdown in 3, 2, 1…

How Mackinlay Gained Financial Advantage Over Farage

The Electoral Commission report is conservative in its conclusions on Tory overspending in South Thanet. The Commission say they “cannot determine precisely” whether Craig Mackinlay breached his spending limit because of the party’s failure to keep records. Look closely however and is clear that Mackinlay breached his limit. 

Mackinlay reported short campaign expenses of £14,837.77. His short campaign limit was £15,016.38, meaning he was £178.61 below the spending threshold. The Electoral Commission says Mackinlay did not declare expenses for his South Thanet team to stay at the Royal Harbour hotel in the short campaign between 20 April and 7 May 2015. Given Mackinlay was just £178.61 away from busting his limit, this alone puts him over. And that’s before going anywhere near the pro-rata salary costs of CCHQ officials being added to the bill.

More generally, the Electoral Commission concludes:

“the inclusion in the Party return of what in the Commission’s view should have been reported as candidate spending meant that there was a realistic prospect that this enabled its candidates to gain a financial advantage over opponents”

Apply this specifically to South Thanet, and it is clear that because Mackinlay breached his spending limit he “gained a financial advantage” over Nigel Farage. UKIP will say, with some justification, that this is grounds to re-run the Thanet election…

Toyota Invests Quarter of a Billion in UK #DespiteBrexit

Toyota today announces an investment of more than a quarter of a billion pounds into the UK, contrary to previous warnings from the firm and car market analysts over Brexit. The Japanese company has a major plant near Derby where it manufactures its Auris and Avensis models. About 75% of cars made at that plant are exported to EU nations. Last year the FT warned:

“The Leave vote could be the final straw for the two Japanese carmakers… Ahead of the referendum, Toyota had already warned of “huge cost reduction challenges” at its plants in Burnaston in Derbyshire and Deeside in north Wales if the UK faced a 10 per cent tariff on exports to Europe.

“The reality is that it’s nearly impossible to make profit considering that they had not made much money over the past two decades. Can you keep holding on to a perpetually lossmaking operation in Britain?” said Koji Endo, analyst at Advanced Research Japan.”

Experts…

Brexit Bill Given Royal Assent

Article 50 can now be triggered…

Vaz Complains “MSM” Invent Stories

Keith Vaz isn’t so chatty about the shenanigans of his alter ego Jim the washing machine salesman these days. Last night however he gave his views on the “mainstream media” that revealed his double life at a drinks bash held by Jeremy Corbyn. According to journalist Marcus Dysch who was present, Vaz told the room the “MSM” – he used the acronym – invent what they write and that to counter the press “we must tell people the truth”. The only one inventing stories is Jim with his promise to get you a great deal on a washer dryer…

Hammond Battered By All Sides

As the Tories reel from this morning’s Electoral Commission report, the Chancellor is fighting to salvage his reputation. We are not at the stage where Philip Hammond is about to lose his job, but figures across the Tory party and government are wondering how he can recover from yesterday’s humiliation. He is getting it from all sides this morning:

  • The Telegraph says May told Hammond “I don’t care how bad it is for you”, they report he is now “on probation”
  • The Times says Theresa May’s aides “strong-armed” him into the u-turn and “punished him” for briefing against them last week, Number 10 told him the NI rise was a bad idea “but Philip wouldn’t listen”
  • The Spectator says Hammond’s credibility is “in tatters”, that he has “endangered wider credibility”, and accuses him of a “staggering lack of basic political competence”
  • The Sun says he has been forced to “grovel” to its readers
  • Peston says he wouldn’t bet on Hammond still being Chancellor beyond the summer
  • William Hill slashed the odds on him going before the election, first to 7/2, then to 5/2

Publicly Tory MPs are saying Hammond’s ability to admit he was wrong and change his mind shows he is the right man to be Chancellor. In reality it was not his choice – May made the decision – and it was not even her choice, Tory backbenchers have proved the government is so weak that just a handful of rebels can hold them to ransom. Backbenchers are emboldened, Downing Street is chastened. If May were to call an early election of course all these problems would go away…

Tories Fined £70,000 | Treasurer Faces Charges | Thanet Could Be Re-Run

The Electoral Commission report into Tory election spending is out. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Tories fined £70,000
  • £104,765 missing from 2015 election return
  • Another £118,124 not reported or reported incorrectly
  • A further 81 payments to the value of £52,924 missing
  • Registered Tory treasurer and former Tory party CEO, now CFO, Simon Day committed three contraventions under section 41 and two offences under section 82(4)(b) of PPERA
  • Day committed an offence in relation to spending in South Thanet in 2015
  • Tories overspent in Newark, Rochester & Strood and Clacton by-elections in 2014

The Tories admit fault: “This is the first time the Conservative Party has been fined for a reporting error. We regret that and will continue to keep our internal processes under review to ensure this does not happen again”. This means that Labour, LibDems and the Tories have all had maximum fines for breaching electoral laws in 2015.

Guido’s take is that the Tories will probably get away with just fines for the by-election over-spends in Clacton, Rochester & Strood and Newark. South Thanet however looks likely to be re-run. Eighth time lucky for Nige?

Crackdown on MPs Shagging Secretaries

MPs will be banned from hiring their wives and husbands at the taxpayer’s expense after the next election. Taxpayers will however be disappointed to learn that the rule change only affects new hires, meaning the 150 “connected parties” currently paid by the taxpayer at a cost of £4 million a year will be allowed to keep their jobs. Good news for the likes of £45,000-a-year Mrs Bone.

Guido has found one other amusing rule in the new code. MPs who shack up with their secretaries – and there have been a few in this parliament already – will only be allowed to employ them for two years “after the point at which they become connected parties”.

Guido dreads to think how they determine at which point the MP and his secretary become “connected”…

Farage and Le Pen: Key Quotes

Here are the top lines from Nigel Farage’s interview with Marine Le Pen. All much to be expected: not a fan of Theresa May, pro- a good Brexit deal, condemns anti-Semitism, pro-Russia. 

On Theresa May:

Farage: “Has the British PM snubbed you?”

Le Pen: “It seems to be the case… I do not understand this discrepancy, this contradiction between what Theresa May stands for because she has decided to be the woman who will implement Brexit, and her meeting with Emmanuel Macron…”

Farage: “… Actually with Donald Trump, Number 10 wanted nothing to do with Donald Trump whatsoever because they thought he would lose…”

Le Pen: “She is good at getting it wrong but this is rather reassuring!”

On how a Le Pen government would deal with Brexit:

Le Pen:I see no reason why France and Great Britain should not have excellent relations. We are old allies and economically speaking as well, we have a great many exchanges to implement. What I cannot stand in the behaviour of the EU with regards to Great Britain is blackmail, constant threat. This structure is no longer moving without blackmail and threat. “You have to pay. We’re going to penalise you 250,000 Euros fine for every migrant refused.” It’s Europe in a very forceful way; Europe imposed by Merkel and I believe that between two nations such as ours that really go back and that would be free if I am elected; both would be free and we would have excellent relations as well as trade relations of very good quality, as in the past.”

On Russia and Putin:

Le Pen: “Russia is not a danger to us. Russia does not attack France. Russia does not do aggressive social or environmental dumping against France. Russia does not threaten identity, the identity of France of the geostrategic interests of France. Why should I be hostile to Russia?… I borrowed money from a Russian bank. Fine, what am I supposed to do? Well, I’m supposed to pay it back. Right? I took out personal loans from French banks and the banker hasn’t come to my home to decide what school my children should go to or what the colour of my curtains should be. By the same token, it’s a Russian bank that has lent me money. That doesn’t matter at all.”

To be fair Farage also asked about her views on Islam and anti-Semitism, something he has criticised her for in the past. She said Islam is not incompatible with western lifestyle and condemned anti-Semitic Front National members. The full interview is at 7pm on LBC. 

CPS Receives Election Mis-Spending Files from 11 Forces

The Crown Prosecution Service says it has received files from 11 police forces in relation to allegations of mis-spending by the Tories at the 2015 general election. The forces who have sent evidence to the CPS are:

  • Avon & Somerset
  • Cumbria
  • Derbyshire
  • Devon & Cornwall
  • Gloucestershire
  • Greater Manchester
  • Lincolnshire
  • Metropolitan
  • Northamptonshire
  • Nottinghamshire
  • West Yorkshire

Budget u-turn in the morning, a MPs under scrutiny in the afternoon…

Arron Banks Introduces “The Patriotic Alliance”

Arron Banks and his sidekick Andy Wigmore have tweeted the above image – remember Banks has previously talked about setting up a new movement called “The Patriotic Alliance” based on the model of Italy’s Five Star Movement, to gather Leave voters across traditional party lines. Banks says: “No nonsense policies that will knock the skin off a rice pudding”. The Patriotic Alliance shares its name with a South African political party founded by a convicted bank robber turned motivational speaker…

Mirror in McCluskey’s Pocket

Daily Mirror readers could be forgiven for knowing little of the bitter battle for control of Britain’s biggest trade union Unite. The paper once had a proud history of covering union politics, yet the contest between Len McCluskey and Gerard Coyne barely makes it into the paper – much to the annoyance of leftie hacks and union tankies alike. Unite’s £400,000 contribution towards McCluskey’s swanky London pad was for some reason not deemed newsworthy…

Canary Wharf insiders believe the problem lies with the management’s desire to keep on receiving oodles of Unite cash signed off by Red Len. One Mirror source said:  

“Unite probably hand over between £50,000 and £100,000 a year in term of various types of sponsorship, helping with the wage bill, advertising etc. It is any wonder they don’t write a bad word about McCluskey or the battle to get rid of him?  It’s a travesty and a betrayal of the readers.”

Ros Wynne-Jones’ weekly “Real Britain” column contains numerous plugs for causes and events championed by Unite. At the bottom of her page each week there is a message to say her musings are “in association with Unite the Union”. Hacks at the paper believe the Unite cash could be enough to fund Wynne-Jones’ salary. The Mirror is one of the few papers left with an industrial correspondent. Along with transport and education, Mark Ellis is supposed to cover the unions, though he seems strangely reticent to write about McCluskey at all – despite his strong Unite links. McCluskey’s union was coincidentally on hand to help fund free booze at the Mirror’s Labour conference knees-up…

The few stories about the Unite leadership battle between McCluskey and Coyne that have made it into the Mirror have included the following gems:

  • On Monday March 6th Kevin Maguire column’s column revealed: “Unite supremo “Red Len” McCluskey is hot favourite to be re-elected leader of the country’s largest trade union after winning huge support
  • On Thursday March 2nd Mirror readers were told: “Len has 82% Unite backing
  • On Tuesday March 7th the paper quoted McCluskey saying he would “work night and day” to fight for Vauxhall staff whose jobs were in danger

Mirror readers and the union members the paper claims to champion will have to look elsewhere if they want more than the odd pro-Len puff piece…

5 Things That Could Beat Corbyn at PMQs

Yes another week, another PMQs self-immolation from Westminster’s very own equivalent of a protesting Buddhist monk who sets himself on fire. Or “doing a Corbyn” as they now know it in Saigon.

So dismal was the Labour leader’s interrogation (he actually only managed to use two of his six questions), today we will look at five unlikely things that could best Jeremy Corbyn in a PMQs matchup. Opponents will be ranked by ease of their victories over the Labour leader.

  1. Stephen Hawking

“Ah”, I hear you say, “there is no way that Stephen Hawking could beat Jeremy Corbyn, it takes him ages to synthesise his speech and as such he has to plan out all of his sentences far in advance!”. And? Well, both men have to know what they’re going to say before they get to the Chamber and both have an extremely limited ability to deviate off track. However only one of these men is a theoretical physicist who understands the range of possible outcomes he could have to react to, and that is the clincher. Also, he’s easier on the ear. Stephen Hawking wins this bout comfortably, memorably telling Jeremy Corbyn that he’s met black holes with more warmth than him.

Continue reading

Hammond: Laura K First to Say NI Rise Broke Manifesto Pledge

Philip Hammond tells Alex Salmond the first person outside the chamber to say he had broken the Tory manifesto pledge on National Insurance was the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg. An extraordinary statement – and one which Hammond is defending by arguing disingenuously that the NI didn’t breach the manifesto.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Rory Stewart Hit with NICs U-Turn on Live TV

Poor old Rory Stewart spent five minutes defending the National Insurance rise on the Daily Politics, before being informed live on air that Hammond had just u-turned. It is difficult to overestimate the anger among Tory MPs sent out to defend the rise.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Corbyn Only Asked Two Questions at PMQs

Corbyn had six questions at PMQs. He only asked two. One was about schools.

Question 1: “Big business evades a lot of national insurance through bogus self employment.” No question.

Question 2: “What is she going to do to fill that Budget black hole?” Question.

[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Hammond U-Turns on National Insurance Rise

Philip Hammond has u-turned on his Budget National Insurance rise, telling MPs that it was against the spirit of the Tory manifesto. He confirms there will be no NI rise this parliament. The letter:

A sign of how weak the government is that it is forced to u-turn on its Budget after complaints from a few MPs, and also what a disastrous error it was to forget the Tory manifesto.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

PMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions?

Oral Questions to the Prime Minister

Q1 Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 15 March.

Q2 Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth)

Q3 Jeremy Quin (Horsham)

Q4 Mike Weir (Angus)

Q5 Mr Andrew Turner

Q6 Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen)

Q7 Mrs Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet)

Q8 Will Quince (Colchester)

Q9 Callum McCaig (Aberdeen South)

Q10 Victoria Atkins (Louth and Horncastle)

Q11 Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

Q12 Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds)

Q13 Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire)

Q14 Hannah Bardell (Livingston)

Comments in the comments…[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Davis Dismisses Major’s Claim That No Deal is Worst Outcome

Speaking to the Brexit select committee this morning, David Davis has dismissed John Major’s claim that no deal is the worst possible outcome.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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