CCHQ’s Battle Bus Guidance Revealed

battlebus

Where do the Tories stand on the election fraud scandal? They are bang to rights on failing to declare £38,000 of hotel bills for Tory activists, blaming an “administrative error”. The issue of transport – the fabled “battle buses” – is contested. There are three outcomes here. Are CCHQ right when they say they’ve done nothing wrong? Did they breach the rules on national and local spending? Or was there a conspiracy to hide spending from the official declarations?

Leaked emails reveal CCHQ told their local campaign teams that the cost of hotels and battle buses would be “accounted for out of central campaign spend”. It stressed transport within the seat was not included: “For legal reasons the Battlebus cannot ferry people around the seat”.

The arrangement had the “personal sponsorship” of Grant Shapps, was “signed off” by Lynton Crosby, Stephen Gilbert and Lord Feldman, and was “supported by Deborah Feldman’s Team in CCHQ“. That’s Lord Feldman’s sister.

The good news for the Tories is this shows they did see battle buses as part of the national campaign all along, and demonstrates they were taking steps to abide by spending laws. So they can argue there wasn’t a conspiracy to hide the cash. The bad news? If the cops find it should have gone down as local spend, the party chairman and his sister are implicated…

MPs Pay Family Members £21 Million

snouts

+ 139 MPs’ family members employed on the public payroll +

+ 1 in 4 MPs have employed a relative +

+ Relatives’ salaries “significantly higher” than other employees +

+ Pay rises awarded “at twice the rate” +

IPSA releases its consultation on MPs’ expenses this morning – the most eye-catching revelation is that MPs pay family members more than other staff, and are more likely to give pay rises to family members. As of March this year a total of 139 “connected parties”, which means MPs’ family members and those with a close business association, were on the payroll as secretaries and assistants. 1 in 4 MPs employed a connected party in the last parliament. £21 million of taxpayers’ money was sent by MPs into the bank accounts of relatives…

IPSA admits that “controls to prevent misuse of funding on employing connected parties were limited”, adding:

“their salaries were significantly higher than the average across all MPs’ staff. Salaries of connected parties had also risen at twice the rate of other staff”

Family members are paid on average £5,600 more than other staff.

IPSA are so concerned that they are consulting again on the issue of connected parties, but only for new staff. MPs already had a 10% pay rise and earn three times the average wage, yet a quarter of them have employed family members on up to £55,000-a-year on top. Stay tuned – Guido will name and shame the piggies shortly…

Rotten Robertson at the Races

Robertson Race Course

Last month Guido looked at the murky goings on around Tory MP Laurence Robertson, who was then referred to the Standards Commissioner over allegations of cash-for-access. Well, he’s at it again…

Robertson has received four fully-funded racecourse trips from bookmakers Gala Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill, as well as two further trips from course owners The Jockey Club. In total, that’s £3,466 of free trips to Aintree, Cheltenham and Chepstow, with the priciest trip costing a whopping £800. Such generosity is only to be expected – in December Robertson raised a couple of helpful questions in the Commons in favour of the so-called “racing right”, a key issue for the racing industry and large bookmakers.

Last month it was cash-for-access claims, this month it’s completely coincidental freebies. Time for a stewards’ inquiry…

Osborne Exempts “Politically Exposed Persons” From Money Laundering Checks

MPs complained earlier this year that they are being hounded “like African despots” following anti-money laundering checks from banks like HSBC. These checks are designed to ensure money isn’t being funnelled into criminal gangs or other corrupt arrangements. Charles Walker was furious that MPs and their families are on the list of “Politically Exposed Persons”, the automatic anti-money laundering watch list used by banks:

“It is ridiculously heavy-handed for banks to treat British MPs and their families in this aggressive way. They should be targeting crooked despots and dictators, not MPs’ grannies.”

Because politicians’ family members would never be involved in anything dodgy…

George Osborne this afternoon accepted an amendment to the Financial Services Bill which will see some Politically Exposed Persons and their families exempted from these anti-money laundering rules. Ministers will now “exclude… specified categories of persons” from the list of so-called PEPs, as Osborne says it is “disproportionate” for banks to include MPs and relatives on the watch list. Mossack Fonseca will be able to whisk MPs and their families through the account opening process…

Feldman Gets Cricked

An out of breath Michael Crick at his best…

Standards Chairman Quits Over Conflict Allegations

Kevin Barron, chairman of the Standards committee troughers’ union, has stepped aside after being embroiled in a conflict of interest row. You almost couldn’t make it up.

Dear Kathryn,

You may be aware of an article published in the Daily Telegraph today entitled “MPs Standards Chief in breach of Rules”. This refers to a position I held as a Parliamentary advisor to the Japanese Pharmaceutical Group. The article centres on the use of catering facilities in the house for one breakfast meeting and two dinners, where members of the group and Members of Parliament met to discuss the pharmaceutical industry in the UK. These three meetings were just a small proportion of the meetings I attended in this role but the only ones hosted in Parliament.

The relationship I had as an advisor was for twenty hours a year and the agreement was that a direct payment would be made by the JPG to the Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice in my constituency.

My own understanding is that due to the fact that I made no personal gain and all the fees were paid to a charity, I had not breached the rules on usage of parliamentary facilities for personal or business use. It is a matter of record that I followed the rules in registering this interest and that I deposited an agreement for the provision of services, as the rules required.

In light of the allegations that I may have breached House of Commons code of conduct or rules, I refer myself to you for you to consider whether any breaches of the rules or the code of conduct have taken place. Accompanied with this letter is copies of all correspondence with the JPG during the time in question.

You may wish to know I have recused myself from both the Standards & Privileges committee until such time that this matter has been resolved.

Yours,

Kevin Barron

Watch Guido take on Barron on sleazy MPs here

UPDATE: A friend of Barron gets in touch:

 “Didn’t make a penny, 9k to children’s hospice. Only stood down temporarily while it’s investigated”

Cash-For-Access MP Faces Standards Commissioner Probe

Laurence Robertson, the Tory MP at the centre of a cash-for-access row following Guido’s two stories yesterday, has been reported to the Standards Commissioner. Edward Buxton, who was Labour’s candidate in Robertson’s Tewkesbury seat, writes to Kathryn Hudson:

Dear Mrs Hudson,

I wish to refer you to the recent allegations that have been made regarding my local Member of Parliament Laurence Robertson and his award of a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist​. 

​The Guido Fawkes ​website reported that Mr Robertson gave “a parliamentary pass” with “authorised access” to the entire parliamentary estate to Jennifer Bryant-Pearson, “a lobbyist who paid him thousands of pounds.” Jennifer Bryant-Pearson is chief executive of JBP Public Relations, a lobbying firm which specialises in parliamentary affairs.

It ​was further reported that Mr Robertson has declared “up to £10,000 in payments from Westminster Parliamentary Research”, which is ​in turn ​run by Bryant-Pearson. ​The Telegraph has reported that ​Mr Robertson is ​employed as ​a board member at Veolia Environmental Services ​and “has declared thousands of pounds in payments from Veolia since 2013.” ​Veolia Environmental Services has been described as “one of the main clients” of JBP Public Relations.

​The overlap between Bryant-Pearson; JBP Public Relations; Westminster Parliamentary Research; Veolia Environmental Services and Laurence Robertson seems to have allowed Mr Robertson to sponsor “Bryant-Pearson for a pass while he was in the pay of her client.”

Mr Robertson has ​claimed “Ms Bryant-Pearson carried out work supporting All Party Groups (APPG), secretarial duties, publicity, arranging and attending meetings and translation services,” however the use of parliamentary passes for ​APPG staff ​was withdrawn on 18 July 2013 and the Serjeant at Arms wrote to ​all ​MPs informing them “that this category of pass should not be used in the future”. Yet the pass in question was still held by Ms Bryant-Pearson until ​a few months ago. If I may can I refer you to the final words of the Guido Fawkes blog post: “it stinks…”

The entire case raises ​fundamental questions and concerns over the conduct and judgement of Mr Robertson. I would be grateful if you would investigate this matter and inform me of the outcome.

Kind Regards,

Edward Buxton

Giving a pass to a lobbyist for APPG work is explicitly banned by the Serjeant at Arms, and Robertson confessed to Guido in writing that this is what he has done. Add in the £40,000 changing hands and this is going to be a very difficult one to explain…

Cash-For Access Tory MP Paid £30,000 By Lobbyist’s Client

This morning Guido revealed a Tory MP has given a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist who paid him thousands of pounds. Laurence Robertson was paid £10,000 by a firm run by Jennifer Bryant-Pearson, for whom he subsequently arranged a parliamentary pass. This afternoon Guido can reveal that Robertson is currently employed by one of Bryant-Pearson’s biggest clients.

Robertson has been paid £10,000-a-year since 2013 for his position on the board of Veolia Environmental Services. Veolia are one of the main clients of JBP Public Relations, the lobbying company run by Bryant-Pearson. So not only did the pass-carrying lobbyist employ Robertson, her major client still does. Crucially, Robertson sponsored Bryant-Pearson for a pass while he was in the pay of her client. Robertson tells Guido:

“Ms Bryant-Pearson carried out work supporting All Party Groups, secretarial duties, publicity, arranging and attending meetings and translation services.”

Lobbyists were banned from having parliamentary passes through work on APPGs in 2013. Yet Robertson gave Bryant-Pearson a pass until 2015. Guido has asked Robertson if he denies this is a case of cash-for-access, and what “secretarial duties” this chief executive of a lobbying company carried out. He has yet to reply…

Tory MP Cash For Access: Pass For Lobbyist Who Paid Him Thousands

A Tory MP has given a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist who paid him thousands of pounds. Laurence Robertson, the infamous cad who employed both his wife and girlfriend on the taxpayer, has authorised access to the parliamentary estate to Jennifer Bryant-Pearson. She is the chief executive of JBP Public Relations, a lobbying firm which specialises in parliamentary affairs. Bryant-Pearson also runs a company called Westminster Parliamentary Research, which paid Robertson around £10,000 for “consultancy work” in 2010. A lobbyist lined the pockets of a serving MP, then he gave her unfettered access to the corridors of power.

As you can see below, Robertson has declared up to £10,000 in payments from Westminster Parliamentary Research, which is run by Bryant-Pearson. The register of secretaries’ interests shows Robertson then sponsored Bryant-Pearson for a parliamentary pass:

Robertson has been approached for comment. This ain’t the last you’ve heard of this one, it stinks…

Jim’ll Fix It Staffer Alleges Drugs, Glory-Holes and BBC Corruption

SAVILLE

A former BBC employee who worked on Jim’ll Fix It gets in touch with his experience of Television Centre in the 1970s. Here is his account of drugs, glory-holes and widespread corruption:

I worked there through part of the period. Everyone knew. But the culture was highly sexist, phobic and ignorant. Sex was common currency in most aspects. There was a notorious “cottage” with glory-holes etc in one of the three “assembly” areas in TV Centre. Drugs were commonplace. Favours were sought and corruption was open. That’s the context. That’s why nobody screamed blue murder.

He was far from being alone! I worked on “Fix It”, albeit obliquely. Provided props and and support for the design team. You just avoided the ‘talent’ because he had a famous temper. His predatory sexual creepiness was the least of our worries. He was just a nasty piece of work who enjoyed getting people sacked or in all kinds of trouble. He had few friends amongst the staff. Dressers hated him and the famous cigars were bought in crates at the licence payers’ expense. Horrible man, but not the only one…”

And according to Dame Janet Smith’s report, not a single member of the management knew…

Electoral Commission Investigating Tory Election Spending

They say in a statement:

The Electoral Commission has today announced that it has opened an investigation into allegations regarding the Conservative Party spending return at the 2015 UK Parliamentary General Election

The investigation opened by the Commission today focuses on whether the Conservative Party met their reporting obligations under the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000, specifically:

  • whether the spending reported by the party in its 2015 UKPGE campaign spending return, in relation to the Royal Harbour Hotel Ramsgate, was notnational campaign spending and therefore should not have been included in the party’s return;
  • whether spending on the Premier Inn Margate was national campaign spending and therefore should have been included in the party’s 2015 UKPGE campaign spending return.

The Commission’s sanctioning powers are limited to a civil penalty of up to £20,000…

Cops Called on Tory Hotel Overspend

Labour’s defeated Newark candidate Michael Payne has called the police in to investigate the Tories’ apparent by-election overspend. Watch Michael Crick’s report and read Guido’s story from this morning to see what they will be looking at. Now to see if this actually goes anywhere…

How Tories Hid Hotel and Transport Bills in Newark

Guido can shed some more light on how the Tories hid their by-election hotel bills in Newark. On 31 May 2014, over 350 young Tories boarded coaches and minibuses up to Newark for a day of campaigning. At the end of the day’s door-knocking, they needed something to eat and somewhere to stay. Paying for travel and hotels for that many people would rack up thousands in by-election expenses. So, the Tories ferried their activists to the Crowne Plaza hotel in Nottingham, outside of the constituency. There, Tory donors treated them to curry at an event named the “first annual RoadTrip dinner” – pictured above – where Rob Halfon and Eric Pickles gave speeches. After that they boozed at the Coco Lounge and NG1 bars, before returning to the hotel, where they made contributions to their room bills. The transport costs of ferrying the activists up to Newark and around Nottingham were apparently undeclared.

A source present says the meal and hotel were deliberately booked outside of the constituency, under the pretence of an “annual RoadTrip dinner”, to avoid appearing on the Newark by-election expenditure. They say this was by no means the only time this happened. A nifty little way of dodging the rules…

Tory Overspend in UKIP By-Elections

Michael Crick reckons he has enough to call in the cops on alleged Tory by-election overspends. Did the Tories break the rules with their hotel bills in Newark, and while fighting UKIP in Clacton and Rochester?

Israeli Ex-Ambassador ‘Late Night Visits’ Scandal Brewing

The Guardian reports that Israel’s most recent ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, returned to Jerusalem “after being repeatedly warned over security breaches at his residence in St John’s Wood”. Apparently “the breaches related to late night visits by individuals to his official home”The Israeli media is rife with scandalous speculation.

News site Ynet reports lurid, unverified claims that married Taub

“brings men home without reporting them to the embassy’s security officer as required by security procedures”

Oy!

There are ever wilder rumours floating around elsewhere, though it’s perhaps worth noting that conspiracy theories of this type are nothing new. Not like the Guardian to go in for salacious rumour-mongering…

“Sh***ing All Over the Working Class” Labour MP Charged Taxpayer For Whirlpool Bath

Corbynista MP Dawn Butler indulged us with the “new, kinder politics” at PMQs:

Dawn would know all about “sh***ing all over the working class”.

Back in 2009, she was exposed in the expenses scandal for over-claiming £2,600 in rent for her constituency home.

She claimed claimed twice for the rent, deposit and charges relating to her second home.

Shamed Butler charged the taxpayer a whirlpool bath in a suite that cost £2,308.

She also claimed the full £23,000 second home allowance, despite her first home in Stratford being the same distance from Parliament.

Go on, Dawn, tell us more about “sh***ing all over the working class…”

Under Pressure: MP With Largest Expenses Bill Probed

The parliamentary expenses watchdog is investigating DUP MP Jim Shannon over irregularities with his expenses:

“The Compliance Officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has today opened an investigation into claims made under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses by Jim Shannon MP. The claims in question relate to travel and subsistence expenditure.”

As with the case of Tory MP Bob Blackman in 2014, IPSA are refusing to disclose any information about what the actual allegations against Shannon are. The case against him will be heard in secret to prevent “reputational damage to MPs”. Shannon submitted the highest expenses claims of any MP in both 2013-14 and 2014-15, claiming £235,000 and £264,500 each year. At the time he blamed the huge bill on his staffers being ill. Surely his constituents have a right to know what is he supposed to have done wrong?

Danczuk Doesn’t Rule Out Running Against Labour

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Simon Danczuk has come out swinging on LBC, telling Iain Dale he doesn’t rule out being the victim of a set-up. Most worryingly for the Corbynistas who want to expel him, he also doesn’t rule out running against Labour as an independent in 2020…

Danczuk: “Not For My Exes to Determine MP For Rochdale”

Simon Danczuk speaks:

“It’s not for ex-girlfriends or ex-wives to determine who the MP for Rochdale is, it’s for the residents of Rochdale to determine who the MP for Rochdale is.”

A by-election between an independent Danczuk, a Corbynista Labour candidate and UKIP would be box office…

Labour Suspends Danczuk

Labour say in a statement:

“The General Secretary of the Labour Party has today suspended Simon Danczuk’s membership of the Party, pending an investigation into allegations published in the media today.  A full investigation will now take place under the authority of the National Executive Committee, which will be responsible for determining any further action.”

The Corbynistas finally have their revenge.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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