Tory MP Demands Cabinet Office Investigates Sir Craig’s Book

Following Guido’s story on a potential breach of the Special Advisers Code of Conduct in Sir Craig Oliver’s memoirs, a Tory MP has written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood demanding an investigation. Andrew Bridgen asks the two killer questions: why was Sir Craig permitted to publish information that the Cabinet Office admits could prejudice relations with the US? And did Sir Craig breach the SpAds Code of Conduct by failing to discuss his memoirs with the Cabinet Office prior to signing the book deal? This line of the letter is particularly interesting:

“If the rules were broken, there is precedent to confiscate the profits of the book sales. In 2000 the Government obtained a court order for it to be paid £90,000 of royalties owed by the publisher Jonathan Cape to George Blake for his unauthorised 1990 memoir “No Other Choice”. I hope you will investigate these serious issues promptly.”

If the government did confiscate Sir Craig’s profits that could mean an extra £350 to the NHS…

Salmond and Tasmina’s Boozy City Break

The Daily Mail has a great hit on the extra-curricular activities of Alex Salmond and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. They’ve been caught on a three day jolly to Strasbourg enjoying “three-and-a-half-hour lavish booze-fuelled dinners” at a Michelin star restaurant. Guess who is picking up the tab? The Mail reports “Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh is a regular presence at Mr Salmond’s side”. These pics were taken close to the hotel where Salmond and Tasmina were staying:

Och aye the two…

SNP Minister Claims £4.68 on Expenses For 0.9 Mile Taxi Ride to Speech on Physical Activity

A classic of the expenses genre north of the border from STV. They’ve caught SNP health minister Maureen Watt claiming £4.68 on expenses for a 0.9-mile taxi journey to give a speech, wait for it, on the importance of physical activity. Watt ordered a cab from the Scottish parliament, travelled five minutes up one street to Meadowbank Sports Centre, where she spoke promoting the “benefits of physical activity” for people with learning difficulties. Classic Nat hypocrisy.

Hammond Refuses to Budget For No Deal

For months Brexiters have warned the Treasury and civil service are not preparing properly for the possibility of no deal. Despite May and Davis starting to make more encouraging noises on no deal preparations, Philip Hammond writes in the Times that he won’t spend any money now to prepare for that outcome. In March Number 10 sources told Guido the likelihood of no deal was 50-50, those same odds were offered by a Cabinet minister to the Sun this week. Why would the Chancellor rule out budgeting for something which the government says could easily happen? That is just irresponsible. 

If Hammond won’t fund plans for no deal it simply doesn’t look like a credible option. It’s not hard to see that this clearly weakens our negotiating position with the EU. Also curious for Hammond to come out and say this given it is a direct provocation to Leave Cabinet ministers who asked for the money this week. Arguably a greater undermining of the PM’s position than anything in Boris’ article…

Corbyn’s “Defiance” of Mosley

Brave of Jeremy Corbyn to crow about his family’s principled defiance of Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts. It can’t have rubbed off too much on the young Jez: only a few months ago he was happy to accept a £300,000 election donation from Oswald’s son Max, a former blackshirt and campaigner against “coloured immigration”. Watch the Labour donor punch a policeman at a fascist rally below:

Tom Watson also took more than £200,000 from Mosley. “Defiance”…

Rudd Banking £30,000-a-Month Donations

Amber Rudd addresses Tory conference later on a day on which her leadership ambitions are again coming to the fore. She has used a wide-ranging interview in the Mail to attack Boris’ “red lines” (not sure he ever actually used the words “red lines”) and say her leadership rival shouldn’t give his views on Brexit. And the Times reveals she has hired Lynton Crosby’s firm CTF to help her keep her seat. Colleagues note that Rudd banked £30,000 in donations in June, the latest declared period, a huge sum in a very short space of time for someone supposedly just interested in keeping her seat in an election five years away. She has Lord Feldman fundraising for her, more evidence that she is the Cameron / Osborne / Remain choice for next leader. CTF insist their work is related solely to her constituency. The fundraising is intriguing though, quietly and very quickly Rudd is amassing a considerable war chest. Last night in Manchester her brother Roland hosted a champagne reception for the Remain glitterati…

UPDATE: Roland party organisers dispute the use of the phrase Remain glitterati, pointing out Gove and DD were also in attendance.

Tory MPs and Think Tanks Pan May Announcements

Conference has barely begun and Tory MPs and right-leaning think tanks and pundits are already kicking off about Theresa May’s announcements on tuition fees and Help to Buy.

Kate Andrews of the Institute of Economic Affairs:

“The Prime Minister is right to address the plights of young people leading up to Conservative Party Conference, but pledging over £10billion worth of uncosted policies will only burden them more down the road, as they face an increasing national debt and – inevitably – higher taxes. While May plans to temporarily put a bit more cash back in the pockets of young graduates, the party must acknowledge that the current university funding system – and lack of competition within it – needs a complete overhaul if student debt is to be tackled. Propping up the Help to Buy scheme only distorts the housing market more, which is already in a perpetual state of crisis. If May is serious about getting young people on the housing ladder, the answer is clear: liberalise the housing market and build more homes.”

Sam Bowman of the Adam Smith Institute:

“Reviving Help to Buy is like throwing petrol onto a bonfire. The property market is totally dysfunctional because supply is so tightly constrained by planning rules, and adding more demand without improving the supply of houses is just going to raise house prices and make homes more unaffordable for people who don’t qualify for the Help to Buy subsidy… Reviving Help to Buy is an astonishingly ill-judged move that may prove economically and politically disastrous for the government.”

The view from ConHome and Unherd:

MPs Guido has spoken to are wondering why May has chosen to engage on Corbyn’s territory with policies that are just Labour-lite. Colleagues are asking why there are no ambitious announcements on house-building and student debt rather than this damp squib. Not to mention the £12 billion of unfunded spending. A lot of work to do on policy over the next few days…

UPDATE: The government’s side of the story articulated well by James Cleverly:

Marr to May: “In the Last 8 Minutes You’ve Spent £12 Billion”

At the beginning of her Marr interview Theresa May criticised Labour’s plans for spending and borrowing. She then went on to announce £12 billion of new spending on tuition fees and Help to Buy without saying how she would pay for it. This is dangerous unfunded Labour-lite stuff, fighting on Corbyn’s turf…

84% of PFI Projects Started Under Labour

Announcing his plan to nationalise PFIs John McDonnell noted that they started under John Major, yet for some reason neglected to mention that the vast majority began under Labour governments. Sky’s Ed Conway has this helpful graph showing 604 PFI projects started under Labour, compared to 112 under the Tories. Forget the magic money tree, this is a forest…

Hammond Overspending By Just £10 Million-an-Hour

The Tories are claiming it is some sort of achievement that public sector net borrowing was £28.3 billion between April and August, down £0.2 billion on 2016. Yes, big congratulations to Philip Hammond for getting government overspending down to just £10 million or so an hour.

Tory Glasto Hosted By Multi-Millionaire Gambling Magnate

The hotly-anticipated ‘Tory Glastonbury’ is taking place on the farm of Mark Davies, a multi-millionaire gambling magnate, former banker and bookies’ lobbyist, Guido can reveal. Tory MP George Freeman is fronting the invitation-only Big Tent Fest which is being promoted as a festival of ideas to take the fight to Corbyn and win back young voters from Labour. The venue is less a muddy field and more of a country pile…

The festival will be taking place in Berkshire on land owned by former Betfair managing director Mark Davies. Davies left Betfair in 2010 amid a messy £4 million legal dispute, before setting up Camberton PR, a lobbying company for bookmakers including Ladbrokes. Davies was a director at Probability, a firm providing online casino technology to the likes of Paddy Power and William Hill. Before entering the gambling world he was a banker at JP Morgan. Just the person to win over Corbyn voters…

What about the farm itself? Davies bought ‘West End Farm’ in rural Berkshire for £2.4 million in 2006 – it will now be worth significantly more, something like £5 million.

The festival kicks off this evening with cocktails, a hog roast and some opening talks. The three big tents focus on the economy, society and politics respectively. It has a distinctly centrist feel – Labour MP Liam Byrne and Alexander Holroyd, one of Macron’s En Marche! deputies – are guest speakers. To be fair to Freeman the line-up includes some names worth listening to: Liam Halligan, Iain Martin, Roger Scruton, Juliet Samuel, Phillip Blond, Sam Bowman and Gerard Lyons. Alan Mak and Andrew Cooper are also attending. Corbynistas are going to have a field day with this though…

Green NGOs Spend Taxpayers’ Millions Lobbying Government

Green NGOs are spending millions lobbying against the interests of British taxpayers, analysis by the Taxpayers’ Alliance has found. Taxpayers’ cash received by charities including Friends of the Earth and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is being splurged on partisan political activities such as supporting parliamentary candidates and lobbying ministers. The cash has been used to block projects which experts say would bring down energy costs for consumers. 

The RSPB received £27.5 million in grants from UK taxpayers in 2015 and 2016. Its sister organisation Birdlife International received the third highest amount of European Commission taxpayer funding of any green group, being granted €3.8 million. Likewise, Friends of the Earth received the second highest amount of any such group, being handed €7.6 million. In conjunction with Greenpeace (which does not receive EC funding), these charities have acted more like pressure groups by:

  • Orchestrating a massive media campaign to fight a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point;
  • Launching law suits to obstruct the construction of new power stations;
  • Lobbying the UK government to prevent expansion of infrastructure;
  • Lobbying successfully to prevent exploration for shale gas taking place in Wiltshire;
  • Publishing misleading advertising to influence consumer and public opinion, and spread falsehoods about shale gas exploration.

Friends of the Earth also spent more than £100,000 backing a pro-Green crop of parliamentary candidates. The Electoral Commission intervened and fined Friends of the Earth for failing to register properly as a donor. The amount spent was way over the limit imposed on candidates themselves in the final stages of the election campaign…

Meanwhile, the Pesticide Action Network, which has received more than €710,000 from the European Commission over the past decade, is currently campaigning to ban glyphosate (a weed killer). The pressure group claims glyphosate is a “potentially cancer-inducing chemical”, despite Europe’s own chemicals regulator, the European Chemicals Agency, finding

“The available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria… to classify glyphosate for specific target organ toxicity, or as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or for reproductive toxicity.”

A ban would cost taxpayers £228 million a year. A probe carried out by the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute found that, overall:

  • A total of €86.5 million has been given to a range of environmental groups by the European Commission over the past 10 years;
  • 34 groups have been given more than €1 million.

This enormous pile of taxpayers cash is being ploughed into lobbying activities which directly prevent UK taxpayers from benefiting from cheaper energy and new infrastructure. Taxpayers’ Alliance Chief Executive John O’Connell said:

“It’s bad enough that politicians are piling costs onto consumers with their hare-brained energy schemes, but the fact that taxpayers are paying pressure groups to campaign against their interests adds insult to injury.


“There are plenty of reasons for the government to stop this gravy train in its tracks as it is, but the fact that some of these groups have run dishonest campaigns and fallen foul of electoral commission rules must surely be a final nail in the coffin for this taxpayer funded lobbying.”

Stay tuned this week for more in Guido’s Green NGO Sockpuppets series…

Tory MP Tops Up Salary as Europa League Linesman

New Tory MP Douglas Ross topped up his salary over the summer by working as an assistant referee in Scottish Premier League and UEFA Europa League football matches. Ross, who once got into trouble for dodging parliamentary duties as an MSP so he could run the line in a Real Madrid game, was paid £425 to officiate in top flight games in August and September. He also pocketed £1,436 as the assistant referee in the Marseille vs Domzale Europa League match two weeks ago. He sounds like a bit of a legend.

11 August 2017, received £97.50 for Buckie Thistle v Raith Rovers.
11 August 2017, received £97.50 for Dundee v Dundee United.
24 August 2017, received £425 for Hamilton Academical v Dundee.
24 August 2017, received £130 for Livingston v Dunfermline Athletic.
7 September 2017, received £130 for Caledonian Thistle v Morton.
7 September 2017, received £425 for Celtic v St Johnstone.
1 September 2017, received £1,436.35 from UEFA for NK Domzale v Olympique de Marseille.

These late vote nights clashing with Champions League games will be hurting this lino in the pocket…

Frankie Maude’s Truth Bullets

Truth bullets from Francis Maude on Newsnight last night:

“The deficit is clearly not under control. We are in quite a sustained period of economic growth and yet we still have a budget deficit that is too big. We should be at this stage in a place where the budget deficit has been eliminated and we’re getting towards a surplus. We’re not. So the idea that there is suddenly lots of money around is complete fantasy… I’m not happy that we are giving the impression that we can suddenly spend money to alleviate a particular political pressure point.”

He is right, the Tories have pushed back closing the deficit until 2025, ten years later than they promised. They have added £500 billion to the national debt in 7 years, Hammond now plans to add a billion a week to the burden. Voters who experienced the public sector pay cap over the last 7 years after being told it was necessary to to close the deficit will now be wondering why the same Tories now say it’s okay to splash the cash and kick the can down round. The government’s claim to be pursuing a policy of “sound money” is risible…

Kate and Wills Awarded Just €100,000 Over Topless Photos

The ruling is in: Closer magazine in France has been ordered to pay just €100,000 to Kate and William over those topless photos. Kate and Wills had sought €1.5 million…

Greens Live in Most Expensive Homes

Green and Liberal Democrat constituencies are the most expensive areas to live in the UK, with Tory seats in third place, according to research linking house prices to party support.

The research commissioned by Bridging Loan Hub reveals that, when analysing the average house price in all 650 UK constituencies, at £394,577, the sole Green constituency (Brighton Pavilion) pips the Lib Dems, with an average value of £368,517. Despite their reputation as the party of the rich, Conservative seats are only the third most expensive in Britain, averaging £330,585 per home.

Conservative seats also have the greatest range in house prices. The difference between the most and least expensive Tory constituencies is £2,082,689 and Labour follow closely behind with a £2,014,780 difference. Seats held by Jeremy Corbyn’s party have £265,762 homes on average, with constituencies ranging from £90,058 to £2,104,838. Sinn Féin strongholds in Northern Ireland have the cheapest homes nationally, averaging just £133,820 per property across their seven seats with the lowest average price for any single constituency: £88,178 in West Tyrone.

This will come as no surprise to people who have been out canvassing in Tory-LibDem swing seats like Richmond…

UKIP Leadership Candidate Linked to Belize Offshore Banking Firm

UKIP leadership candidate John Rees-Evans has a very eclectic CV. He claims to have been a “private soldier” working with the Ugandan People’s Defence Force to fight terrorists. He says he has worked in a meat factory, as a postman, as a pizza delivery man and a builder. He apparently runs an expedition company called Team Kilimanjaro, and has an “apocalypse-proof” compound in rural Bulgaria complete with a cache of weapons and panic room. Yet Rees-Evans is not so vocal about another of his interests…

Rees-Evans’ personal email address is registered at an unusual looking website called SAS.VC. “SAS” stands for “Safaris, Adventure and Survival”, and purports to organise holidays in Africa. The “.VC” domain is the internet country code for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The website is registered to a “Linus Evans” in Belize. Slightly curious for an African holiday company…

Even more curious is the about page for the “SAS” website. Far from mentioning anything about “Survival, Adventure and Safaris”, it reveals “SAS” actually stands for “Systech Accounting Services”. It says:

“Systech Accounting Services is a trading name of Exposure Limited, incorporated in Belize… Systech specialise in assisting their clients with the preparation of annual accounts, income tax and corporation tax returns, bookkeeping, payroll processing, business start-ups, international company formations, company secretarial, translation & proofreading services, and specialist taxation advice.”

So “SAS” is actually a “specialist taxation” firm based in Belize, also using the name “Exposure Limited”. Exposure is run by a Leo Rees-Evans and the company designed John Rees-Evans’ website.

What else do we know about Exposure / Systech Accounting Services? Online directories reveal Systech offers offshore bank accounts and offshore company incorporation. For a fee of €499, Systech boasts it will set you up with “the world’s leading offshore bank”. The directory also gives an address at a PO Box in Popovo, Bulgaria. Remember who else lived in rural Bulgaria? John Rees-Evans, at his famous high-security compound…

It seems odd that Rees-Evans has been so boastful about his varied career and never mentioned Systech Accounting Services and their offshore banking services. Just the other day Rees-Evans was talking at a hustings about how terrible it is when British taxpayers’ money “ends up in offshore bank accounts”. Unfortunately he hasn’t replied to Guido’s requests for comment. We’d need the real SAS to breach his compound to get to the bottom of it…

Second LibDem MP Faces Election Expenses Questions

The Scottish papers think they are onto something with LibDem expenses at this year’s election. Yesterday the Herald accused Jo Swinson of omitting thousands of pounds worth of claims from her expenses return, which if declared would have put her over the limit. Today they are going after new LibDem MP Christine Jardine, claiming voters were sent personalised mail which was not accounted for in her spending return, and that if she had declared this £3,000 of expenditure in her local spend she would have bust her limit by £1,350. The LibDems are protesting their innocence, as they did before they were given the maximum fine by the Electoral Commission after the 2015 election. Expect more LibDem names to come out in the next few days…

Swinson in Trouble Over “Vanishing” Election Expenses

Here we go again… LibDem Jo Swinson is feeling the heat north of the border after thousands of pounds were apparently left off her election expenses declaration. The Herald reports Swinson claimed her spending had come in £210 below the limit, but only after £7,000 worth of claims were left undeclared. Swinson says money was spent on items that were never used so she didn’t declare it – other claims were declared as national spend in a move reminiscent of Nick Clegg’s controversial election expenses last time round. One to watch, who’s up for another summer of election fraud stories?

Starmer Forced to Turn Down Mishcon Second Job

Sir Keir Starmer has bowed to pressure and been forced to reject a lucrative second job at anti-Brexit law firm Mishcon de Reya. A win for Tory MP James Cleverly who wrote to Starmer last night pointing out the conflicts of interest the job would entail.[…] Read the rest

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IDS responds to Juncker’s pints analogy earlier:

“Mr Juncker knows a little bit more about the bar than perhaps many of us do.”

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