Greens Condemn Blair’s “Blood Money”

Yesterday Guido suggested that the Green Party should capitalise on the hypocrisy of Labour’s candidates in Brighton, who protested the Iraq War yet remain silent on why they are accepting cash from Tony Blair. It’s not like the Greens, bless ’em, to get punchy, but their Brighton Kemptown candidate Davy Jones this morning steps up and twists the knife into his Labour opponent Nancy Platts. He tells Guido:

“It is blood money and if I were Nancy, I’d definitely be sending it back.”

Meanwhile, a third Labour candidate has rejected Blair’s donation. Gloucestershire candidate Sophy Gardner served in the RAF and says:

“I have taken a personal decision that given my criticism of the Iraq war, in which I served, it would be hypocritical of me to accept it. Therefore, I can confirm I would decline this money.”

Of the hypocritical Labour candidates Guido contacted yesterday to ask if they will give the money back, none responded…

Cut Out and Keep: Miliband In Your Pocket

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Need the perfect gift for the union baron in your life? First it was Len McCluskey, then Alex Salmond and now everyone seems keen to get in on the Miliband-in-my-top-pocket craze:

post

Don’t bother spending £12 million in donations to the Labour Party, simply print off the above picture, cut along the dotted line, then tuck the black tab into your suit pocket. Pro tip – mounting Ed on cardboard will make him seem more lifelike.

Khan Questions Mount Over CAGE Cash Link

The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust has been forced to halt funding to Jihadi John’s friends at CAGE after it faced widespread condemnation and pressure from the Charity Commission. Both the JRCT and the Roddick Foundation were warned they faced an inquiry over why they gave hundreds of thousands of pounds in grants to CAGE in recent years. Perhaps it is also worth the Charity Commission looking at the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust – a different branch of the same organisation – who also gave £5,000 to Sadiq Khan’s Labour Campaign for Human Rights. Which looks especially murky when you consider Khan spoke at an event in parliament hosted by CAGE in 2012. Why was the key funder of a pro-terror campaign group also bankrolling a human rights organisation run by a man who wants to be Mayor of London? 

John Woodcock: Stationery Investigation Moving Fast

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has launched an investigation into Labour MP John Woodcock’s expenses.

As Guido reported last week, Woodcock is under fire for his use of official stationary and flogging access to Parliament as raffle prizes.

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The ever so transparent process gives only the vaguest of details regarding the fast moving investigation: ‘stationary’. 

Worth noting that the Commissioner has also decided to take up Rifkind and Straw’s self-referrals, though given the snail’s pace that things happen over there, it seems unlikely any investigation will be concluded before the two party grandees leave the Commons. Perhaps in time for the 2016 New Year’s Honours…

Labour Candidate Begs For Blair’s Blood Money

Labour’s target seat candidates are either handing back Blair’s cash on principle or have been shamed into silence. Down in South Thanet, however, which is not a target seat and so hasn’t landed any cash, the Labour candidate has a different approach:

Please, sir, can I have some more?

Blair’s Bloody Money: More Candidates Say No

The fallout from Tony Blair’s £106,000 donation to Labour target seat candidates continues as a second candidate refuses to take his blood money. Yesterday Guido revealed in the Sun on Sunday that Northampton candidate (and former Blairite) Sally Keeble was in line to receive Blair’s cash despite being a vocal critic of the former PM. She has now given the money back:

“The £1,000 donations are being offered to key seats – of which we were one. I have emailed them back to say we won’t be accepting.”

Yesterday Labour’s Dundee East candidate also said thanks but no thanks:

Attention seeking she may be, but it’s not like she lied to start a war, eh Al?

Before he was taking Blair’s cash, Labour’s Norwich South candidate Clive Lewis said of the former PM: “History will be his judge.” He sneered: “Tony, baby – stick to your fluffy Christmas cards. You had your chance.”

Rupa Huq, Labour’s candidate in Ealing, was also a fierce Blair critic, arguing the “legitimacy” of the Iraq War has been “demolished”.

Caitlin Bisknell, who is running in High Peak, admits “we didn’t have the evidence at the time”, while Brighton Kemptown candidate Nancy Platts warns “the Iraq War was the tipping point… some Labour voters, members and activists were lost for good”.

Brighton Pavilion candidate Purna Sen even went on marches in London, Oslo and the Middle East protesting against the war.

Several of the aspiring MPs given cash by Blair have sat in the Commons before: Bob Blizzard, David Drew and John Grogan all voted against the war in 2003.

How many more will stick to their principles and hand back the cash – which Blair is effectively laundering from foreign dictatorships – before the day is out?

GOD Delusion: Pampered Panjandrum Strikes Back

There’s a punchy interview with the departed head of the civil service Gus O’Donnell on the front page of the Indy. The former Cabinet Office bigwig has settled a few old scores with ‘out of touch’ ministers:

“There are still a few out there [who say:] ‘We send our kids to public schools, we have private health care, we travel by car or chauffeur, we don’t go on public transport… There are unfortunately too many people in politics who just don’t get it; who just don’t understand what life on benefits would be like… we need to really care about public services”.

While Guido likes GOD’s idea for primaries, it would be remiss for him not to point out that Gus sent his own daughter Kirsty to Alleyn’s, the private school in Dulwich. He also enjoyed the spoils of the Government Car Pool chauffeur service when in office, and was on a higher salary (and pension) than the PM. Just sayin’… 

John Woodcock Referred to Standards Commissioner

The long campaign is well underway, meaning candidate spending is limited to £30,700 and MPs are looking for ways to bend the rules to keep costs down. John Woodcock, for example, has sent his constituents a letter backing a ‘non-partisan’ third-party charity which, coincidentally, he has also made a central focus of his campaign for re-election. Pre-paid Commons envelopes are not allowed to be used “in a way that can be construed as campaign expenditure”, despite Woodcock using the word “campaign” four times in his letter backing the ‘Save Our Hospital’ group. The taxpayer is picking up the bill.



He is also auctioning off tickets to tours of parliament to raise cash for the ‘charity’. As you can see from Woodcock’s website, Save Our Hospital is a key part of his re-election campaign, listed as one of his main six re-election campaign pledges, so it is hardly independent. Tory MP David Morris has written to Standards Commissioner Kathryn Hudson asking her to investigate. Where is the money really going?

HMRC Paid 600 Staff to Sit at Home in IT Bungle

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HMRC wasted £2 million paying staff to sit at home because a spanking new IT system didn’t work for three months. According to Accountancy Age, 600 newly recruited staff were paid 75% of their wages to clock in to the office just once a week to see “if the system was operational yet“.

The staff were taken on as part of a £75 million, three-year contract by HMRC with service provider Concentrix. Tasked with looking for fraudulent working tax credit payments, they couldn’t work from September to November last year because their computers couldn’t “talk” to HMRC’s computer network from Concentrix’s offices in Belfast.

Nice work if you can get it…

UPDATE: HMRC say the IT cock-up was entirely Concentrix’s fault and the company will be shouldering the costs.

Strange Jowell Movements

Among those walking through the Aye lobby as Labour voted to ban MPs from holding paid directorships and consultancies was Dame Tessa Jowell. So strongly does Tessa feel about MPs’ “double jobbing” at consultancy firms, that she is paid £1,000 an hour working for… Mentore Consulting. On their website Jowell’s services are advertised to clients: “she has a great commitment to the development of talent and sharing the lessons of experience”, “making a difference to the diversity of senior leadership”. Of course, any clampdown on outside earnings won’t affect Tessa because she’s standing down at the election. Leaving her free to tell colleagues: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Top 100 Charity Fat Cats on £145,000 Median Pay

According to research by Third Sector magazine the median salary for each top earner among general charities such as Save the Children, Cancer Research UK and the British Red Cross was £145,000 – more than the British Prime Minister gets paid. Given that many of these charities have the taxpayer as their biggest source of funds the pay rates are still too high in an age of deficit financing. The taxpayer is funding borrowing to pay high pay to charity fat cats…

SHAMELESS: Labour Candidate Withdraws After Benefit Overclaiming Exposed

They don’t call it the party of benefits for nowt. Hanna Toms, the Labour candidate for Truro, has withdrawn from the race after it emerged she had ‘inadvertently’ over-claimed her benefits:

“In the last few months, I was contacted concerning an issue with Housing Benefit I had been receiving. After co-operating fully to clarify my entitlement, I was advised that I had been overpaid Housing and related benefits. This came as a great shock. The problem arose because I was under the impression that as I had advised HMRC of my changes in income, that information would then be passed on to the council. I was wrong. I fully accept that it was my responsibility to have advised the council of any change in circumstances and I failed to do this.”

She says she’s paid it all back, but is quitting to spend more time down the jobby…

Malcolm Rifkind Steps Down as ISC Chair and MP

The Chairman of the ISC, the Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind has this morning issued the following statement:

None of the current controversy with which I am associated is relevant to my work as Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.

However, I have today informed my colleagues that while I will remain a member of the Committee, I will step down from the Chairmanship.

The Committee is due to be dissolved in little over a month with the prorogation of Parliament for the forthcoming General Election. The main substantive work which needs to be completed will be the publication of our Privacy and Security Report during March.

I do not want the work of the Committee and the publication of the Report to be, in any way, distracted or affected by controversy as to my personal position. I have concluded, therefore, that it is better that this important work should be presided over by a new Chairman.

Will it be enough to lance the boil?

UPDATE: Rifkind also stepping down as an MP at the election. Kensington is in play.

UPDATE II: Personal statement from Sir Malcolm Rifkind:

“I have received tremendous support from my Constituency Association and from many constituents in Kensington over the last two days. However, I have been pondering whether it is fair to my colleagues and friends in Kensington to remain the prospective Conservative candidate for the forthcoming General Election. I warmly welcome the Committee that has been established by the Party to examine the controversy with which I have been associated and to report by the end of March on its conclusions. It will be an excellent opportunity for an objective assessment of the allegations that have been made and I will be happy to cooperate closely with the Committee. However, it is unlikely that it will be able to finish its deliberations until well into March and there, obviously, can be no certainty as to its conclusions. I am conscious, therefore, that Kensington Conservatives are faced with serious uncertainty until the end of March as to whether I will be able to be their candidate. If I could not they would have little time to choose a new candidate. I am also aware that even if the Committee reach a favourable conclusion as to these allegations the controversy will remain during what is certain to be a heated General Election and, indeed, for many months thereafter until the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has completed the necessary enquiry. I had intended to seek one further term as MP for Kensington, before retiring from the House of Commons. I have concluded that to end the uncertainty it would be preferable, instead, to step down at the end of this Parliament. This is entirely my personal decision. I have had no such requests from my constituency association but I believe that it is the right and proper action to take. As regards the allegations of Channel 4 and the Daily Telegraph I find them contemptible and will not comment further at this time. Although I will retire from Parliament I shall continue my public and political life and am much looking forward to doing so over the years to come.”

UPDATE III: No. 10:

UPDATE IV: 

Tories:

“Sir Malcolm has had a long career of distinguished service both to the Conservative Party and the country.  We respect and support his decision to stand down.” 

POLL: Should Rifkind Resign From Intelligence Select Committee?


Should Sir Malcolm Rifkind stand down to spend more time with the lifestyle to which he aspires?

Rifkind: It’s All About the Price Tag

Sir Malcolm Rifkind:

“I want to have a standard of living that my professional background would normally entitle me to have.”

Perhaps time to get out of ‘public service’ then, Sir Malcolm…

Vid via @LiarPoliticians

Jack Straw: Then and Now

Jack Straw, 23 March 2010, on Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon:

“There is such anger in the Parliamentary Labour Party, as well as I may say incredulity, about their stupidity in allowing themselves to be suckered in a sting like this. Their behaviour, prima facie, does indeed bring the Parliamentary Labour Party, as well as Parliament, into disrepute, because it appears that former Cabinet ministers are more interested in making money than they are in properly representing their constituents.”

Jack Straw, 23 February 2015:

“I am mortified that I fell into this trap, despite my best efforts to avoid this, and my previous public criticism of colleagues of all parties who have done so in the past. Of course I am kicking myself.”

That sound you can hear is the world’s tiniest violin…

Miliband Weaponises Straw

Miliband is quick out of the blocks in trying to use Jack Straw’s suspension to hit the Tories:

Dear Prime Minister,

I write this letter to you not just as leader of the Labour Party but as someone who believes that we all need to act to improve the reputation of our Parliament in the eyes of the British people.

I believe MPs are dedicated to the service of their constituents and the overwhelming majority follow the rules. But the British people need to know that when they vote they are electing someone who will represent them directly, and not be swayed by what they may owe to the interests of others.

Two years ago I said Labour MPs would not be able to hold paid directorships or consultancies after the next election.

My party is also consulting on legislation to make this a statutory ban, as well as imposing a strict cap on all outside earnings by MPs.

Today I can confirm that these measures will be included in my party’s General Election manifesto.

The low levels of trust in politics demands clarity and I urge you to follow my lead in banning paid directorships and consultancies.

There have been too many scandals about conflicts of interest in recent years.

It is time to draw a line under this and ensure these current allegations are the last.

I am sure you will agree this is a problem which affects all parties.

I believe these are circumstances which demand action and leadership.

I look forward to receiving your response.

Yours,

Ed Miliband

Miliband knows the business folk and lawyers on the Tory backbenchers will not put up with it. Canny…

Straw and Rifkind Caught in Cash for Access Sting

Jack Straw is filmed boasting:

“I’m well aware of the fact that I bring my name. I know everyone anyway, I’ve got their phone numbers… If I’m doing a speech or something, it’s £5,000 a day, that’s what I charge.”

And explaining how he used his influence to change EU rules for a company that pays him £60,000-a-year:

“I got in to see the relevant director general and his officials in Brussels …  and we got the sugar regulations changed,” he said. “I mean … the crucial thing about this, it’s all, it’s public that the regulations have been changed, but the best way of dealing with these things is under the radar”

Intelligence committee chairman Malcolm Rifkind, when asked by undercover reporters how he could help a fictional Chinese company:

“You’d be surprised how much free time I have. I spend a lot of time reading, I spend a lot of time walking. I’m self-employed. So nobody pays me a salary.”

Read the full Telegragh/Dispatches story here

UPDATE: These are payments declared by Straw from commodities company ED & F MAN Holdings. Straw told the reporters he had helped a commodities company which paid him £60,000-a-year change EU law:

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UPDATE II: Straw has been suspended from the Labour Party.

PWC to Host Labour Prawn Cocktail Offensive

In their continued quest to pretend they are on the side of business, Labour frontbenchers are being wheeled out to meet local capitalists up and down the country:

What the invitation fails to mention is “Donington Court” is a regional outpost of Labour’s embarrassing big donor, the tax-avoiding PWC.

So the tax avoidance kings swell the coffers and host the shadow cabinet, yet still Ed Miliband told the House “none of these people had given a penny on my watch…”

Tories Silent on New “Volunteer” Allegations

Following this morning’s unpaid Tory “volunteer” row, more stories are coming out of the woodwork. A Tory activist gets in touch to report:

“I recently volunteered at CCHQ and travelled from outside of London to volunteer at a cost of around £20 a day doing around 6 hours work.

[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Michael Crick on Safe Seats:

“In effect, new MPs are being elected day by day now, as, amid huge secrecy, small cabals of party bigwigs pick candidates for safe seats.”

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