You Wait Ages For a Free Bus Pass Policy, And Two Come Along At Once

Today:

Labour pledge to fund free bus travel for under 25s in England, at a cost of £1.4 billion.

The Tories say the policy is too expensive, will cost far more than Labour say and means “working people paying the price”.

October: 

Welsh Tories pledge to fund free bus travel for under 25s in Wales, at a cost of £25 million.

Welsh Labour say the policy is too expensive, will cost far more than the Tories say and dub it “fantasy economics”.

The wheels on the free bus pass policy go round and round…

Dodgy Green-LibDem Pact Back On As £250,000 Bung Remains Unexplained

One of the murkiest dodgy deals in recent electoral history is back on in Richmond. Readers will remember how the Green Party was offered a £250,000 inducement not to run against Zac Goldsmith in the 2016 by-election – a blatant bung that the Electoral Commission said would have been a criminal offence. In the 2017 election the Greens initially selected a candidate, Andree Frieze, and said she would run. That was until the LibDems stood down their candidate against Caroline Lucas in Brighton – and Frieze dropped out in Richmond to return the favour. Lucas farcically told the Daily Politics she couldn’t “remember the name” of the person who offered the £250,000 bung. They have never explained the inducement, essentially covering up a potential criminal offence…

Now a joint Green-LibDem leaflet has gone out in Richmond explaining the parties “have decided to work together and not compete with each other” and telling voters to vote for two LibDem candidates, Penny Frost and Gareth Richards, and one Green, Frieze, in May’s local elections. Here is the joint imprint:

There are serious questions here to which Richmond voters deserve to know the answers. Who offered the £250,000 bung? Why did Caroline Lucas claim she “can’t remember” the name of the person who offered it? Why did she never disclose the name as she promised Andrew Neil she would? Why did the LibDems claim there was no deal in 2017 despite the Greens admitting there was? What deal has been made this time round that they are keeping from Richmond voters? Remarkable they’ve got away with refusing to come clean on all this…

Remainers Blow Half a Million on Ad Campaign in FT, Guardian and Standard

Ultra-Remain spin shop Best for Britain are spending half a million pounds putting these posters up in Leicester Square, Westfield and Canary Wharf, and buying adverts in the FT, Guardian, Evening Standard and Metro. Way to reach out beyond your base…

The poster campaign purports to represent people “from all walks of life”. It is accompanied by a quote in the press release from Mark Malloch-Brown, the Cambridge-educated millionaire former lobbyist, World Bank vice-president, Economist journalist, friend of Bono and vice-chairman of Soros Fund Management.

Whether it’s spurious court cases or pointless poster campaigns, Remainers are great at wasting other people’s money.

Remain Campaign Used Exactly the Same Spending Tactics As Vote Leave, Only Far Worse

There is a long list of reasons why Carole Cadwalladr’s claims that Vote Leave “cheated” on their spending during the referendum are wrong. First and foremost, the Remain campaign did exactly the same thing that Cadwalladr is accusing Vote Leave of, only far, far worse. Vote Leave gifted BeLeave £625,000. Yet in the month before the vote the Remainers set up FIVE new campaigns and funnelled a MILLION pounds into them so they could stay under the spending limit:

  • DDB UK Ltd registered as an independent campaign on 25 May 2016, less than a month before the referendum. DDB UK Ltd received £191,000 in donations.

  • Best For Our Future registered as a permitted participant on 27 May 2016, less than a month before the referendum. It received £424,000 in donations

  • The In Crowd registered on 10 June 2016, less than two weeks before the referendum. It received £76,000 in donations.

  • Virgin Management Ltd registered as a permitted participant on 3 June 2016, less than three weeks before the referendum. It received £210,000 in donations.

  • Wake Up And Vote registered as a permitted participant on 24 May 2016, less than a month before the referendum. It received £100,000 in donations.

The Remain campaign did exactly the same thing as Vote Leave, only with more money and with five new campaigns. This renders Cadwalladr’s central charge against Vote Leave completely obsolete.

Reason number two why the claims about Vote Leave and BeLeave coordinating are bonkers. The lawyer championing the Cadwalladr claims, Jolyon Maugham, has called the validity of the referendum into question over alleged collusion among the Leave campaigns. Yet the various Remain campaigns coordinated on a much greater scale, holding conference calls every morning to coordinate their messaging, sharing data, suppliers and campaign materials, and coordinating spending. Cadwalladr and Maugham have completely ignored the fact that the Remain campaigns colluded on a much larger scale.

Reason number three, and the most obvious of the lot: how can Vote Leave reasonably be accused of cheating on spending when the Remain campaign spent far, far more and had the entire machinery of Whitehall behind them? Electoral Commission figures show the Remain campaign spent £19 million. The Leave campaign spent £13 million. The government spent £9 million of taxpayers’ money on Remain campaign literature. £3 million of this was spent on online ads and “digital promotion”. How can Vote Leave possibly be accused of cheating when the overall spending was so blatantly biased in favour of the Remain campaign?

As the Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman says:

The truth is the only people pushing Cadwalladr’s nonsense are ultra-Remainers who cannot fathom that the country wants Brexit, and have to believe that the Leave vote only happened due to some corruption or cheating. The facts simply do not bear this out.

Tory Dilemma Over Scandal-Hit Pro-Putin Oligarch

With Theresa May considering new sanctions on Putin-associated oligarchs and Labour going hard on dodgy Tory money, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on what happens with Dmitry Firtash. The Kremlin-linked Ukrainian billionaire is wanted in America and battling attempts to extradite him to face corruption allegations in Chicago. A few months back Freedom House and Human Rights Watch said he should be placed on the Magnitsky List. He has been dragged into messy litigation in London between Raga, a Cyprus-based firm with links to Firtash, and Ukrainian finance company System Capital Management – Raga has been accused of conning SCM about the sale of a telecoms company in a £580 million lawsuit. This week Firtash’s premises in Ukraine were raided in a tax evasion probe. Given his association with Putin, you’d think he would be the sort of person to attract the interest of the British authorities…

Yet when sanctions were placed on various Putin-friendly individuals following the annexation of Crimea, the Tory government kept Firtash off the list. Definitely nothing to do with a company owned by Firtash’s UK pointman donating tens of thousands of pounds to senior Tories. And definitely nothing to do with New Century Media, a lobbying company which represents Firtash’s personal foundation, donating £143,000 to the Tories. Firtash famously lived it up in a vast home in Knightsbridge, keeping the Tories onside as he used London as a playground. Keep an eye on whether the Tories let him off the hook this time round…

Labour Spent Hundreds of Thousands With Google, Amazon and Daily Mail Group

Corbyn and McDonnell have repeatedly singled out Google and Amazon as tax-avoiding baddies and vowed to get “aggressive” with them… turns out aggressive means Labour paying Google Ireland Limited £250,000 and US-based Amazon Web Services £22,000 during the general election.

Labour also gave Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail, £12,000 for advertising during the campaign. The Corbynista ‘Stop Funding Hate’ cranks not so loud about that one…

2017 Election Spending: Tories, Labour, Greens, Remainers Under Investigation

New Electoral Commission figures… the Tories spent £7.5 million more than Labour last June and still lost their majority:

Conservatives: £18,565,102

Labour: £11,003,980

LibDems: £6,788,316

SNP: £1,623,127

Green Party: £299,352

Women’s Equality Party: £285,662

UKIP: £273,104

The Tories, Labour and Greens are under investigation for submitting spending returns that were missing invoices and for submitting potentially inaccurate statements of payments made. Remoaners Best for Britain are under investigation for submitting a spending return that was missing invoices and not returning a £25,000 donation from an impermissible donor…

Tory Ex-Minister is Working for Oligarch Named as Corrupt by Russian Opposition Leader

Former Tory MP and tree-hugging Energy & Climate Change minister Greg Barker has had a difficult start to 2018. As we previously reported in November, Russophile Lord Barker of Battle’s primary role as chairman of En+ Group was to add a veneer of respectability to reassure the City as the Russian energy and aluminium producer listed on the London Stock Exchange. Once the LSE accepted the listing, Barker must have thought his main struggles were over…

Slightly concerning then that Barker’s boss, Oleg Deripaska, is now under the cosh on several fronts. At the end of January Deripaska was named on the US Treasury list of oligarchs linked to the Russian government. Deripaska owns over 70% of En+ and is also the subject of a letter to the SFO from the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, calling for an anti-corruption investigation into his affairs after he was filmed on a yacht with Sergei Prikhodko, Russia’s deputy PM. The yacht trip only added to the intrigue around Deripaska’s links to Manafort and the Trump campaign, especially with new allegations of more meetings on the US elections surfacing…

This is likely not M’lud Barker’s biggest headache. Both MI6 and officials in Washington are angry that the float went ahead, as most of the funds raised went straight to the state-owned Russian bank VTB, which is under both EU and US sanctions. Having secured a bridgehead on the LSE, En+ is rumoured to be gearing up to raise another $1 billion from investors. While happy for its oligarchs to raise money in London, Russia seems less pleased about the presence of ex-KGB officials in Salisbury. Barker, a close pal of ex-PM David Cameron, must be wondering how to salvage this one…

UKIP Must Raise £100,000 By End of Month or Go Bust

UKIP interim leader Gerard Batten told local members in Essex last night that the party must raise £100,000 by the end of March or it will go bust:

Remember UKIP need to find a hefty wedge to pay the costs of the Jane Collins libel trial, as well as hold another leadership election, oh, and fight the locals in May. Batten has sent a begging letter to branches trying to raise the money. Will anyone think it’s worth it?

Labour MPs Endorsing Formby Accepted £140,000 From Unite

Labour MPs endorsing Jennie Formby for general secretary have accepted £140,000 worth of donations from Unite in the past year. Naturally none of them mentioned to their followers that they are bankrolled by Formby’s union…

In the last year Dan Carden has received £20,000 in cash from Unite, plus £11,475.75 to pay for staff and £1,380 to stay in the Grand Hotel at Labour conference.

In the last year Ian Lavery has received £10,000 in cash from Unite, plus £1,380 to stay in the Grand Hotel at Labour conference.

In the last year Laura Pidcock has received £20,000 in cash from Unite, plus £967 for her Christmas cards and £1,700 for hotel accommodation at Labour conference.

In the last year Grahame Morris has received £12,000 in cash from Unite, plus £1,380 for hotel accommodation at Labour conference.

In the last year Richard Burgon has received £9,000 in cash from Unite.

In the last year Karl Turner has received £4,000 in cash from Unite.

In the last year Ian Mearns has received £8,000 in cash from Unite, plus £1,380 to stay at the Grand Hotel for Labour conference.

In the last year Andrew Gwynne has received £5,000 in cash from Unite.

In the last year John McDonnell has received £4,000 in cash from Unite.

In the last year Lloyd Russell-Moyle has received £6,000 in cash from Unite.

Rebecca Long-Bailey and Kate Osamor are also reported to have endorsed Formby. Long-Bailey has received £8,000 in cash from Unite plus £1,035 for hotel accommodation, while Osamor has received £5,000 in cash from Unite.

Of course this doesn’t include the £3.5 million plus of donations Unite gave to the central party in the last year. How a trade union can buy control of the Labour Party…

Mosley Funds Watson’s Huge Private Office Power Base

Why won’t Tom Watson hand back the half a million quid given to him by Max Mosley, despite Labour appearing to accept he isn’t a fit and proper donor? Well, Watson uses the money to fund his private office, which at nine full time staff members is the third largest in parliament. According to the Register of Secretaries and Research Assistants, Corbyn and McDonnell are the only MPs with more staff. Watson’s office has become a significant power base and giving the money back would weaken him considerably. That’s why Seumas Milne twisted the knife into Watson with his statement ditching Mosley earlier…

If this was a £5,000 donation rather than £500,000, there seems little question that he would give the money back. Watson faced with the choice: do the right thing and hand back the cash, or keep his bumper private office bankrolled by a former fascist…

Labour Won’t Take Further Mosley Donations But Watson Will Keep His £500,000

Labour say they will no longer accept donations from Max Mosley, but will keep the £500,000 he gave to Tom Watson. ‬Eh? How does that work? Either he’s not a fit and proper donor or he is – how can Watson keep his cash?

LibDems Fundraising For Sheffield Hallam By-Election

Latest on Jared O’Mara: the LibDems are using “rumblings” of a “highly likely” by-election in Sheffield Hallam to raise £20,000 for their candidate there:

“In January, the party launched a by-election fund, spurred by rumblings about a Sheffield Hallam by-election. That by-election is still highly likely – and we need your help. We’re just £20,000 short of our goal. I’ve been to Sheffield to help our fantastic candidate, Laura Gordon. Let me tell you, she will make a fantastic MP – and be a worthy successor to Nick Clegg. Let me also tell you, if this by-election happens, we’re in with a real chance. The reception on the doors was absolutely brilliant and the team there, with support from HQ is ready to go.”

Members of O’Mara’s local Labour Party had been calling for him to stand down in time to hold a by-election on the same day as the May elections. To be fair to Jared he has actually managed to turn up for a handful of votes in the last few weeks. Still hasn’t managed his maiden speech though…

Watson Backs Mosley

Tom Watson has backed Max Mosley and hinted he will continue to accept money from the former fascist, telling the Mail: “The views expressed by Max as a young man are not the views he holds now, just as the Rothermere family no longer uses its newspapers to support fascism”. You know you’re in trouble when you’re reaching for the tired Rothermere line like some tedious Twitter troll…

Let’s have a look at Watson’s claim that Mosley no longer holds dodgy views. Asked by Cathy Newman whether he still believes “coloured immigrants” should be repatriated, Mosley said that is “now completely academic” and “no longer a possible question”.

Asked if it was racist to say immigrants bring diseases to Britain, Mosley replied to Cathy: “I don’t know about racist”.

Asked if he thought he should say sorry, Mosley snapped: “I’ve no reason to apologise to anyone”.

Mosley then went on to defend the fascist Walter Hesketh, telling Cathy he was “a very decent person as far as I was concerned, I thought he was then and I think he is now”. Hesketh is on record saying: “If enough people vote for me… the government will be sending coloured immigrants home” and “To stop coloured immigration, vote Hesketh”. Mosley says he still thinks Hesketh is a “very decent person” now…

This all makes a mockery of Watson’s claim that Mosley’s views have changed and it is now somehow acceptable to take his cash. If a Tory had £500,000 off a former fascist who clearly still holds problematic views then Watson and Labour would be screaming the house down. Labour’s deputy leader is happy to take half a million quid from a former fascist who still thinks out-and-out racist Walter Hesketh was a “very decent person”…

Mr Toynbee’s Fine Dining Brass Neck

In the Guardian yesterday David Walker, Mr Polly Toynbee, bemoaned the abolition of the Audit Commission by Eric Pickles at DCLG and complained that there isn’t a quango to police councillors guilty of “fine dining at Le Caprice and the Ritz”. Oddly Walker forgets to mention that he was the six-figure Director of Communications for the Audit Commission before its abolition. Nor does he declare that he used taxpayers’ money to wine and dine other quangos such as the National Audit Office, socialising at taxpayers’ expense at the Reform Club, Footstool restaurant and the Ebury Wine Bar. Walker and his guests blew £1,766 of taxpayers’ cash on restaurant bills in 2009 alone, before he left and trousered a £30,000 payoff. The motto of the Audit Commission when Walker was there was “protecting the public purse”…

Vaz Promised to “Only Accept a Worker’s Wage”

Keith Vaz promised to “only accept a worker’s wage” when he was in the process of becoming an MP, Guido can reveal. Vaz is under renewed pressure over his finances after the National Crime Agency was asked to launch an Unexplained Wealth Order investigation by Tory MP Andrew Bridgen. According to newspaper reports published before his election in 1987:

“Secretary of Richmond and Barnes Labour Party Keith Vaz has been selected as Labour candidate for the Leicester East constituency… Mr Vaz is going to live and work in Leicester in the run up to the election. He said that if elected he will only accept a worker’s wage and donate the rest of his parliamentary salary to the local Labour Party.”

Mr Vaz’s parliamentary salary is £74,962. Mr Vaz’s spokesman said this weekend the allegations are “entirely unfounded”. How much of Vaz’s salary over his 31 years in Parliament has he donated to Leicester East Labour Party?

High Court Orders UKIP to Pay Share of Labour Libel Costs

UKIP has been ordered to pay a share of the £670,000 costs of the Jane Collins libel case after their MEP accused Labour MPs of involvement in the Rotherham abuse scandal:

“The Court therefore makes an order that UKIP should pay the claimants’ costs from 20 March 2015 to 23 June 2015 and their costs of the assessment hearing.”

Only a share of the total cost, but still going to be tricky for the cash-strapped party to pay…

UPDATE: Labour source says UKIP share of legal costs is estimated at £200,000. Potentially fatal for the party if so…

UPDATE II: UKIP lawyers say they think it will be closer to £20,000. Labour still adamant the party owes £200,000.

Priti Asks Electoral Commission to Investigate Remain Campaign

Priti Patel has written to the Electoral Commission asking them to launch an investigation following Guido’s stories on how the Remain campaign flouted spending rules during the referendum. As we revealed last week, Remainers shared data, suppliers and campaign materials, coordinated spending, funnelled £1 million to new campaigns set up in the month before the vote, and potentially spent double the legal limit. Priti says:

“There needs to be a thorough investigation into the actions, expenditure and financial probity of Remain campaigners, who appear to have flouted the rules and the spirit of the law to advance their cause in concert with each other.

It cannot be right that remain campaigners can so blatantly flout the rules to feed the British people their propaganda. As well as coordinating campaigning and spending they used every organ of the British state to try to bully people into staying in the EU. They even spent £9m of taxpayers’ money on a campaign leaflet breaking the normal rules of fair play of our democratic system.

‘Despite this wall of fear and fury the British people held their nerve and bravely voted to take back control. Brexit will be a great liberation for this country – but the leadership of the remain campaign must still be held to account for their actions.”

Read her letter in full below:

The Electoral Commission have told the BBC they are looking into Guido’s stories, but have yet to launch a formal probe. A lot of evidence landing on their desk this morning…

Remain Campaigns Coordinated Spending

Remain lawyer Jolyon Maugham called the validity of the referendum into question over the various Leave campaigns allegedly coordinating their spending. As he wrote in the Guardian, Maugham was so concerned about Vote Leave paying for services from other campaigns that he launched a Judicial Review into what he called “illegal spending”. Maugham will surely be equally outraged to learn that the same thing happened on the Remain campaign…

Guido has found:

  • The In Campaign Ltd paid for £52,062.23 worth of campaign materials for the Liberal Democrats between 15 April 2016 and 8 June 2016.

  • The In Campaign Ltd paid for materials worth £22,829 for Labour on 15 April 2016

  • Labour paid for £7,265.65 worth of materials for the The In Campaign Ltd on 26 May 2016.

  • Emma Duncan (who set up Wake Up And Vote) donated £24,000 to DDB UK Ltd on 11 July 2016.

  • We are Europe donated £10,000 to DDB UK Ltd on 29 June 2016.

  • Virgin Management Limited donated £15,000 to We Are Europe on 15 June 2016.

Maugham accused Vote Leave of breaking the law and said parliament could decide to overturn Brexit as a result. He wrote: “It’s not just about Brexit. The reason we have spending limits is because we want to live in a democracy”. Now it’s clear the Remain campaign was doing the same thing, will he call for an investigation into them too?

Guido’s investigation over the last few days has revealed the Remain campaign coordinated not only their spending but their messaging, campaign plans, data, materials and donations, with the effect of causing them to overspend by more than double the legal limit. Stay tuned…

Remain Donors Funnelled £1 Million to New Campaigns Set Up in Weeks Before Referendum

More than £1 million of Remain donors’ money was funnelled to new campaigns set up in the weeks before the referendum, as the official Remain campaign approached its maximum spending limit. A Guido investigation can reveal several of the campaigns that supported Remain were registered only weeks before the referendum, and were given hundreds of thousands of pounds each to spend in those final weeks.[…] Read the rest

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