New MPs Already Have Their Snouts in the Trough

They have barely been in their jobs for eight weeks, but our new Honourable Members are already learning how to milk the system.

In addition to their imminent public sector pay freeze-busting 10% pay rise, these new MPs have already begun to employ family members on their taxpayer-funded parliamentary expenses.

Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne) I employ my husband, Nicholas Ansell, as a full time Personal Assistant.

Richard Arkless (Dumfries and Galloway) I employ my wife, Anne Elizabeth Arkless, as part-time Personal Assistant.

Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) I employ my step-son, John O’Leary, as Caseworker.

Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) I employ my wife, Anne Double, as full time Senior Caseworker and Diary Secretary.

Harry Harpham (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) I employ my wife, Gill Furniss, as part-time Researcher.

Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) I employ my partner, Tyrone Powell, as Senior Parliamentary Assistant.

Scott Mann (North Cornwall) I employ my non-cohabiting partner, Nicola Wade, as part time Secretary.

Johnny Mercer (Plymouth, Moor View) I employ my wife, Felicity Cornelius, as part-time Constituency Support Officer.

Paul Monaghan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) I employ my brother, Mark Innes Monaghan, as Constituency Communications Manager.

Jess Phillips (Birmingham, Yardley) I employ my husband, Tom Phillips, as Constituency Support Manager.

Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) I employ my wife, Frances Mynors, as my Personal Assistant.

David Warburton (Somerton and Frome) I employ my wife, Harriet Warburton, as a Communications Officer and Personal Assistant.

Corri Wilson (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) I employ my son, Kieran Donoghue, as Caseworker/Personal Assistant.

They will go far.

Frack That: Government Funds Anti-Extraction Campaign

fracking-national-_2641250b

Discredited anti-fracking charity MEDACT is making a last ditch effort to influence Lancashire County Council’s 24 June vote on whether to allow fracking, by holding a public meeting in Preston next week, in which they will wheel out their “experts“.

The only expert announced so far is one John Ashton, a former civil servant and the founder of environmental not-for -profit E3G.

E3G receives funding from the Department of Energy & Climate Change.

And the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

And the Department for International Development.

Oh, and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

The government is funding the opposition to its own fracking policy…

Best Reponses to MP Pay Rise Consultation

Sitting somewhere in an office on Millbank, an IPSA employee sifts through the hundreds of responses to their consultation on MPs’ pay while trying to justify giving them an extra 10%. Here are some of the Great British public’s more forthright contributions.

D.W. Jukes speaks for a nation:

“Obviously shut up in your little Westminster bubble, you have not noticed that the rating of MPs among the electorate is at an all time low. People feel that MPs are totally out of touch with voters, and your decision to review their pay now only confirms it.”

While John F Roga is a fan of caps lock:

“THE DICTIONARY DEFINES WATCHDOG AS ONE THAT CLOSELY OBSERVES GOVERNMENTS AND ORGANISATIONS. A POODLE IS DEFINED AS AN ‘ASSIDUOUS FOLLOWER’. I KNOW WHICH CATEGORY THE PUBLIC WOULD PLACE YOU IN”

Though he’s not as angry as this anonymous writer:

“The watchdog whoever he is is he an IDIOT or what saying the MPs should get 90k a year they DON’T DESERVE 50k a year or there CARS & EXPENSES should be STOPPED until the economy is a lot better.”

Captain Bryn Wayt is getting religious on them (his use of bold):

“I submit this document as a private individual and Christian taxpayer. I furnish my thoughts on the proven fact that the majority of MP’s were fiddling their “expenses” and robbing the public purse before the Telegraph blew their game apart in 2009. Somehow, most of them escaped jail by the skin of their teeth. Such despicable and dishonest behaviour will not be tolerated ever again.”

Mr JR McAvoy makes a not unreasonable point:

“Under no circumstances should you even consider raising their generous salary’s. There would be a national outcry against if you did”

Made slightly more forcefully by F. Biard:

“WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER EVERYONE GETS THE SAME DEAL ITS A SCANDAL”

This anonymous contributor used a powerful sign-off:

“It is immoral for an MP to draw a full salary and hardly ever appear in the house. The excuse of doing constituency work does not wash. Gordon Brown, Chris Huhne, David Miliband, Liam Fox, George Galloway just some names to consider. Yet another disillusioned citizen of what was once Great Britain.”

While John Bell gave greedy MPs a choice:

“MP’s have the same option as every one else if they are unhappy. They can resign and get another job more to their liking and they should be reminded they have this option.”

Best of the bunch? Here is Robert Nielson Donald:

“sir i put it to you they do not need a pay rise they first need to stop double dealing with renting their house to a fellow member then claim expences on another house it is day light robbery, i would love to tell them face to face exactly how the public feel about this. any increase in their salary when the nation is facing price rises in fuel and many being laid off would be a kick in the teeth for the rest of the nation whilst these parasites want more, in closing can i wish you all a merry christmas and a happy new year”

Well said, Robert. Well said.

Pressure Mounts on Cameron to Reject Pay Rise

A cynic might say the wannabe next leader of the Labour Party is being shamelessly populist, but Andy Burnham is first out of the blocks to turn down his 10% pay rise:

The PM’s position on this is less equivocal.

Cameron said in 2013: “I think it would be wrong for MPs to get a big pay rise at a time of public sector pay restraint”.

Last year he threatened to abolish IPSA entirely if they did not “think again”.

Yet yesterday his Official Spokesman seemingly dropped that threat and suggested Cameron would be accepting the pay rise: “If IPSA determines MPs get a pay increase, MPs get a pay increase”.

It comes down to whether Cameron wants to give it to charity and annoy his more shallow-pocketed backbenchers three weeks into the new government…

UPDATE: Seems to be a concerted effort from certain Labour MPs up for elections to get ahead on this before PMQs:

Your Last Chance to Challenge MPs’ Pay Rise

Despite IPSA “receiving hundreds of responses” – and claiming to have “carefully considered every response we received” – MPs are still set for a 10% pay rise:

“We remain of the view that it is right to increase MPs’ pay to £74,000 for all the reasons we set out in December 2013 and which we summarise above. Subject to any new and compelling evidence arising from this review, we therefore intend to implement the determination as currently drafted, with a one-off adjustment in MPs’ pay to £74,000 and subsequently linking it to changes in average UK earnings for the remainder of this Parliament.”

However:

“That said, we invite submissions as to any new and compelling evidence that might cause us to reconsider. Consultation Question: Is there new and compelling evidence that might lead us to amend our determination?”

Handing MPs a 10% rise while public sector wages are capped at 1% seems pretty compelling.

Send your objections to: mppayandpension@parliamentarystandards.org.uk.

Rent Your Flat To an MP, If You Dare

Nice to see the mansions of SW1 getting a look in – this letter has been posted to flat owners near Westminster – but surely this has to be the biggest fib of the election? MPs will be “good quality, respectable tenants”:

Dolphin Square landlords need not apply…

Pie Minister: Cameron’s Colossal Campaign Calorie Count

A busy day on the stump for the PM, who seems to have spent the day stuffing his face. So far he has eaten:

Haggis (350 calories)

Fried egg (90 calories)

Fried bread (400 calories)

Fried mushrooms (160 calories)

Scotch egg (300 calories)

Steak, ale and Stilton pie (500 calories)

Half a pint of stout (135 calories)

Total calories: 1,935

2,000 calories already and it’s only just coming up to tea time.

Nevermind a chopper, they’re going to have to roll him back to London…

People’s Champion? No Sorry From Sarah

Labour MP Sarah Champion is today paying back the £17 she claimed on expenses for a Remembrance Sunday poppy wreath. Apart from a short statement confirming she would reimburse the taxpayer, Champion has maintained radio silence in the face of searing public criticism. The Labour majority in Rotherham was halved when Champion was elected in 2012 following the MacShane scandal and UKIP are narrowing the gap. Is a ‘sorry’ so hard?

“Kensington and Chelsea” Embarrasses Hacks

Nothing like a political scandal to flush out some sloppy journalism. Malcolm Rifkind is standing down from Kensington. Not Kensington and Chelsea. The parliamentary constituency of Kensington and Chelsea does not exist any more: it was scrapped in 2010 when the seat was redrawn. What was once one of the safest Tory seats in the country now has a majority of just over 8,000. That hasn’t stopped national newspapers, broadcast journalists, lobbyists and assorted political hacks displaying a shameful lack of knowledge about their patch:

Nope

Guido wouldn’t ‘bet’ on that!

But Boris has a bigger majority in Uxbridge, oh wise hack?

Really?

BBC.

And Sky…

Et tu, FT?

Partial reporter? Partial with the facts more like!

Even self-proclaimed Parliamentary experts get it wrong.

Perhaps most embarrassingly the Indy even ran this terrible headline:

Don’t tell Peter Oborne, but there’s another subbing error in the Telegraph:

Tut tut.

Malcolm Rifkind Steps Down as ISC Chair and MP

The Chairman of the ISC, the Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind has this morning issued the following statement:

None of the current controversy with which I am associated is relevant to my work as Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.

However, I have today informed my colleagues that while I will remain a member of the Committee, I will step down from the Chairmanship.

The Committee is due to be dissolved in little over a month with the prorogation of Parliament for the forthcoming General Election. The main substantive work which needs to be completed will be the publication of our Privacy and Security Report during March.

I do not want the work of the Committee and the publication of the Report to be, in any way, distracted or affected by controversy as to my personal position. I have concluded, therefore, that it is better that this important work should be presided over by a new Chairman.

Will it be enough to lance the boil?

UPDATE: Rifkind also stepping down as an MP at the election. Kensington is in play.

UPDATE II: Personal statement from Sir Malcolm Rifkind:

“I have received tremendous support from my Constituency Association and from many constituents in Kensington over the last two days. However, I have been pondering whether it is fair to my colleagues and friends in Kensington to remain the prospective Conservative candidate for the forthcoming General Election. I warmly welcome the Committee that has been established by the Party to examine the controversy with which I have been associated and to report by the end of March on its conclusions. It will be an excellent opportunity for an objective assessment of the allegations that have been made and I will be happy to cooperate closely with the Committee. However, it is unlikely that it will be able to finish its deliberations until well into March and there, obviously, can be no certainty as to its conclusions. I am conscious, therefore, that Kensington Conservatives are faced with serious uncertainty until the end of March as to whether I will be able to be their candidate. If I could not they would have little time to choose a new candidate. I am also aware that even if the Committee reach a favourable conclusion as to these allegations the controversy will remain during what is certain to be a heated General Election and, indeed, for many months thereafter until the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has completed the necessary enquiry. I had intended to seek one further term as MP for Kensington, before retiring from the House of Commons. I have concluded that to end the uncertainty it would be preferable, instead, to step down at the end of this Parliament. This is entirely my personal decision. I have had no such requests from my constituency association but I believe that it is the right and proper action to take. As regards the allegations of Channel 4 and the Daily Telegraph I find them contemptible and will not comment further at this time. Although I will retire from Parliament I shall continue my public and political life and am much looking forward to doing so over the years to come.”

UPDATE III: No. 10:

UPDATE IV: 

Tories:

“Sir Malcolm has had a long career of distinguished service both to the Conservative Party and the country.  We respect and support his decision to stand down.” 

POLL: Should Rifkind Resign From Intelligence Select Committee?


Should Sir Malcolm Rifkind stand down to spend more time with the lifestyle to which he aspires?

Miliband Weaponises Straw

Miliband is quick out of the blocks in trying to use Jack Straw’s suspension to hit the Tories:

Dear Prime Minister,

I write this letter to you not just as leader of the Labour Party but as someone who believes that we all need to act to improve the reputation of our Parliament in the eyes of the British people.

I believe MPs are dedicated to the service of their constituents and the overwhelming majority follow the rules. But the British people need to know that when they vote they are electing someone who will represent them directly, and not be swayed by what they may owe to the interests of others.

Two years ago I said Labour MPs would not be able to hold paid directorships or consultancies after the next election.

My party is also consulting on legislation to make this a statutory ban, as well as imposing a strict cap on all outside earnings by MPs.

Today I can confirm that these measures will be included in my party’s General Election manifesto.

The low levels of trust in politics demands clarity and I urge you to follow my lead in banning paid directorships and consultancies.

There have been too many scandals about conflicts of interest in recent years.

It is time to draw a line under this and ensure these current allegations are the last.

I am sure you will agree this is a problem which affects all parties.

I believe these are circumstances which demand action and leadership.

I look forward to receiving your response.

Yours,

Ed Miliband

Miliband knows the business folk and lawyers on the Tory backbenchers will not put up with it. Canny…

WATCH: Rifkind And Straw – The Footage



According to Dispatches:

The fictitious company
PMR, a communications agency based in Hong Kong was set up, backed by a fictitious Chinese businessman. PMR has plenty of money to spend and wants to hire influential British politicians to join its advisory board and get a foothold in the UK and Europe.

12 MPs who already had significant outside interests were invited to apply for jobs with PMR.
Not all politicians are for hire. Half of those approached didn’t respond. One said he wanted to check us out in Hong Kong so we took it no further. And another said he just wasn’t that interested. Of the others, two stood out – Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw.

12 eh? Hope IPSO don’t get on their fishing trip high horse again…

Battered and Bruised: Murphy Slammed Over Irn Bru-Gate

These are the headlines taxpayer-funded Irn-Bru quaffer Jim Murphy is waking up to North of the border this morning. The Scottish Sun says he is “battered and Bruised” after a day of ridicule, the Daily Record accuses him of “drinking Irn-Bru on the taxpayer”, while the Herald dubs the expenses claim “Girders-gate”. The editorial in the Scottish Daily Mail is damning:

“It is clear Labour have an electoral mountain to climb but they would find it much easier if they stopped cutting their own ropes and sliding all the way to the bottom time and time again… The light at the end of the tunnel may be no more than a burglar’s torch. For embarrassingly, Mr Murphy’s Westminster expenses show he indented the taxpayer for the princely sum of £1.30 for two cans of Irn-Bru. And while his expenses claim is hardly as egregious as the duck houses and moats fellow members of the Commons – flipping houses for all they were worth to line their pockets with our money – awarded themselves not so long ago, it is damaging all the same. It is a gift to his political opponents, given how adroit they are on social media. Twitter immediately filled with images of people sporting cans of Irn-Bru while proudly declaring they had bought them with their own hard-earned money… This makes it all the more disappointing that he has been foolish enough to let a piffling claim for soft drinks become a stick with which his enemies can beat him.”

Pay it back, Jim…

Tim’s Troughing Far From Yeo-ver

YEO

Three decades of his MPs’ salary, expenses and all those lucrative green energy interests and troughing Tory Tim Yeo is still at it. As Guido revealed in yesterday’s Sun, even though he is leaving Westminster in just three months, Yeo has hired his long-suffering wife Diane as his new office assistant. Parliament dissolves in a matter of weeks so the taxpayer is paying the Yeo family to packs his bags…

Tory MP Slammed By Expenses Watchdog + Ordered to Pay Back £1,000 in Incorrect Mileage Claims + Claimed ‘For Twice the Distance Shown on Google Maps’+ Guilty of “Incorrect” and “Laissez-faire Attitude” to Expenses

Tory MP Bob Blackman has been found guilty of repeatedly over-claiming for his mileage expenses by IPSA and has been ordered to pay back more than £1,000 to the taxpayer. In a damning report released this morning the expenses watchdog found:

  • “on average, your claims are almost twice the distance shown on Google maps and in some cases, significantly more”
  • “mileage claims submitted by Mr Blackman are, in almost every instance, not accurate and greater than the distance travelled”
  • Blackman “wrongly submitted” claims including canvassing and party political events
  • he “demonstrate[s] a pattern of incorrect claiming and a laissez-faire attitude to the submission of constituency mileage in general”

The total number of claims found by IPSA to be incorrect or not allowable is 734 and Blackman has been ordered to repay £1,006.20. If he had been in the private sector he probably wouldn’t have kept his job…

Outgoing MPs Claim For New Laptops and iPads on Expenses … And They Don’t Have to Give Them Back When They Leave

Shameless MPs standing down at the election are rinsing the taxpayer for brand new laptops and iPads on expenses before they leave parliament… and they DON’T have to give them back.

Two weeks after Andrew Lansley announced he would quit the Commons he claimed £499 for a new iPad, but the rules mean he can keep it when he leaves in May. Eric Joyce confirmed he would quit when Labour told him he was “unfit to stand” back in 2012. Yet last June he claimed £1,777 for “replacement laptops” on expenses, which he is allowed to keep when he goes this year.

Six months after Tim Yeo was booted out by his local Tories last February, he then charged the taxpayer £1,319 on expenses for two new computers. John Denham revealed way back in 2011 that he would be leaving at the election, yet that didn’t stop him from claiming £639 on expenses for a new tablet computer in April 2014. Sacked Energy minister Charles Hendry announced he would stand down from his seat when he lost the role back in 2013. Yet in September last year, eight months before he was set to leave, he claimed £1,024 for a new Latitude laptop.

In July last year Tory MP Mike Weatherley revealed he would not stand for re-election, and two months later he claimed for an £849 Microsoft Surface Pro touch-screen laptop. Tory MP Jonathan Evans announced he was quitting in 2013, yet in August 2014 he claimed £572 for a new Dell laptop, and then another £479 for an iPad Air the following month. In 2011 Tory James Arbuthnot revealed his intention to leave, but still charged us £594 for a new iPad Mini and case last summer.

In the last six months eleven other MPs also claimed laptops and tablets on expenses, including Labour’s Tom Watson – who claimed for two – Siobhain McDonagh, Michael McCann, Huw Irranca-Davies, Roberta Blackman-Woods and Fabian Hamilton, and Tories Theresa Villiers, Nick Hurd, Keith Simpson, Glyn Davies and Tobias Ellwood.

IPSA tell Guido: “we advise MPs who are standing down to pass them on to their successors but we cannot compel them to do so”. Fill your boots…

What the Helic? SpAd Bill Soars to £8.4 Million + + + No. 10 Stuffed with 27 Special Advisers to the PM + + +

£8.4 million of taxpayer cash was spent on 103 SpAds in the last year, a 17% rise on the year before.

Chasing headlines in 2010, Cameron made a big deal of cutting the number of SpAds from 82 to 61. He now personally has 27. Twenty-f**king-seven spin doctors, bag carriers and wonky strategists. No. 10 now has almost half the number of SpAds as served the entire government just five years ago.

Nick Clegg now has twenty special advisers. Nearly double the amount that Jesus got by with.

Why does Esther McVey need a Special Adviser beyond a reshuffle consolation prize, and why is she paid more than dozens of others on the list who report to real cabinet ministers?

Why does the Chief Whip have three advisers at a cost of around £150,000? What are they doing – because there’s no real legislation going through the House?

And finally, Guido cannot fathom why, in his new role as Leader of the House, William Hague still needs three SpAds costing us almost £200,000. Bizarrely Arminka Helic is retained as his adviser on £70,000-a-year, despite recently being ennobled and therefore allowed to claim a £300-a-day allowance in the House of Lords.

What a bloody racket.

UPDATE: Hard to disagree with Angela Eagle:

“Another day, another broken promise from David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

“David Cameron promised to get the cost of politics down but under him the number of Special Advisers spirals ever upwards – the public are now picking up bill of over £8m to pay for his appointees.

“This also shows how you can’t trust a word Nick Clegg says. The Lib Dems used to say that Special Advisers shouldn’t be paid for by the public but as soon as he got his feet under the Cabinet table he broke his word. The cost to the public of Lib Dem Special Advisers is over £1.7million – Nick Clegg alone has more advisers working for him than he has female MPs.”

UPDATE II:

Bumper Boozy End of Term Blowout for MPs Tonight

It’s going to be a late sitting tonight on tedious end of term legislation – which means a bumper night for parliament’s bars:

From: Government Whips Admin Unit (HOC)
Sent: 15 December 2014 13:19
Subject: Todays Business

Given 2 UQs and the 90 minute statutory instrument as the first business, there is now a very good chance of sitting beyond midnight tonight, although unlikely later than 1am.

And given the late hour of the sitting MPs will get a free taxi home on the taxpayer after a night of solid subsidised drinking… Happy Christmas!

RED ON RED: Labour CLP Secretary Quits Over “Sociopath” Candidate

The secretary of Enfield Southgate Constituency Labour Party will sensationally resign tonight, claiming senior local Labour figures believe the party’s own candidate in Enfield North “exhibits all the hallmarks of a sociopath”. In an explosive letter to his chairman seen by Guido, Ben Maloney demands the party take action against come-back seeking, expense cheating, former MP Joan Ryan’s “attempts to undermine democracy in Enfield”, accusing her of being “a cancer at the heart of Enfield Labour Party”.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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