Tories Pressurising Members To Donate

A new Tory fundraising drive is targeting members and supporters who have yet to donate to the Conservatives’ campaign. The email tells recipients that “Over the last twelve months Labour have raised nearly £13 million from donations alone. And now the polls are tightening. So we urgently need your help to match Corbyn’s war chest.”

The email, sent by co-Chairman of the party Ben Elliott, highlights members and supporters who have not contributed to the ‘Election Fighting Fund’ in an attempt to pressure them into giving £5 or 10 in the final days of the campaign. It’s more normal for late-stage fundraising emails to target supporters who have already donated – the Tories are pulling out all the stops following Labour’s massive union cash injection… 

Momentum Fined By Electoral Commission For Multiple Breaches Of Electoral Law

Guido’s investigation in late 2017 drew attention to the implausibility of Momentum having adhered to the laws on spending limits. The subsequent Electoral Commission electoral fraud investigation has borne this out, with Momentum today being fined £16,700 for multiple breaches of electoral law. The hard left campaign group has been found to have repeatedly filed  inaccurate general election spending returns in 2017 despite being given a year to revise their return. They were also multiple failures to report donations accepted outside of an election period. The Electoral Commission says this is “the highest fine levied on a non-party campaigner for not submitting a complete and accurate spending return during the 2017 election.”

Momentum originally claimed they had only spent £38,743 across the whole of the 2017 election. Conveniently, just under the £39,000 spending limit for non-party campaigners…

Considering Momentum raised £120,000 from Crowdpac alone, they presumably expected the Electoral Commission would simply believe that they did not spend the vast majority of the money raised. But the Commission has concluded that Momentum’s spending report “was not accurate and Momentum subsequently delivered four further versions after the deadline, each of which reported different amounts of donations and spending.” Oh dear…

UPDATE: Despite the Electoral Commission stating bluntly that “Momentum did not cooperate fully during the investigation” they have responded with a lengthy statement essentially claiming it was all an innocent mistake. The make much of their small donations from volunteers, the Electoral Commission actually found they failed to declare big donations of tens of thousands from the TSSA union.

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Tory Vice Chairman Paid £46,000 from House of Saud

As the world learned this week of the horrific torture and murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi – he was according to some reports alive when his torturer began cutting him up with an electric bone saw – the register of MPs’ interests was published. The new register of interests reveals that Tory MP Rehman Chishti received £46,000 from Saudi Arabia between March 2016 and January this year for advisory work with the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Chisti only stopped taking the lucrative £2,000-a-month payments from the Saudis when he became Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Communities in January. The party position comes with a £10,000 honorarium.

Guido looks forward to getting the benefit of hearing Chisti’s inside view of the Saudi regime’s behaviour when he speaks in the inevitable debates on the matter in the Commons…

UPDATE: Dozen Tories Took £85,0000 of Junkets to Riyadh in Last Year

Beijing Barry Pockets Another £77,000 From China-Linked Firm

Barry Gardiner has trousered another £77,000 from a law firm whose founder is linked to the Chinese regime, bringing the total he has accepted to over £380,000. Readers will remember how ‘Beijing Barry’ hit the headlines last year for taking huge sums in donations from Christine Lee & Co. Christine Lee describes herself as a “legal adviser to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the UK” and “legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council” in China. Her son, Daniel Wilkes, works in Gardiner’s office as a parliamentary researcher. The register states Wilkes is “paid by Christine Lee & Co (solicitors) for the work I do in Parliament”…

Would young Dan have his parliamentary pass if mum wasn’t splashing the cash? Gardiner’s current brief concerns international trade with China. He was a vocal advocate of the Hinkley Point power station deal, which involved a Chinese state-backed firm. Both the donations and employing Christine Lee’s son are allowed under parliamentary rules. Which says more about the rules than anything else…

Best Paid at the BBC

New BBC pay figures out:

1. Gary Lineker – £1,750,000-£1,759,999
2. Chris Evans – £1,660,000-£1,669,999
3. Graham Norton – £600,000-£609,999
4. Steve Wright – £550,000-£559,999
5. Huw Edwards – £520,000-£529,999
6. Jeremy Vine – £440,000-£449,999
=7. Nicky Campbell – £410,000-£419,999
=7. Alan Shearer – £410,000-£419,999
=9. John Humphrys – £400,000-£409,999
=9. Nick Grimshaw – £400,000-£409,999
=9. Stephen Nolan – £400,000-£409,999
=9. Andrew Marr – £400,000-£409,999

And if you don’t want to pay their wages, you end up in court…

Dent Coad Denies Election Expenses Claims

Emma Dent Coad has come out swinging after being reported to the police by democracy campaigner Stuart Coster over her election expenses, telling the Standard: “These entirely baseless allegations make the erroneous assumption that one has to spend a lot of money to win an election”, and adding that she fought the seat “from my kitchen table with loads of volunteers”. Guido hopes she thought that line through…

This is Dent Coad’s election communication for the 2017 election. The imprint is personal to Dent Coad locally (not the national party), the content is fully local and can’t be considered national costs, yet the imprint refers to the printer “Sterling Press Ltd” which appears nowhere on the list of suppliers of her “Unsolicited material to electors”. A Labour source says Dent Coad declared a payment for her election communication to the Labour Party, which was then centrally paid to Sterling Press, in accordance with electoral law.

The leaflet also invites readers to order a poster (which a Labour source says was a Labour poster and therefore national spend), quotes a mobile phone number and refers to a web address – the costs for none of which during the regulated period are included in her return. Did she really only spend five grand on her entire election campaign?

Question Time’s £450,000 Gender Pay Problem

The conventional wisdom is that the BBC will appoint a woman to present Question Time. David Dimbleby is paid £450,000 a year, or £15,000 an episode. If he is replaced by a woman, gender pay sensitivities mean it is unthinkable that she could be given a pay cut. The Beeb would have to stump up the full £450,000. If a man is hired, however, insiders note, the salary could be slashed, potentially saving the BBC and licence fee payers hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. Tough one for Beeb bean counters…

Health Minister Admits NHS Spending Funded Entirely By Taxes For Years

Health minister Jackie Doyle-Price admits the obvious: there is no Brexit dividend while we continue to pay our subs to the EU. That means no Brexit dividend until at least two years after Brexit. Which means the new NHS spending during those years will be paid for entirely out of taxes (and possibly borrowing). In reality the vast majority of the money will come from taxes after the transition period is over as well. Which is not what Number 10 is trying to spin us…

Onward to Higher Taxes

The government currently has no idea how it wants to raise taxes to pay for the £20 billion-a-year funding increase for the NHS. Step forward Tory MP Neil O’Brien, the former Osborne SpAd who recently co-founded the Onward think tank, with a proposal: freezing the personal allowance for two years. His plan to effectively hike taxes for all voters will raise £4 billion a year, which still leaves a huge black hole.

Labour’s policy is to whack the super-rich with new taxes. This Tory plan proposes to stop low earners, middle class voters and everyone else from keeping more of the money they earn. Which one do they think the public are going to vote for? The Tories are shifting the Overton window way to the left, fighting on Corbyn’s territory, and leaving people with no reason to vote Conservative. This madness is only going to make it more likely Corbyn gets into Number 10…

May: NHS Spending Will Be Paid For With Tax Rises

Theresa May and the Number 10 spin team have done an impressive job of getting ‘NHS spending funded by Brexit dividend’ as the top line on broadcast this morning. The truth is the vast majority of the new money is going to come from tax rises equivalent to 3p on the basic rate of income tax. The Tories are refusing to say how or when the tax rises are coming. So far they are getting away with a completely uncosted policy and massive mystery tax rises. This is the Tory magic money tree…

Damian Collins Accepts Donation From Russian Billionaire Friend of Putin

Grandstanding select committee chairman Damian Collins has spent the last year chasing headlines about Russian interference in British politics. So it’s a bit rich of him to be taking donations from a Russian billionaire who is a close ally of Vladimir Putin…

The latest Register of Members’ Interests reveals that Collins accepted two tickets worth £1,000 to a football match at Stamford Bridge paid for by Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea FC. Abramovich has since had his visa renewal application delayed by the UK government, reportedly due to his close links to Putin. The oligarch was described by the Guardian last month as a “big Kremlin player”. Perhaps Collins should write himself one of his famous letters…

Dawn Butler’s £14,000 LA Jolly Paid For By Blairite Guru

Top Corbynista Shadow Cabinet member Dawn Butler lived it up on a £14,000 nine-day junket to Los Angeles paid for by a Blairite guru whose company was incorporated in the Cayman Islands. Butler, who has gained something of a reputation for enjoying the high life since taking a job in Jeremy Corbyn’s top team, jetted off to LA last month, where she mingled with the stars on the red carpet at the GLAAD Awards.

Dawn was taken to LA by Anthony Watson, who readers will remember is a hardcore Blairite who bankrolled Owen Smith’s campaign to remove Jezza. As Guido has previously reported, Watson’s company Uphold Inc was originally registered in the Caymans. Here are Butler and Watson photographed at the glitzy LA awards bash. Not sure what the Corbynistas will make of Dawn partying in LA paid for by an arch Corbyn-sceptic.

The event took place at the Beverly Hills Hilton, where a room fetches up to $530 a night. Well, it beats an evening in Brent…

Butler has declared the purpose of the visit as a “Women and Equalities LGBT fact finding visit“. For some strange reason, she decided not to mention any of the facts she found, or indeed anything about her nine day trip at all, on any of her social media accounts. Guido would have thought it was at least Instagram worthy. For the many, not the few…

Priti Demands New Probe Into Remain Spending and Questions Electoral Commission Impartiality

Following fresh revelations today about the Remain campaign overspend during the referendum, Priti Patel has written to the Electoral Commission calling for an investigation. Readers will remember the Electoral Commission refused to investigate previous evidence of Remain overspending, despite investigating Vote Leave for the same thing. Priti warns the Commission there are questions over their impartiality – Guido has the letter:

I am writing, further to our correspondence earlier this year, and in light of the revelations in the Sunday Telegraph about new evidence of services being shared among the various Remain campaigns in the 2016 EU referendum.

I am sure you share my deep concerns that Britain Stronger in Europe seems to have been provided with services by other Remain campaigns without declaring the expenditure in the appropriate way. There is evidence that many campaigns appear to have acted as a mere continuity of the official Remain campaign as it approached its spending limit, the most egregious example of this being the regrettably named ‘Don’t f*ck my future’ campaign, which many different Remain organisations appear to have involved themselves in.

As you will be well aware, the findings in the Sunday Telegraph are just the latest example of concerns being raised about how the Remain campaign conducted itself during the referendum. There have been numerous ‘warning signals’ over the last few months, including several media reports that have strongly suggested that Britain Stronger in Europe tried to circumvent the Electoral Commission’s rules during the EU referendum. As a reminder, these include:

  • Admissions by senior figures within Britain Stronger in Europe that they were coordinating messaging and campaign activity with other Remain campaigns including Labour In, Conservatives In and the Liberal Democrats.
  • The fact that a number of Remain campaigns were set up in the month leading up to the referendum, which received hundreds of thousands of pounds from donors who had previously made payments to Britain Stronger in Europe and other pro-EU campaigns.
  • Reports that Britain Stronger in Europe were delegating ground campaign activity to the Labour Party, potentially sharing campaign material such as leaflets and canvassing data.

When I wrote to you earlier this year to highlight some of these concerning pieces of evidence you decided to take no action – claiming there were no ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect that these activities were ‘part of a common plan or other arrangement’. We are now faced with a situation where others are instead having to undertake the sort of investigation that the Commission should have taken months ago. It is all the more concerning, as a significant proportion of the evidence cited in the Sunday Telegraph report appears to have come from the Electoral Commission’s own records.

This raises serious questions about the impartiality of the Electoral Commission. The material uncovered in the Sunday Telegraph, coupled with the evidence made public earlier this year, suggests that the Commission has decided to hold Leave campaigns to one standard, and Remain campaigners to another, much lower standard.

In November last year, you decided to open a third investigation into the official Vote Leave campaign, even though you admitted in your assessment that there was no new evidence to justify the reopening of this investigation. Despite the absence of any suggestion that the official Leave campaign indulged in the apparent collusion described above, you have nonetheless continued your investigation.

In reopening the case, you set a very low threshold for triggering an investigation into a campaign. And yet, despite setting this low threshold, you have since refused to open any sort of investigation into the Remain campaign – despite the ever-growing volume of evidence that these campaigners were breaking the Commission’s rules.

I am not unsympathetic to the challenges that the Electoral Commission faces. I understand the reasons behind your suggestion to Parliament that the rules on coordination need to be reviewed. But while I accept the argument that the law should be improved – and that this is beyond your control – what is undeniably in your control is the power to treat campaigns equally.

I believe that the Electoral Commission has an important role to play in our democracy, but that role comes with an important responsibility – to be politically neutral at all times. If you want to restore confidence in the Commission, you should either start a formal investigation into Britain Stronger in Europe, or show equity and end the investigation in Vote Leave. The public – and Parliament – want to see the Commission acting with political balance.

I look forward to hearing from you .

Yours sincerely

The Rt. Hon. Priti Patel

The threshold for investigation is low, the Electoral Commission is already investigating Vote Leave for lesser alleged offences… It would tell you all you need to know about the Remainer-stuffed Electoral Commission if they refuse to look into this…

New Tory Treasurer is Director of 7 Companies With Overdue Accounts

The new Treasurer of the Conservative Party is a director of seven companies which are late filing their accounts, Guido can reveal. Ehud Sheleg, who runs a Mayfair art gallery, is set to be appointed to the role after giving the Tories half a million pounds before the last election.[…] Read the rest

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Top Tory’s Firm Implicated in Russian Dirty Money Report

Russophile former Tory minister Greg Barker’s firm EN+ has been implicated in the Foreign Affairs select committee report into dirty Russian money in London. Lord Barker’s primary role as chairman of EN+ was to give the group a veneer of respectability and to reassure the City as the Russian energy and aluminium producer listed on the London Stock Exchange last year.[…] Read the rest

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‘Beijing Barry’ Takes £43,000 from China-Linked Firm

Barry Gardiner is still pocketing tens of thousands of pounds from a law firm whose head is linked to the Chinese regime. New figures show the Shadow International Trade Secretary has accepted £43,500 from Christine Lee & Co so far this year. […] Read the rest

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Will Collins Ask Electoral Commission About Remain Overspend?

The Electoral Commission is up in front of the Culture select committee this morning. Guido is sure the Remainer-packed committee, which has been the most one-sided, non-reality based, grandstanding committee by a mile under the tenure of ultra-Remainer chairman Damian Collins, will ask about the Remain campaign’s overspend.[…] Read the rest

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Customs Partnership Would See UK Still Paying EU Billions

There is another problem with Number 10’s proposed customs partnership that hasn’t had much attention. In the unlikely event Brussels agrees to such a partnership, it would inevitably require the UK to continue to pay a substantial ratio of the customs revenues it collects to the EU.[…] Read the rest

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£10,000 Bribe For 25 Year-Olds Would Cost £8 Billion Per Year

The Resolution Foundation’s call for millennials to be given a £10,000 handout from the state on their 25th birthday has to be one of the daftest ideas from wonk land in a while. The Institute of Economic Affairs tell Guido that, while the number of people turning 25 will vary each year, on average it’s around 800,000 people a year.[…] Read the rest

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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”.[…] Read the rest

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