Mr Toynbee’s Fine Dining Brass Neck

In the Guardian yesterday David Walker, Mr Polly Toynbee, bemoaned the abolition of the Audit Commission by Eric Pickles at DCLG and complained that there isn’t a quango to police councillors guilty of “fine dining at Le Caprice and the Ritz”. Oddly Walker forgets to mention that he was the six-figure Director of Communications for the Audit Commission before its abolition. Nor does he declare that he used taxpayers’ money to wine and dine other quangos such as the National Audit Office, socialising at taxpayers’ expense at the Reform Club, Footstool restaurant and the Ebury Wine Bar. Walker and his guests blew £1,766 of taxpayers’ cash on restaurant bills in 2009 alone, before he left and trousered a £30,000 payoff. The motto of the Audit Commission when Walker was there was “protecting the public purse”…

Jewish Labour Chair Accused of Financial Misconduct as Tory Chief Mired in Cover Up

Belter of a story breaking over on the Jewish Chronicle – they’ve got hold of an audit into the conduct of Labour candidate and Jewish Labour Movement chair Jeremy Newmark, accusing him of deceiving the Jewish Leadership Council charity out of tens of thousands of pounds. The JC says the report alleges misuse of funds, misleading charities about the cost of projects and claiming inappropriate expenses, including claims that Newmark:

  • Put holidays and VIP transport for himself, his wife and their children on expenses
  • Withdrew thousands of pounds of unaccounted for cash on JLC credit and debit cards while failing to provide receipts
  • Paid his wife’s events consultancy firm more than £36,000
  • Leased a new BMW worth £46,000, to which he fixed his own personal number plate

Newmark denies the allegations.

Perhaps even more damaging are the allegations of a cover-up. The paper claims the JLC’s trustees, including Tory chief executive Mick Davies, kept Newmark’s alleged conduct secret when they found out. JC Editor Stephen Pollard writes:

“The trustees of the JLC took it upon themselves to bury all the evidence, going out of their way to keep it secret and ensure that the community was not allowed to know the truth about one of its most prominent figures.”

Looks pretty bad…

Priti Accuses Electoral Commission of Bias and “Double Standards”

Following the Electoral Commission’s refusal to investigate the Remain campaign despite clear evidence of spending breaches, Priti Patel has accused them of bias and “double standards”. Priti notes that the Commission launched a full investigation into Vote Leave over claims of spending collusion – despite no evidence – and yet are refusing to look at BSE even though a whole dossier of evidence was submitted to them. Priti has a point – how can they investigate the Leavers when there is no evidence, but ignore evidence of Remainers overspending?

What is particularly concerning is that you decided on 20 November 2017 to reopen an investigation into Vote Leave Limited and Mr Darren Grimes, in spite of the fact that there is much less evidence of a common plan. As you acknowledge at [25] of the Review of Assessments – ‘there are no direct indications of the campaigners working together’ (my emphasis added) and that – as you state at [31] – that ‘the Commission is not aware of what any such communications [between Vote Leave and Mr Grimes] contained or whether it indicated a common plan or arrangement was in place’.

In other words – despite the fact that there is no evidence of Vote Leave Limited or Mr Grimes engaging in joint planning (even of an advisory nature) – you have been persuaded of the need for a full investigation. However, when clear documented evidence of the Remain campaigns coordinating specific messaging is presented to you, this is dismissed as ‘advisory’. This would appear to be a clear case of double standards.

Priti not unreasonably alleges the Electoral Commission have a lower bar for investigating Leavers than Remainers:

I have to conclude that the Electoral Commission appears to have used an extraordinarily low bar – arguably, far too low a bar— when deciding to open your new investigation on Vote Leave and other campaigners for Brexit, yet have set a very high bar when deciding to open an investigation into Britain Stronger in Europe.

She wants them to reconsider their decision. Good luck with that – we know where the Electoral Commission’s loyalties really lie

Remain Campaign Flouted Rules to Spend Double Legal Limit

The Remain campaign flouted Electoral Commission rules so it could overspend by up to £7.5 million during the referendum, a Guido investigation can reveal. Over the next few days Guido will be looking at how the various Remain groups coordinated their messaging, campaign plans, data, materials and donations, causing them to overspend by more than double the legal limit. Sorry Electoral Commission HQ, you’re going to have to come back early from your Christmas holidays…

The Electoral Commission rules are clear: if one campaign “coordinates [its] activity with another campaigner”, then they are “highly likely to be working together”. This definition of “working together” is important, because the Electoral Commission also says: “the lead campaign group must count all of the spending of all the campaigners it works together with towards its own limit”. Guess what… they didn’t.

Two books provide detailed accounts of a number of Remain campaigns coordinating plans and working together in the weeks leading up to the referendum. Tim Shipman’s All Out War reveals “[Craig] Oliver led an early-morning conference call for the media teams at 6.15am. At 7.30am there was a second conference call, in which Stronger In would tell Labour In, Conservatives IN and the Liberal Democrats about their plans for the day”. This clearly counts as “coordinating” and “working together” under the Electoral Commission’s definition.

In his book Unleashing Demons, Craig Oliver somewhat ill-advisedly admits to coordination between the various Remain campaigns: “I join a 7.30 a.m. cross-party call chaired by Will Straw. It’s designed to catch up with what the In campaigns for the various political parties are doing that day. I want to get across a blunt message: this matters. We failed on immigration yesterday, hardly anyone stuck to our line that we accept it’s a problem, but Leave’s solution of trashing the economy is no way to deal with it”.

This reveals clear coordination between Remain campaigns both in terms of messaging and campaign plans for individual days. It would have allowed numerous Remain campaigns to provide a unified message on key issues, as well as adapt their individual campaign activities to complement those of other Remain campaigns. Remember the Electoral Commission rules: “the lead campaign group must count all of the spending of all the campaigners it works together with towards its own limit”…

The combined spending of The In Campaign Ltd (Britain Stronger in Europe), Conservatives IN, Labour and Liberal Democrats during the control period was £14,496,806. Given the clear evidence of coordination between these campaigns, this means that Britain Stronger in Europe looks to have breached its spending limits by up to £7,496,806, more than double the legal limit allowed under Electoral Commission rules.

There has been a lot of attention in the Remain media about alleged coordination between the various Leave campaigns, yet no focus on Remainers breaching the rules. Imagine what the Electoral Commission would have done if they discovered that Vote Leave, Leave.EU and UKIP had a daily morning call to discuss campaign plans. Guido has a lot more to come on this. Stay tuned…

LibDems and Open Britain Fined For Referendum Spending Breaches

Remain campaigners have been fined by the Electoral Commission for breaking the rules on their spending returns:

The LibDems: failed to provide acceptable invoices or receipts for 80 payments with a total value of more than £80,000. They’ve been fined £18,000.

Open Britain: failed to deliver a complete and accurate spending return, including three missing invoices. They’ve been fined £1,250.

Guido will have more on Remain campaign referendum fraud in the coming weeks…

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.

IPSO Throws Out Baroness Scotland’s Complaints

What remained of Baroness Scotland’s credibility lies in tatters after the IPSO press regulator threw out a litany of complaints she made about stories exposing her expenses shame. Last year the Mail titles, as well as Guido and other outlets, published a series of shocking revelations about Scotland’s expenses based on documents leaked by concerned whistleblowers. The Baroness denied everything and filed a vast number of complaints to IPSO about the stories. Today, after a nine month IPSO investigation, Scotland is left humiliated… 

  1. Baroness Scotland claimed she was the victim of a “partisan campaign” by the Daily Mail, that the paper’s articles about her were “distorted“, inaccurate and that the Mail had published knowingly false allegations against her. IPSO rejected all of this and threw out every single one of Scotland’s complaints against the Mail. 
  2. Baroness Scotland claimed reports recruitment rules had been bypassed to hire her friend Lord Patel’s company were untrue. IPSO found the standard recruitment process had been waived – the reports were true. 
  3. Baroness Scotland denied reports her spending figures, published every three months, had not been released on time. IPSO found they were not released on time, the reports were true. 
  4. Baroness Scotland claimed reports she had “brought in” interior designer Nicky Haslam were untrue. IPSO found Haslam had indeed been brought in by Scotland, the reports were true.
  5. Baroness Scotland denied Haslam had “partly overseen” the planned renovations. IPSO found this was an accurate description.
  6. Baroness Scotland denied that her advisers were “left-wing political fixers”. IPSO found they worked closely with the Labour Party and Labour figures and the reports were accurate. 
  7. Baroness Scotland denied reports of plans for a “swanky new dining area” in her Mayfair residence. IPSO found there were plans to relocate a chandelier to the dining room so this report was accurate.
  8. Baroness Scotland denied reports staff had received a “sinister” notification from her office warning their communications were being monitored. IPSO found the reports were accurate.
  9. Baroness Scotland claimed it was misleading to refer to Lord Patel as her “partner in crime”. IPSO found Scotland had herself referred to him using those words.
  10. Baroness Scotland denied she had been “dubbed Baroness Brazen”. IPSO found that a Conservative MP had indeed dubbed her Baroness Brazen.
  11. Baroness Scotland claimed newspaper reports suggested she had paid her sister for advice. IPSO found the reports made clear she hadn’t paid her sister.
  12. Baroness Scotland claimed there was no evidence to suggest the Queen was “embarrassed” by her. IPSO found a well-placed Royal source said the Queen was embarrassed.
  13. Baroness Scotland claimed there was no whistleblower, as there was nothing to blow the whistle on. IPSO found it was accurate to call the concerned source a whistleblower.
  14. Baroness Scotland claimed it was misleading to say Downing Street had refused to give its confidence in her. IPSO found Downing Street would only give confidence in the role of Secretary-General, the reports were accurate. 

IPSO ordered one minor correction, changing a headline in the Mail on Sunday about the sums paid to Lord Patel. This was the only breach found out of all the complaints made by Baroness Scotland against three titles. Her claims of inaccuracies, media lies and a vendetta against her have been exposed as fantasy – after such an unequivocal humiliation it is laughable that she can continue to hold public office… 

Welsh Politicians Spend Thousands Chartering Planes to Watch Football

Welsh government politicians, special advisers, private secretaries and press officers have billed the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds to fly around the world on more than 30 foreign junkets in the last year. Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones blew more than £10,000 chartering a plane for him and his private secretary to France to watch the football last summer. Why are taxpayers paying for this?

The itinerary of the Welsh cabinet and their flunkies would put globe-trotting A-listers to shame. Expenses documents show Jones spent nearly £50,000 on another two trips to the US, taking in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Washington DC at a total cost to the taxpayer of £47,992. Economy Secretary Ken Skates and his private secretary also went to the Euro football: they attended matches in Toulouse and Paris over five days, total cost £3,232. How did they manage to spend that much?

He and an official also went to Chongqing and Shanghai at a cost of £17,842. Health Secretary Vaughan Gething was also accompanied by an official on a trip to Enetbbe, Uganda, charging £16,582, to mark the “10th Anniversary of Wales for Africa“. Environment Secretary Lesley Griffiths and policy official enjoyed sunny Dubai at a cost of £6,563. Who are these people are why are spending our money?

Welsh politicians have long been on the take and get away with it because no one in the English media cares about what are essentially local stories. At a time when Welsh Labour are breaking their tuition fees promise, their politicians and staff are flying around the world on jollies. How can they justify spending this much on going to watch the football?

Mackinlay in Court Today

Appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court today:

Craig Mackinlay, 50, of St George’s Square, Pimlico, central London, charged with two counts of making a false election expenses declaration.

Marion Little, 62, of New Road, Ware, Hertfordshire, and Nathan Gray, 28, of Red Oak, Hawkhurst, Kent, each face three counts and one count respectively of making a false election expenses declaration.

Stay tuned…

UPDATE: Mackinlay pleads not guilty.

Crackdown on MPs Shagging Secretaries

MPs will be banned from hiring their wives and husbands at the taxpayer’s expense after the next election. Taxpayers will however be disappointed to learn that the rule change only affects new hires, meaning the 150 “connected parties” currently paid by the taxpayer at a cost of £4 million a year will be allowed to keep their jobs. Good news for the likes of £45,000-a-year Mrs Bone.

Guido has found one other amusing rule in the new code. MPs who shack up with their secretaries – and there have been a few in this parliament already – will only be allowed to employ them for two years “after the point at which they become connected parties”.

Guido dreads to think how they determine at which point the MP and his secretary become “connected”…

Taxi For Baroness D’Souza

Interesting timing for the new BBC documentary on the House of Lords. The choice quote is from Baroness D’Souza:

“There is a core of peers who work incredibly hard, who do that work, and there are, sad to say, many, many, many peers who contribute absolutely nothing but who claim the full allowance. I can remember one occasion when I was leaving the House quite late and there was a peer – who shall be utterly nameless – who jumped out of a taxi just outside the peers’ entrance, left the engine running. He ran in, presumably to show that he’d attended, and then ran out again while the taxi was still running. So I mean that’s not normal, but it is something that does happen and I think that we have lost the sense of honour that used to pertain, and that is a great, great shame.”

That would be the same Baroness D’Souza who infamously billed the taxpayer £230 to keep a chauffeur-driven car waiting for four hours while she watched an opera a mile from Parliament. As well as another £270 bill to keep the meter running while she had lunch with the Japanese ambassador. And another £738 to keep a Mercedes parked while she attended an event at Windsor Castle. D’Souza also spent £4,000 of taxpayer cash on flowers for her office and £1,120 for drinks and a trip to the ballet with a delegation from Russia. “We have lost the sense of honour and that is a great shame…”

Bercow Hosted North Korea and Vietnam For Tea in Parliament

John Bercow had representatives from the authoritarian regimes of North Korea and Vietnam round for tea and charged the bill to the taxpayer, Guido can reveal. On 16 July 2009, the Speaker hosted a reception on the parliamentary estate for the vice chairman of Vietnam’s national assembly, at a cost of £81 to the taxpayer. At the time the Vietnamese press reported:

“Vice Chairman Luu held a separate meeting with the newly appointed Speaker of the U.K. House of Commons John Bercow in which he delivered Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong’s congratulations on Bercow’s election and an invitation for him to visit Vietnam soon.”

Vietnam is a communist one party state. Human Rights Watch says “Vietnam’s human rights record remains dire in all areas”, with no democracy and routine use of torture by the police. Bercow charged the taxpayer to have them round for tea.

On 28 March 2011, the Speaker had representatives from the North Korean regime round for tea in the Speaker’s House. A Freedom of Information response shows Bercow hosted a party of four including the “Speaker of North Korea”. Human Rights Watch says “North Korea remains among the world’s most repressive countries. All basic freedoms have been severely restricted”. Bercow’s team insist they met “to tell him candidly what they thought of the conduct of his regime”. Yet he won’t extend an invite to the leader of the free world…

Denis MacShane Condemns Expenses Cheats

You might want to sit down before you read this. Denis MacShane has written an opinion piece for CityAM laying into politicians who fiddle their expenses. Yes, that’s the convicted expenses fraudster Denis MacShane. Criticising politicians who cheat the taxpayer. You couldn’t make this up.

“The revelations that Francois Fillon has been using parliamentary funds to pay his wife and family are now getting so strong and so reeking that it is hard to see how he can continue. Fillon portrayed himself as Monsieur Irréprochable, France’s Mr Clean, and now he has been infected by the English MPs’ disease of putting wives, sons and daughters on the parliamentary payroll.

But Marine Le Pen has similar problems. Yesterday, the European Parliament demanded she pay back €300,000 she took in parliamentary expenses and used to pay two associates who did party political work. She is up to her ears in dodgy loans from Kremlin controlled banks and any spotlight on exotic political money changing hands catches her in its beam.”

“Reeking” misuse of parliamentary funds? “Infected by the English MPs’ disease“? “Dodgy” deals and “exotic political money changing hands”? Is MacShane on a wind up?

The disgraced crook was jailed for making £13,000 of bogus expenses claims – he got away with fiddling even more. He was guilty of filing a total of 19 fake expenses receipts. At the Old Bailey Mr Justice Sweeney said of MacShane’s crimes:

“The dishonesty involved was considerable and was repeated many times over a long period. The deception used was calculated and designed to avoid suspicion falling on your claims.”

And now this convicted fraudster is shamelessly writing lofty newspaper columns lambasting expense fiddlers?  Next week – Rolf Harris on childcare…

Millionaire Chancellor Put £90 Phone Screen Repair on Taxpayer

Millionaire Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond claimed £90 from the taxpayer for “smashed phone screen repair”, his expenses reveal. Hammond is one of the wealthiest members of the cabinet with a fortune estimated at more than £8 million. The claim was made under “office costs” on 26 September last year. It is not clear if the phone is Hammond’s or belongs to one of his staff. At least it was dropped rather than thrown…

Ruffley Refuses to Pay Back Wrongly Claimed Expenses

ruffley51

Shamed former Tory MP David Ruffley, who was forced to quit parliament in disgrace at the election, has failed to pay back wrongly claimed expenses almost a year and a half after he stopped being an MP. IPSA say Ruffley double claimed a £144 house removals bill – they have tried again and again to get Ruffley to reimburse the taxpayer but have now given up. Guido sees Ruffley walking through Westminster every now and then, he still lives in SW1 and it’s a five minute walk from his flat to the Commons to hand in a cheque. Ruffers has an ex-members’ pass allowing him access to the corridors of power, the authorities should suspend it until he pays up.

Baroness Scotland’s New Loo Seat Cost £307

haslam

Baroness Scotland charged the taxpayer £307 for a new loo seat in a bathroom in her Mayfair home which cost £24,000 to refurbish. She has also admitted spending thousands to paint six rooms with top-of-the-range Farrow & Ball paint, despite previously dismissing reports as “outright lies, half-truths and innuendo”. Scotland spins in today’s Times that she was “furious about some of the money spent”, yet leaked emails show it was her staff who complained to her about the costs and pleaded with her to reduce her demands. In the email below the most senior Commonwealth official notes it is Scotland who “wants her bathroom completely done” and says the paint was her priority:

bathroom

Makes a complete mockery of Scotland’s previous statements. Remember her promise: “There has been no extravagance…”

Guy News Visits Baroness Scotland’s Mayfair Mansion

During her Today programme interview last week, Baroness Scotland invited listeners into her Mayfair home to show she was telling the truth that there is “no extravagance”. Guy News took her up on her offer…

Baroness Scotland Does Not Deny Claiming Phantom School Fees

fees

Baroness Scotland does not deny claiming a taxpayer-funded school fees allowance for her adult children. The astonishing claim was made by a senior Commonwealth official in an internal complaint about Baroness Scotland’s “revised salary package”. According to Ram Venuprasad’s complaint, published below, Baroness Scotland demanded she was paid an “educational allowance” for her children. Guido has tracked down Baroness Scotland’s children – they are both grown up. There is no conceivable justification for either of them needing an “educational allowance” – unlike her predecessors who had school age children. 

allowance

Over the course of the last week, Guido has repeatedly asked Baroness Scotland’s press office if they deny she is being paid an educational allowance. They refuse to deny it and do not contest the claim. This is the most shocking revelation so far – Baroness Scotland does not deny claiming a taxpayer-funded educational allowance despite her adult children having finished their education. Was she claiming to send them to Hogwarts?

£1,200 to Move Baroness Scotland’s Chandelier

haslam

Baroness Scotland’s taxpayer-funded refurbishment of her Mayfair home included a £1,200 demand to relocate her chandelier. Scotland asked for the opulent decorative lighting be moved from her sitting room to her dining room, at a provisional four figure cost to the taxpayer. Here is the listing in the cost plan obtained by Guido:

chand

Leaked emails show senior officials criticised this as “extremely expensive”, and noted that it “was not part of the tender or funds put aside”. The civil servant below warned “we do not have the funds”.

chand2

Taxpayers were asked to pay £1,200 to move Baroness Scotland’s chandelier from one room to another. Now a light has been shone on her expenses scandal level extravagance… 

Baroness Scotland Asked Taxpayer For £33,000 For Posh Paint

haslam

Baroness Scotland demanded the taxpayer pay an astonishing £33,000 for the most expensive paint on the market for her Mayfair home, despite objections from her senior staff. The cost plan for the grace-and-favour residence obtained by Guido shows that the “additional paint specification” ordered by Baroness Scotland was budgeted at £33,000:

paint

A senior official complained that the Baroness wanted paint from Farrow & Ball, a high-end manufacturer which the official described as “top of the range of commercially available paint”.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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