Scotland Wanted £450,000 to Do Up Mayfair Home

haslam

Baroness Scotland provoked outcry among senior Commonwealth officials after she billed £450,000 of taxpayers’ money to do up her grace-and-favour home in Mayfair – double the original budget. Below Guido publishes leaked memos in which officials complain about the huge amount of money being spent. The first memo shows celebrity interior designer Nicky Haslam was brought in to do up the property. A high-ranking official warns that Baroness Scotland’s additional renovations “will increase the total cost for the refurbishment from the original £230k to near £450k”.

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A second memo sees a senior official complain that Baroness Scotland’s demands have caused “a significant increase in cost” to “around double the price of the original specification”.

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And a third memo sees another official warn that “there are no spare funds in the budget”, so Baroness Scotland’s renovations mean “going further into reserves or cutting programme expenditure”.

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Just weeks into her job as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Baroness Scotland doubled the budget for the refurbishment of her Mayfair residence. This is a huge amount of money and a significant portion of the whole Commonwealth budget, funded by Commonwealth taxpayers. Guido has asked the Baroness’ spin doctor how they justify doubling the budget. We have not received a reply…

Flynn’s Expenses Plan Would Have Covered Up Own Troughing

flynn

Paul Flynn’s crackpot plan to abolish MPs’ expenses receipts has been met with the contempt it deserves. He is one of Corbyn’s top allies but even the Labour leader’s team are slapping down his ridiculous proposal. Flynn wants it so MPs don’t have to reveal what they’ve spent your money on. Under his opaque scheme, taxpayers would have been unaware that during the expenses scandal Flynn wrongly claimed over £2,000 in mortgage interest and had to pay it back. Nor would you have known that he blew £7,000 of your cash on a new kitchen. Or another £1,100 on new carpets. Or another £1,200 on decoration. Flynn wants it so MPs can claim expenses with impunity without filing receipts because it’s a “chore“. Clearly having two Shadow Cabinet jobs is too much of a strain on the old fool…

Labour Plan to Abolish MPs’ Expenses Receipts Because Filing Them is a “Chore”

flynn

Labour have drawn up plans to end the requirement for MPs to provide receipts for expenses claims. The staggeringly opaque proposals have been made by Shadow Leader of the House Paul Flynn, who is responsible for his party’s policy on MPs’ expenses. Flynn admits his plan is “provocative“, but claims it is necessary to abolish the expenses watchdog and implement an unreceipted allowance for MPs, because filing expenses is a “chore“. The text of the plan, seen by Guido, states:

“A monthly 30 minute chore was complicated by IPSA into hours of tedious frustrating trawling through a bureaucratic morass of rules that are complex and tedious. IPSA robs MPs and our staff of much of their most precious possession – time. There is continuing resentment against unnecessary chores that diminish MPs ability to do their numberless essential tasks.”

Hundreds of thousands of workers across the country take the time to file expenses claims, but Flynn says that’s too much effort for MPs…

He argues the current system, which allows the public to hold MPs to account on each expenses claim they make, should be abolished and replaced by a new “automatic” allowance with no receipts and no transparency whatsoever:

“MPs would embrace a new system without claims or the expensive IPSA. It could be based on an allowance calculated on average expenses based on distance from Westminster and paid automatically.”

So he wants the taxpayer to write MPs a cheque for tens of thousands of pounds and never know how the money is spent. Opaque, unaccountable and ripe for corruption, this is Labour’s new policy on expenses…

UPDATE: A Labour spokesman says “What Paul Flynn has suggested is not Labour Party policy”. But as Shadow Leader of the House Flynn is responsible for their policy on MPs’ expenses…

£1,800 on ‘Social Media Strategy’, But SNP MP Has Just 6 YouTube Subscribers

anne mclaucghlin

Have you ever heard of SNP MP Anne McLaughlin? Guido hadn’t either. So it’s perhaps forgiveable that she’d want to boost her profile by claiming £1,800 on expenses for “Social Media Consultancy” as part of an attempt to build a “Social Media Strategy”. What’s less forgiveable is that, despite this taxpayer cash, her Twitter account has just a few thousand followers, her Facebook just a couple of thousand likes, and her YouTube channel – inactive for five years – has just six subscribers. Your money well spent.

Police Granted One-Year Extension to Investigate Cat Smith

Lancashire Constabulary confirm they have been granted a year-long extension to investigate Cat Smith’s election expenses. Here we go…

How Guido uncovered Cat Smith’s expenses irregularities:

Labour Spin Buses Were National Campaign, Internal Report Says “Dedicated to Marginal Seats”

Crick covered Guido’s story last night that the Tories had lawyered up in their row with the Electoral Commission. Meanwhile, the Labour press office are spinning a line responding to our revelation that 17 of their candidates failed to declare battle buses. Labour tell the Times:

“This was part of a nationally branded tour so the transport costs are rightly national spend. Labour’s spending is within the law and the rules set out by the Electoral Commission.”

Below is taken from page 25 of Harriet Harman’s official internal Labour General Election Report. In their own words, Labour admit that the four buses were “dedicated to supporting marginal seats”, not the national campaign. The report explains how campaigners worked “with nearby marginal seats and given incentives to prioritise work in those areas”.

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There it is in black and white: Labour’s buses worked to support marginal seats, not the national campaign. Electoral Commission rules are clear, this should have been declared as part of each local campaign. Bang to rights…

BUS-TED: Labour Didn’t Declare Expenses in 17 Key Marginals

BUSTED

Labour candidates in 17 key marginals failed to declare battle buses packed with activists in their election expenses. According to the party’s official General Election Report, Labour Students operated a fleet of four buses “dedicated to supporting marginal seats across the country”Electoral Commission rules are clear: “a portion of the cost of that bus should be allocated towards the candidate’s spending limit…”

buses

The schedule below shows the buses – known as “Brad’s Bus”, “West Mids Wheels”, “The NUS Bus” and “Woolas’ Wagon” – carried activists to 17 key seats. None of the Labour candidates declared the buses or accommodation costs of putting up activists, as required by law…

New MPs including Cat Smith, Margaret Greenwood and Chris Matheson did not declare these transport costs, despite benefiting directly from campaigners bussed into their constituencies. This is incontrovertible evidence of a widespread failure to declare election expenses across the country. It is the bombshell that explains why Labour did not go after the Tories over their own election fraud. Guido will be handing his evidence over to the police…

Clegg Failed to Declare Activist Travel Expenses

Nick Clegg did not declare travel expenses for activists who campaigned for him in his constituency, Guido can reveal. On May 2 2015, Clegg held an “Action Weekend” in Sheffield Hallam. Activists were told the event was specifically “to campaign with our amazing leader Nick Clegg”. There is no doubt this was constituency campaigning – the words “Sheffield Hallam” and “Nick Clegg” are in the invite. Activists had their transport costs paid for:

“Accommodation is FREE… We are giving up to £30 towards everyone’s travel costs – just book your travel and we will give you back the full cost up to £30!”

Here is the bombshell: Nick Clegg declared ZERO transport costs in his short campaign:

He also declared nothing for accommodation for activists. The LibDems paid for activists to travel to Nick Clegg’s constituency to campaign for him. This was demonstrably constituency spending. Yet Clegg did not declare their transport or accommodation costs. The police will want to look at this…

REVEALED: How Nick Clegg Cooked the Books for £17,652

clegg

Guido can reveal that Nick Clegg overspent by £17,652 in his Sheffield Hallam short campaign, then cooked the books so his declarations came in under the limit. Clegg’s official declarations claim he spent £14,138.77 in his short campaign:

Yet a second internal budget schedule obtained by Guido reveals Clegg’s true expenditure in Sheffield Hallam. This bombshell document admits Clegg actually spent £36,852.89 in his Sheffield Hallam short campaign. Astonishingly, under the column headed “What you’ve got left”, the figure “- £17,652.89” appears. This is prima facie evidence that Clegg broke electoral law – Clegg overspent by over £17,000…

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Clegg disguised his overspend by declaring £14,120.31 of his Sheffield Hallam spending as part of the national campaign. His Election Address – which by statute, namely the Representation of the Peoples Act, explicitly states is for the local candidate’s spend only – was declared as part national spend. His vehicle hire, room hire and agent costs were all declared as national spend. A further £5,913.45 was then “offset” for local elections and future campaigns. This is classic cooking the books – the document we have obtained admits that in reality all this spending was part of the “Sheffield Hallam Short Campaign Budget”.

A LibDem spokesman says spending was apportioned correctly to the national and other local campaigns in Sheffield Hallam:

“The figure of £-17,652 that you refer to is the amount spent above an indicative figure in a draft template budget. It does not relate to spend over and above an election spend limit. Any claim or suggestion of an overspend on the constituency return is misleading and factually inaccurate… We are confident that all spend has been correctly attributed to the appropriate return.”

It’s there in black and white – “What you’ve got left: -£17,652.89” – that looks like the true figure to Guido…

Cat Smith’s Campaign Organiser’s Cover-Up Busted

BEN+SINGLETON
Guido’s revelations
last week about Corbynista Labour MP Cat Smith’s mysterious election expenses exposed one of the most serious individual cases of alleged expenses fraud so far. Unlike the systematic and centrally focused allegations surrounding the SNP’s chopper, or Labour and the Tories‘ national battle bus spends, Cat Smith’s returns represent an individual candidate conspiring to conceal a series of overspends in a closely fought marginal constituency. If found guilty Smith personally, not a party machine, will bear the responsibility

One of the key false declarations made by Smith is that her campaign organiser, Ben Singleton, spent just 12.5% (around four and a half days) of the short campaign working for her, allowing her to deduct 87.5% of his salary costs off her final election expenses declaration. Guido has already uncovered substantial evidence demonstrating that Singleton worked far more than this on her election campaign. Now, after an extensive search, Smith’s 12.5% claim looks even less credible…

Singleton realised Guido was investigating him and guiltily deleted his Twitter feed from public view – so we found alternative evidence sources. Pictures uncovered from a series of third-party social media posts show Singleton present on Smith’s campaign for at least 10 different days during the short campaign, which lasted just 39 days between March 30 and May 7. It is hard to find an event of hers in which he wasn’t involved. Several social media posts (including Singleton himself registering as attending two of Smith’s campaign events) show that the organiser was more involved than Smith has previously claimed. One of those events was a pro-Cat Smith rally featuring Eddie Izzard, also undeclared…

Making false declarations is a criminal offence, it could lead to her election being invalidated and Cat Smith going to prison. The evidence photos show Singleton alongside Labour grandees Tristram Hunt MP, Maria Eagle MP, and Theresa Griffin MEP. Will they be willing to testify on Comrade Smith’s behalf?

More to follow…

Cat Smith Expenses Cover Up

A very interesting development for the police investigating Labour MP Cat Smith’s election expenses. Cat claimed her election organiser spent just 12.5% of his time on her campaign – she would have bust her spending limit if his entire salary had been declared. So the cops will be intrigued to learn that, since Guido’s story, Smith’s organiser Ben Singleton has ‘protected’ his tweets. Something to hide, Ben?

singleton

Why might Singleton want his tweets kept secret? Well, Guido looked through his posts. During the election he tweeted exclusively about Smith, and not about any other candidates. This would suggest he spent a lot more than 12.5% of his time campaigning for her. As you can see below, Singleton appeared time and time again in tweets and photos relating to Smith’s local campaign:

ben singleton compilation

 

What’s more, Singleton’s public Facebook activity from the election is almost entirely devoted to Cat Smith, and not any other candidates:

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From the evidence available, it simply isn’t believable that Singleton spent just 12.5% of his time on Smith’s campaign. He was her devoted organiser. If Smith had declared his true salary accordingly, she would have bust her limit. Singleton suddenly hiding his tweets from public view shows they are on the run…

Jim Shannon Ordered to Repay £14,000 Expenses

shannon

A hugely damning verdict from IPSA following their investigation into the expenses of DUP MP Jim Shannon. He has been ordered to pay back a massive £14,000 in staff mileage claims. Some choice findings:

“The records kept by the MP’s office are completely inadequate and make it impossible to conduct a viable external audit of the activities undertaken”

“The methods for the submission and collation of mileage claims by individual staff members are equally woeful.”

“the current situation is unsustainable, and Mr Shannon must engage with IPSA with a view to conducting a fundamental review of his constituency office management”

Read the findings hereAbout as harsh a condemnation as IPSA ever give…

Eddie Izzard’s Hotel Bills Not Lawfully Declared

Eddie Izzard Alex Sobel Leeds Labour

On Sunday the Labour Party told Channel 4 News that they “never spent any mone y putting volunteers up in hotels during tours” in the general election. Channel 4 reported that “so far no evidence has emerged to contradict them”. Until now…

On April 20 2015, Eddie Izzard travelled to Leeds North West to campaign on behalf of Labour candidate Alex Sobel. As you can see above, Izzard had pictures taken with the candidate, in front of posters bearing the candidate’s name. There can be no doubt this was local campaigning…

Yet the invoice above shows Labour’s national campaign paid for Izzard’s hotel in Leeds on April 20. This is a flagrant breach of the rules – Izzard was an activist who campaigned for a local candidate, so his hotel bill should have been declared as part of the candidate’s local spend. It also shows Labour’s claim that they never put activists up in hotels to be untrue. Just because Izzard is a celebrity doesn’t mean he isn’t an activist, the rules still apply…

Police Investigating Shadow Minister Over Election Expenses

Detectives have launched an investigation into shadow minister Cat Smith after Guido revealed a string of anomalies in her election expenses. Last week we reported that several thousand pounds were missing from the Labour MP’s spending declarations. Smith herself refused to comment, though her election agent denied wrongdoing. In the past few days Lancashire Police have received a number of complaints from members of the public, and last night they confirmed that detectives have launched an investigation. This is the first police investigation into a Labour MP over 2015 election expenses…

Worth noting that the Cat Smith case is different from all the other election expenses stories. Smith’s spending irregularities are not about battle buses or hotels for activists. Much more worryingly, this is about how she declared her office rent and staffing costs, many thousands of which were not declared in her campaign expenditure. As an individual case, this is more serious than any of the other election fraud stories of the last few weeks. Read Guido’s original story showing how Smith’s declarations were a work of financial fiction here

Sturgeon Ducks Chopper Question

Nicola Sturgeon faced a grilling from Kay Burley this afternoon following Guido’s revelations about the SNP’s helicopter spending during the general election. Sturgeon didn’t answer the key point that the chopper was used to campaign for local candidates…

SNP MP Swerves Questions About Own Party’s Spending

Pete Wishart is the SNP MP who wrote to the Met demanding a full investigation into Tory election fraud. Yet Pete had no answer when the Daily Politics asked him about Guido’s story on the Nats’ own spending:

Jo Coburn: “It’s been alleged that Nicola Sturgeon’s helicopter tour at the last election included some local campaigning. Are you confident that the cost of that helicopter was all properly declared?”

Wishart: “Listen, we want national leaders to go to constituencies…” 

JoCo: “Yeah but that wasn’t my question. Are you confident it was properly declared?”

Wishart: “There’s always what about if-ery and all this sort of stuff…”

The Nats insist the helicopter was rightly declared as national spend, but the Electoral Commission say that if it was used for any local campaigning – as it was – the cost should be divvied up. The MP who called the cops on the Tories has no answer…

SNP Chopper Not Declared Properly

Last night the SNP wrote to the Met Police asking them to investigate the Tories for failing to properly declare their election battle buses. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone…

Back during the election campaign, the SNP used a helicopter to fly Nicola Sturgeon around Scotland. This was declared as part of the SNP’s national spend, which would be fine so long as Nicola only used it for national campaigning, limited to talking about the SNP’s policies and why voters should back her party as a whole. Yet Sturgeon used her chopper specifically to campaign for local candidates as well – for example Peter Grant in Glenrothes, Stephen Gethins in North East Fife, and Drew Hendry in Inverness. The Electoral Commission tells Guido that if a party leader travels to campaign on behalf of a local candidate, some of the travel costs should be declared as local spend:

“If the travel promotes both the local candidate and national policies, then a portion of the cost of that bus should be allocated towards the candidate’s spending limit and a portion towards the party’s national spending limit.”

Sturgeon’s helicopter visited 12 constituencies and was used for local campaigning, so according to the rules some of the cost should have been declared as local spend. It wasn’t. Drew Hendry and Callum Kerr became MPs but would have bust their limits if they’d declared the chopper. Bold of them to call the cops…

UPDATE: An SNP spokesman responds:

“Unlike the Tories the SNP did not transport and pay hotel costs for party activists in marginal seats. Transporting the party leader around the country is national campaign expenditure and the SNP correctly registered it as such with the Electoral Commission.”

But the Electoral Commission say that if a leader did any local campaigning, as Sturgeon did, the cost should be split…

Crick Crick’d

Michael Crick finally touched on the Labour expenses fraud on Wednesday, having previously devoted his coverage to the Tory version of the story. After a brief chase around Smith Square, Guido caught up with him for a chat. On the other parties, he promises “more in the next few days”…

LibDem Who Complained to Police About Tory Election Fraud Broke Spending Rules

Former LibDem MP Adrian Sanders has been at the forefront of police complaints about election spending fraud. He even wrote a template letter for concerned constituents to dob candidates in to the cops:

“The criminal offence allegations if proven are very serious indeed. They may have determined who governs our country. It strikes at the very heart of democracy. It therefore affects everyone whether or not they reside in one of the constituencies mentioned in the media. If you want to help get this matter investigated a letter along the following lines to your Chief Constable might assist…”

Oh really…

The Representation of the People’s Act 1983 states that only candidates can send Election Addresses to voters. It explicitly says that only “a candidate” can “send free of charge for postage” an election communication, and that these must be candidate-specific rather than part of the national campaign. The Royal Mail confirm “a candidate mailing that is designed to secure the election… in another electoral constituency is unacceptable“. By definition candidates’ Election Addresses are therefore local spend and must be declared as such…

Adrian Sanders has confirmed to Guido that this was his invoice for his Election Return. As you can see, the £4,900 cost was split between national and local spend, in manifest breach of the rules:

When Guido phoned up Sanders to ask for an explanation, he angrily replied:

“You’d better report me to the police then. If you think there is an error here, report me to the police.”

He then hung up. If he’d declared it correctly, he’d have been £783 over the maximum limit…

13 Labour MPs Didn’t Declare Hattie’s Pink Bus

Since Guido started looking at Labour’s battle bus spending, readers have been in touch to ask where Harriet Harman’s famous pink bus fits in. Well, it’s a very good question. Electoral Commission data shows that 13 Labour MPs who claimed they spent nothing on transport benefitted from activists transported into their constituencies in Hattie’s pink van.[…] Read the rest

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Tory MP Nick Boles says what everyone thinks…

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