Public Auditors Blast Ed Davey’s Hinkley Deal

Ed Davey is expected to launch his bid for the LibDem leadership imminently, so it is good timing for the National Audit Office to release their report into his Hinkley Point deal today. Sir Edward was the Energy Secretary pushed though the £18 billion deal and insisted it was good value. The National Audit Office disagrees, this morning calling Hinkley Point “a risky and expensive project” that is “not value for money“. They say the case for the plant is “marginal“. As damning language as it gets…

Even more embarrassingly for Sir Edward, his own party opposes Hinkley Point. LibDem energy spokesman Lynne Featherstone says:

“Failing to call a stop to Hinkley will prove a costly mistake. The opportunity to pull the plug on Hinkley has been missed, and we will all pay for it from our pockets.”

The final humiliation for Davey. Well, depending on how his leadership bid goes…

Barclays Bank €50 Million in Superyacht Sale

Telegraph hacks are on course for that sinking feeling when they find out TMG chairman Aidan Barclay has sold his €50 million superyacht. Measuring more than 244 feet, Enigma was launched in 1991, and was sold to the Telegraph mogul by US billionaire Larry Ellison in 2007. Now Barclay has cashed in on the asset, a sign of hard times sure to leave Telegraph scribblers far from buoyed. Barclay’s superyacht keeps him afloat, one to remember when the next round of job cuts comes…

Hammond’s “Sound Money” Speech Sadly All Spin

Philip Hammond’s Mansion House speech this morning was sound in its rhetoric. “We must make anew the case for a market economy and for sound money,” he said, warning that “higher taxes and higher borrowing” must be rejected, taxes must be kept “as low as possible” or else they will “slow growth, undermine competitiveness, and cost jobs”. He repeated this language at Cabinet, telling colleagues of the “importance of making the case for a market economy and sound money”. This is all positive rhetoric. The policy truth is alas very different.

Hammond confirmed this morning that he still wants to push back closing the deficit until 2025, ten years later than the Tories promised. The Tories have added £500 billion to the national debt in 7 years, Hammond now plans to add a billion a week to the burden. That is not “sound money” by any definition of the term.

Taxes have risen under the Tories. The claim by the Tories to be a low tax party has not been true this century. They raised VAT almost immediately upon coming into office. They argue they have cut business taxes, yet they raised dividend taxes on small business owners and tried to raise National Insurance contributions. Hammond ditched the triple tax lock at the election. He has signalled further tax rises are likely. The tax burden under this Chancellor will rise to its highest level since 1969. That is not keeping taxes “as low as possible”. 

Hammond is sounder on economics than Theresa May and her former aides. Talking up the “market economy” is clearly a slap down of the PM’s failed attempt at interventionism in the manifesto. Though his claim to be funding public services by anything other than more borrowing and more taxes is sadly all spin…

New Rule Bleeds Telegraph Hacks For Every Penny

Telegraph hacks are spitting feathers after a new rule saw them charged to come into work. Previously if staff forgot their security pass they would be signed in at the desk and let into the office. Not any more. Hacks who leave their pass at home now have to pay a £5 toll to get past security. The decision has caused employees to go berserk – it is the petty penny-pinching policies like this that has sent them over the edge. MediaGuido’s newsroom mole says deputy editor Rob Winnett was one of the first to be stung. An imaginative way to balance the books and crush staff morale at the same time…

Tories Raised 11 Times More Than Labour Last Week

Donations from the last week via the Electoral Commission:

Tories: £3,772,550

Labour: £331,499

LibDems: £310,500

Women’s Equality Party: £71,552

UKIP: £16,300

Greens: £9,366

Three quarters of all donations have been to the Tories…

Trump Names and Shames Nato Under-Payers

Awkward faces all round as Trump named and shamed Nato under-payers this afternoon…

Mosley Donates £300,000 to Labour Election War Chest

Political parties raised £9.3 million in the first quarter of 2017, with the Tories accepting £5.4 million in donations compared to Labour’s £2.6 million. Labour’s election fund is being helped by a £300,000 wedge from former blackshirt Max Mosley. What was it that first attracted him to Corbyn’s Labour?

Tories – £5,463,173
Labour – £2,648,315
LibDems – £603,155
Co-operative Party – £322,800
UKIP – £246,910

Healthy Tory election war chest…

Nationalisation Missing From Labour Funding Document

Labour are still spinning that their manifesto is “fully costed”, even releasing an accompanying document with details of how their policies are funded. Except it doesn’t include any costings for nationalising water, energy, mail and breaching railway contracts. Are they just planning to expropriate them? That would mean taking assets out of your pensions…

Was McDonnell Handed Deficit Note?

Nick Robinson: “What is Britain’s deficit at the moment, Mr McDonnell?”

John McDonnell: “If I can say to you… [pause]… If I can say to you that what’s happened as well in terms of day to day expenditure, we need the investment… [ruffling]… we need the investment… [pause] [more ruffling]… we need the investment…”

Nick Robinson: “Is somebody passing you a piece of paper?”

John McDonnell: “Not at all.”

Nick Robinson: “Just sounded like there was a bit of paper being handed across.”

John McDonnell: “[Laughs nervously] Not at all.”

Nick Robinson: “What is our deficit at the moment, Mr McDonnell?”

John McDonnell: “The deficit at the moment is £68-£70 billion.”

Nick Robinson: “I think you’re being a bit too kind… It’s £52 billion.”

McDonnell eventually got the deficit wrong by £18 billion, so if he was handed a note or a mobile phone it didn’t do him much good…

UPDATE: Was that ruffling some quick googling? You get McDonnell’s out-of-date £69 billion figure if you google “deficit uk”

UPDATE II:

McDonnell Admits Manifesto Not Fully Costed

Labour have made a big play of their manifesto being “fully costed”, yet when gently asked by Nick Robinson how much their water nationalisation policy would cost, McDonnell admitted they don’t have a number. That’s tens of billions missing…

£70 Billion Fund Chooses London as New European HQ

Last week Guido reported on how US billionaire Bill Ackman’s £3.6 billion fund had listed in London, today there is more good news for the City. PSP, a £70 billion Canadian pension fund, has backed Britain’s post-Brexit fortunes and opened its new European headquarters in Victoria. Chief executive Andre Bourbonnais told City AM:

“We’re all aware of the possible implications of Brexit. But in our mind with the talent that is here and the fact that London has been the financial centre of Europe for decades, we are committed to it and we think it is the best place for us.”

The fund puts its money where its mouth is and plans to spend up to £4.6 billion here in the next five years. British talent and financial infrastructure is turning out to be what really matters for investors. As Bourbonnais puts it, London “has the financial infrastructure and network that would be hard to replace elsewhere”Can’t see this story on the FT website, though you can imagine the reaction if one of the world’s biggest pension funds announced it was leaving London because of Brexit…

Electoral Commission Say Green-LibDem Bung is Matter For Police

Caroline Lucas has admitted for the first time that the Green Party WAS offered a £250,000 inducement to stand aside for the LibDems in the Richmond by-election. The Electoral Commission tell Guido that offering such a bung is a criminal offence and that this is a matter for the police…

With regards to any allegations about donations offered as an inducement to stand down candidates, it is a matter for the Metropolitan Police to investigate whether an offence has taken place and ascertain which laws may have been broken.

Section 107 of the Representation of the People Act includes an offence of “Corrupt withdrawal from candidature”. The offence is a matter for the police to investigate, and any related complaints must be raised with the police (and not with the Electoral Commission).

Lucas told the Daily Politics the offer was not accepted – even though the Greens did stand aside – and farcically claimed she “can’t remember the name” of the person who offered the bung: “I’ve forgotten the man’s name for the purposes of this debate”. Lucas said at the end of the interview that she would reveal the name when she could remember it, though the Green Party is now refusing to do so. The Greens have to release the name, otherwise they are covering up a criminal offence…

Tom Watson’s Rich List Chutzpah

Tom Watson has fired off a punchy blogpost attacking the number of super-rich Tory donors in the wake of this weekend’s Rich List. “What do many of the 100 richest people in the UK have in common,” Watson asks, “A good number of them have donated significant amounts of money to the Tory Party”. You have to admire Tom’s chutzpah, given he has accepted donations from several entrants on the Rich List himself. 

JK Rowling – worth £650 million and one of the highest profile Rich List entrants – gave thousands to Watson’s deputy leadership campaign. Former Rich Lister Sir David Garrard has been a major Watson donor. Mega-rich former blackshirt Max Mosley has given £500,000 to support Watson in the last year. Other Watson backers include multi-millionaire Labour moderate bankroller Trevor Chinn and millionaire casino tycoon Derek Webb. Classic Watson, listing the millionaires on the Rich List who donated to the Tories but not mentioning the ones who donated to him. For the money not the few? 

Nadhim Zahawi Wins £338,000 Libel Payout From Press TV

Guido can reveal Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi has been awarded a stunning £338,000 payout after winning a libel case against Iranian state television channel Press TV. The channel had falsely accused Zahawi, who is of Kurdish background and was born in Iraq, of facilitating the trade of oil between ISIS and Israel. Press TV has been ordered to pay Zahawi £200,000 in damages and over £138,000 in costs after the judge described the defamatory allegations as “exceptionally grave”. The fake news story was shared by Tommy Robinson, who tweeted “Another bent Muslim politician??”, and Labour parliamentary candidate John Clarke.

Zahawi says in a statement:

“The ludicrous allegation that I, while a Member of Parliament, had firstly betrayed all of my deepest held moral principles, and secondly had somehow managed to avoid international security services, and the law, to personally trade oil with Daesh was of course completely untrue…

In my role as a member the Foreign Affairs Committee, I have often spoken out against the malign influence Iran has so often chosen to exercise in international affairs. It was of particular note that the libellous article was published on the exact same day that I had publicly criticised Iran in Parliament.

I hope that this libel judgment can draw a line under this episode and deter outlets such as Press TV, and by extension states such as Iran, from attempting this sort of attack on anyone again.”

Jeremy Corbyn no longer the MP who will have received the most cash from the Iranian state. Slightly different circumstances though. 

Tories Fundraising On Back Of Brussels Briefing Bluster

As the FT gleefully reports that Brussels is threatening to up the Brexit bill to a very round €100 billion, this is the Tory website this morning. Theresa May must be loving the increasingly aggressive briefing from the Commission, which makes the EU look unreasonable, the “bloody difficult” PM look like she is batting for Britain and serves only to increase her majority on June 8. It is such an electoral gift for the Tories that they are fundraising off the back of the bluster from Brussels. Also worth noting the response from some Remainers to the leaks from the EU. Many are now just openly backing the other side…

Labour: “Never Been a Better Time” to Borrow £500 Billion

Labour First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones says “there’s never been a better time to borrow £500 billion. Speaking on Sunday Politics Wales yesterday the most senior Labour figure in Wales said:

Presenter: “The Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said £500bn more borrowing in order to give the economy a bit of a boost – you’d go along with that then would you?”

Carwyn Jones: “Yes I would. Let’s remember…”

Presenter: “£500bn extra borrowing?”

Carwyn Jones: “There’s never been a better time to borrow. It’s cheap.”

Quite a day: Communist-endorsed Labour arguing with themselves about Trident, but at least they agree on borrowing half a trillion pounds more…

Department of Health Spending £25 Million on HQ Refurb

Refurbishing the Department of Health will cost the taxpayer more than £25 million pounds, new figures reveal. The projected future cost of renovating DH offices at 39 Victoria Street and Wellington House, Waterloo is today revealed as £15,120,000. Taken together with cash already splurged on offices for health mandarins, the total figure over three years now stands at £26,677,939.

That’s 5,335 hip replacements, 1,144 nurses or 29 MRI scanners…

Four-Jobs HS2 Boss Paid £240,000 By Taxpayer For Three Day Week

HS2 chairman David Higgins is facing a select committee bashing over the state of his beleaguered white elephant – and MPs would be forgiven for asking if he has taken his eye off the ball. Higgins is paid a £240,000 salary by the taxpayer for a three day week at HS2. What does he do the rest of his time? He is also the chairman of Gatwick Airport, a nice little earner and hardly a job that requires no attention. He is a director at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, where his roles also include chairman of the bank’s Remuneration Committee and sitting on the Risk Committee. Kerching. Job number four is as a “senior adviser” at fund manager Global Infrastructure Partners. Higgins is no doubt enjoying George Osborne levels of success in the private sector. The Transport select committee will be interested to know why his very well remunerated job working for the British taxpayer is going so badly by contrast…

Dave Goes to Vegas

David Cameron is heading to Las Vegas next month to speak at an exclusive conference for hedge fund managers founded by a top ally of President Trump. Corporate delegates will pay up to $7,500-a-ticket to hear the former PM in conversation with the American financier David Rubenstein at the SALT hedge fund congress. Held over three days at the opulent Bellagio – of Ocean’s Eleven fame – Dave will speak for 35 minutes. His fee has not been disclosed…

SALT was founded by Anthony Scaramucci of investment firm SkyBridge Capital. Scaramucci was tipped for a senior Trump administration post after serving in the President’s transition team and donating during last year’s campaign. Dave “putting some hay in the barn“…

HS2 Chairman Faces Select Committee Showdown

HS2 chairman David Higgins faces a showdown with the Transport select committee over the £170 million cancelled contract debacle. Transport committee chair Louise Ellman says she wants a session on the fiasco “as soon as possible”. Pressure is beginning to be applied to the beleaguered HS2 board, which has been hit by a spate of recent high profile departures, including of its director-general David Prout, strategy director Alistair Kirk and information chief James Findlay.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Alan Sugar on Jeremy Corbyn:

“It’s clear you alluded to students refunds to get votes from young impressionable people. You are a cheat and should resign.”

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