Brexit probe grandstander Damian Collins appears to have gone off the deep end. The DCMS select committee chair is due to appear alongside Carole Cadwalladr next month at the crackers Byline festival in Sussex. The panel is entitled ‘Is Silicon Valley a Danger to Democracy?’. Readers will remember Byline as the conspiracy theory website founded by the tin foil hatted Peter Jukes.
You have to wonder what a select committee chairman is doing hanging around with cranks like Byline. Collins has already lowered the standing of select committees with his disastrous performances so far – even Remainers were protesting at his incompetence after he was humiliated by Arron Banks. Sad.
Arron Banks is enjoying himself a lot more than the MPs on the DCMS committee this morning. At one point he asked them: “Are you all Remainers? Yep? Hands up?”. And then he burned Paul Farrelly:
“What is this? Are you the MP who got drunk in the House of Commons and harassed a woman at a karaoke evening?”
Those watching are not impressed with the performance of the committee:
I’ve been watching the DDCMS Select Committee with Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore. 5 MPs haven’t even shown up and those that have are utterly incompetent in their questioning. A terrible advert for select committees so far.
Andy Wigmore mentions Guido’s story on Damian Collins accepting hospitality from Putin-linked Roman Abramovich at Chelsea FC. He asked the DCMS Committee Chair:
“Perhaps you might want to recuse yourself?”
“All I can say is… I didn’t meet the owner, I wasn’t offered Stalin’s vodka, I’m not as good at pushing their buttons as you are… I declared in the Register of Members’ Interests, there were no inducements, offers… Chelsea won 2-1”
An ultra-Remainer former quango chief will receive a huge pay-off from the taxpayer despite being sacked for openly criticising the government on Brexit. Former Economist editor Bill Emmott became head of Ofcom’s Content Board in 2015; as a journalist Emmott proposed extending the single market, advocated a new EU ‘energy union’ and made an anti-Brexit film for the BBC called The Great European Disaster Movie. He is a properly fanatical Europhile…
The following year Emmott was let go having given an interview to an Italian newspaper headlined: “Outside Europe the UK dies”. He had also tweeted: “Prediction: Jeremy Corbyn will be Britain’s PM by 2020. Boris’s legacy” and “Gove scaremongers on migration free-for-all”.Ofcom bosses are subject to strict impartiality guidelines, all the more crucial in a referendum year…
Emmott took the government to the High Court over the circumstances of his departure and was granted a judicial review. Last month DCMS sneaked out a backpedalling statement:
“The parties now recognise that his departure from the post reflected changed circumstances since his recruitment and have agreed formal terms to resolve the dispute between them.”
Matt Hancock’s department has now agreed to pay a substantial sum in compensation, which Guido understands could be up to £80,000. An arch-Remainer paid off with your cash despite clearing bringing Ofcom into disrepute with his blatant anti-Brexit bias…
After a hard week probing fake news discovering there Russian intervention in the EU referendum was negligible, members of the DCMS committee are taking a well-earned break on their stateside knees-up. Chair Damian Collins shared a snap of the basketball arena at Madison Square Garden on Instagram. This morning Politico reported committee members were served cava, cocktails, smoked salmon, duck and mini-burgers at a the city’s flashy Newseum last night. Next time you’re blowing tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on a vanity jolly halfway around the world, maybe don’t share the pics on Insta…
Yesterday Guido told you how Damian Collins was spending an estimated £30,000 of taxpayer cash flying his Culture, Media and Sport select committee members on a jolly to New York and Washington to probe “fake news”. It seemed a total extravagance from one of the more grandstanding select committee chairmen. Buzzfeed have now followed up our story with the news that the CMS committee actually turned down an offer from US tech companies to fly their American executives over to London so they could face the committee in parliament. A move which would have saved UK taxpayers all that money. Clearly the temptation of a freebie holiday to the US was too much for members to resist. What a waste of money from Collins’ committee, which has spent the last year talking nonsense to get silly Russia / Brexit headlines in Remain papers…
An MPs’ jolly to Washington DC and New York this week to probe ‘fake news’ will cost the taxpayer more than £30,000, according to estimates obtained by Guido. This website understands jet-setting MPs on the DCMS Select Committee trip have already left the country, despite the main evidence session not taking place until Thursday, when evidence will be taken from tech bosses on a visit to George Washington University, Washington DC. The Committee has already heard evidence from representatives of tech companies in Britain. They do have London offices…
Arrangements for these kind of jaunts are made through Commons Liaison Committee. According to an estimate provided to Guido this afternoon:
Fights of 3 to 10 hours in length during the day should be in premium economy class. Ministers’ private offices also have a deal with BA, so one assumes this is extended to members for committee travel. Flights longer than 3 hours overnight (which would be from Dulles) can be taken in business. But assuming they don’t take business, and looking 1 month ahead, then premium economy from LHR to JFK and then Dulles to LHR between 5th and 9th March for 9 people (8 committee members, 1 clerk) would come to £23,543.19.
Hotels in Manhattan for 2 nights and then DC would come to £5,226.68. This is 2 nights at the Row NYC (4-star, Midtown Manhattan) at £2,130.68 and 2 nights at the State Plaza Hotel (3 star, very near George Washington University) which came to £3,096, both for 9 separate rooms.
Assuming a food allowance of £50 per person per day, so £2,250.
Amtrak from New York to DC would cost £603.27.
This gives a total of £31,623.14.
Peeved parliamentarians say attention seeking remainer DCMS committee chair Damian Collins is using the trip to bolster his personal reputation. Enquiries to the DCMS Select Committee did not yield an exact figure for the cost of the trip.
A Taxpayers’ Alliance spokesman told Guido:
“I’m not sure taxpayers will be too proud that their hard-earned cash will be splashed on an all-expenses-paid trip for politicians to lecture journalists on ‘fake news’. It’s even less impressive that they are refusing to disclose the cost of this jaunt to Washington D.C.- it’s almost as if they are worried about the reaction of this egregious use of our money. In the future, our elected servants should worry more about how they spend our money and less about lectures with foreign media.”
A few changes to our SpAd List this morning – Guido hears Karen Bradley’s adviser Aidan Corley has been promoted to Number 10. The Culture Secretary has brought in two new SpAds to fill her team: former IDS aide and Coadec chief Romilly Dennys and the Mail on Sunday’s ‘Girl About Town’ diarist Charlotte Griffiths. Charlotte already has all the goss on the Cabinet, from Theresa May’s meritocracy hypocrisy, to how Boris“humiliated” David Davis and how one top former SpAd dumped his fiance for a fellow Tory aide. Poacher turned gamekeeper at the Ministry of Fun. Lunch?
DCMS is changing its name to DDCMS, except it will still be called DCMS. Confused? The government explains:
“In a move that acknowledges the way the Department’s remit has evolved, the Prime Minister and Culture Secretary Karen Bradley have agreed a departmental name change. The Department will continue to be referred to as DCMS in all communications, but is now the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.”
Saves paying to have everything in the department rebranded. Though they’ll need to redo that logo, it’s missing a comma…
A raft of new SpAd appointments is expected imminently and Guido understands the headline move will be Craig Woodhouse joining Karen Bradley at DCMS. It’s a smart hire for the new Culture Secretary to poach an industry insider – Woodhouse is a newspaper veteran, the respected chairman of the Press Gallery and chief political correspondent at The Sun. He is well-liked by MPs of all parties which will help in a notoriously adversarial brief. The long-suffering Sheffield Wednesday fan might even be able to pick up a freebie or two along the way. The Lobby loses yet another leading name to SpAd-dom…
It’s gone midnight and before readers, er, go incognito, they might be interested to learn the government is going to make it harder. DCMS today launch a public consultation to require porn websites to ensure all their viewers are over 18. The plan is that Jack Dromeyet al will have to sign in to an identify provider such as their bank or mobile operator before they open up the “private browsing” section. Sites that do not abide by the new law will face civil action or even be blocked, Chinese-style, which seems unworkable at best and draconian censorship at worst. No technology has been or ever will be invented that can stop teenage boys looking at pictures of naked girls…
Any Questions last night came from the Royal College for the Blind in Hereford with the Lord Blunkett, David Davis, the dotty General Secretary of CND, Dr Kate Hudson, and Quentin Letts. The mix compered by Jonathan Dimbleby. At the end, as the audience was still sitting there, Dimbleby gave them a lecture about the horrid right-wing wanting to close the BBC and urging them all to write to their MP, ministers etc. Oddly partisan for a Dimbleby…
Not only was this unusual – and quite a test of his status as an impartial presenter – there is also the fact that Hereford is the seat of Jesse Norman, chairman of the Culture Select Committee, which has just launched a savage judgement on the BBC Trust, calling for it to be scrapped. Jesse’s report also took the Beeb to task for organising that round-robin letter by BBC stars to try to speak up for the Beeb. Dimbleby is swimming in quite dangerous partisan waters here, surely…
Ed Vaizey has today become the longest serving Arts Minister ever. Harold Wilson appointed the first arts minister in 1964, Jennie Lee. Today Vaizey will beat her (nearly) 6 years in office. Here’s some of the highlights:
With impeccable timing, every MP has received a DVD and slurpy letter from the BBC’s lobbying wing.
Ostentatiously designed to show MPs the quality of recent BBC work, it’s no coincidence that the targeted lobbying campaign has taken place in the same week that Whittingdale launches his BBC Charter Review Green Paper.
The BBC really don’t help their cause sometimes.
Using licence fee payers’ cash to lobby MPs not to cut the licence fee because – as they claim – there is no room for cuts in the corporation.
Here is an easy rump saving: say goodbye to the ‘Head of Corperate Affairs’. And his entire lobbying team…
Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton conspired to replace Culture Minister Ed Vaizey with a socialite called David Macmillan. The plan has come to light in a series of extraordinary emails between Michael Lynton and Macmillan via the publication of a searchable archive of last years ‘Sony Hack‘ by Wikileaks:
Lynton claimed he could use his influence with George Osborne to get Ed Vaizey fired and then introduce Macmillan to Conservative supporting business boss Sir Charles Dunstone. Lynton then claimed the chairman of the Carphone Warehouse would recommend Macmillan for the ministerial post:
“I am sitting here with Bella and conspiring as to how to make you Minister of Culture and Sport. You are perfectly qualified. First step is to get ed Vaizey fired. I will do this with George Osborne. Next step is to get you appointed. This requires you meeting CHARLES Dunstone and having him recommend you. I will make the introduction in September. The games afoot !!!”
Macmillan claims to be up for it, but points out the obvious flaws:
“Need to be elected to parliament or raised to the peerage to proceed further with your plan, but love the idea.”
Intriguingly, Macmillan points out that Osborne might be fearful of upsetting Vaizey because he would want to “avoid the publication of various school time photos,” the Sony CEO assures him that the “Photos are in the cloud. They will be gone soon.” What incriminating photos could they possibly be talking about?
Guido understands that Sajid Javid is off this week to the government art collection to decorate DCMS, but there is already good news for arts luvvies who have been sounding off about the new supposedly “philistine” Culture Secretary’s credentials.
The hippies will be pleased to know that virtually the first thing that the newly promoted Secretary of State did upon entering the Culture Ministry last week was hang a painting he owns in his office.