Last year then-Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan defended the use of taxpayer cash on the Queen’s funeral, saying it represented “value for money”. It seems not all the mourning was value for money, however, as Guido can reveal Donelan chose to bill the taxpayer for her constituency office window tribute to the Queen.
Anyone wandering past Donelan’s Chippenham office last September was greeted with two displayed A3 posters filled with pictures of her late Majesty, accompanied with the Secretary of State’s memorial. Both posters were identical.
Expenses FOIs now reveal she put the two posters on expenses, totalling £84 plus VAT for a total of £100.80. Boris once had to apologise for putting a Remembrance Sunday wreath on expenses – will Michelle apologise?
The Sky News/Tortoise* compilation of MPs’ donations makes it easier to track declarations. For instance it is easy to see that a major Just Stop Oil donor has been bankrolling Keir Starmer to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. Dale Vince gave Starmer’s leadership campaign £20,000 in 2020, and since the last election has donated a further £360,000 to the party. Including a five-figure bung to Angela Rayner…
Despite sounding rather convincing while condemning Just Stop Oil’s tactics, Sir Keir has been only too happy to accept the cash of a man who admits to giving the protest group “tens of thousands”, as well as “an additional lifeline in November when their funding ran out.”
“I understand why they do what they do. It’s what they have in their power to do.
“Whereas big business has different powers to pursue its agenda, and we have no real answer to that except sometimes to take to the streets.”
He also admits his money to the Labour Party is intended to advance his political agenda.
“[I donate] to help them win, to help them into government so they have the chance to deliver their agenda, which is my agenda, social justice and a green economy”.
Unfortunately for Labour they’re getting a lot of backwash via these ‘Westminster Accounts’. As well as the above, Sir Keir and Jon Ashworth have been forced into hypocritically defending David Lammy’s massive outside earnings despite a promise to ban second jobs. Enjoy the squirming:
'Should David Lammy be allowed to earn that sort of money from second jobs?' - #KayBurley #WestminsterAccounts— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 10, 2023
Labour's @JonAshworth says "everything is declared" and it's "within the rules".
Find out more here: https://t.co/GJdBzJJxMH
📺 Sky 501, Virgin 602, Freeview 233 pic.twitter.com/MEEQbkNZmH
One rule for Labour…
*Tortoise Media gets significant funding from BP.
The BBC has confirmed that the price of its widely-mocked logo redesign will not be made public, due to commercial sensitivity. In Guido’s experience, the BBC has become one of the most anti-transparency public bodies, with almost no FoIs being approved, often with the aforementioned ‘commercially sensitive’ excuse. The argument about commercial sensitivity might be valid before the contract was agreed, after it is completed it is irrelevant. According to figures released in May, the BBC has gone from answering 53% of FoIs – either partly or fully – in 2015, to just 42% last year. By direct comparison, the House of Commons was more than happy to reveal the cost of their most recent logo design to Guido – without any commercial sensitivity claims…
Aside from the BBC’s cost cover-up – which, according to one BBC source undoubtedly means “they’ve spent some outrageous amount on it and don’t want to admit it” – the logo is so absurd it was foreshadowed in one of their own sitcoms, W1A – a sitcom about working at the BBC.
For reference, this is the W1A joke mock logo next to the BBC’s own new Sounds logo
Another day another farce…
While MPs fret over the cost of the restoration and renewal project, Guido can reveal thousands have been wasted by the House of Commons on another renovation project: its logo. Appearing on MPs’ order papers and other documents, last month it was spotted the font had undergone a redesign – from serif to sans serif.
Guido promptly put in an FoI which reveals the change cost taxpayers £2,500 plus VAT:
“The updated wordmark that now appears in the House of Commons logo was not ‘redesigned’. Instead, it was bought ‘off the shelf’, with some small changes being made for us. The cost of this was £2,500, excl. VAT. This cost comprises the design agency’s time, including design and consultation.”
Money well spent, Guido’s sure co-conspirators will agree…
Labour is finally set to release information on the shadow cabinet’s meetings with media proprietors, Guido learns, with the data now being collated covering the first year of Starmer’s leadership. Guido first pointed out the transparency black hole from the party back in 2019, after spotting Corbyn’s team had failed to release the data for three years. So much for Leveson…
While Starmer has no choice in releasing the meetings given his current No. 10 transparency push, Guido understands the blackspot from 2016 to 2020 will remain undeclared, given it would be the responsibility of the former Leader of the Opposition’s office, many of whom are now no longer involved with the party. Corbyn’s meetings with Skwawkbox and Novara Media will be lost to the mists of time…
The Cabinet Office is refusing to release the findings of an investigation it’s concluded into which senior civil servant – with access to their official Twitter account – posted an anti-Dominic Cummings Tweet on the day of his post-Barnard Castle Rose Garden press appearance. Ironically exactly the sort of biased, left-wing civil service culture Cummings was desperate to reform…
An FoI request asking for an update to their investigation has revealed the information regarding the internal investigation, launched in May 2020, does now exist and is held by the department, however they are refusing to release it on grounds that disclosure:
“would be likely, to prejudice the exercise of the Cabinet Office’s functions”
They won’t even say whether the person who Tweeted that the PM’s office were “truth twisters”, and that his defence of Cummings was “arrogant and offensive”, falls below the standards of “proper conduct”.
Unsurprisingly the legal request for information also failed to yield the name of the person responsible, refusing even to say whether that information is held by the Cabinet Office. The release goes on to imply the department’s head of FoI’s believes that releasing the name of the anti-Cummings civil servant would undermine their ability to investigate future acts of improper conduct. Desperate, self-serving obfuscation…