Congratulations to the Mirror’s James Lyons, who has landed the Deputy Political Editor gig at the Sunday Times. Lyons is hardly short of a few bob having married into the multi-millionairess Margaret Hodge’s family dynasty. Still, nice little earner…
Just two weeks ’til the referendum on Scottish freedom and finally Westminster’s chattering classes are waking up to the bookies halving the odds on a ‘Yes’ victory. The Times’ Red Box has gone into panic mode this week, with Scottish political editor Lindsay McIntosh yesterday warning against bubble complacency:
“The first is seen by many in the political bubble. In it, the Nationalists are losing the practical arguments about the economy, so are on course to lose the vote badly. The other, seen by some outside, shows “yes” quietly stealing victory… Unionists need to brush up on their messaging if they are not to be responsible for a dramatic redrawing of the UK after September 18.”
Alice Thomson this morning goes further, imploring: “Wake up unionists, you could really lose this”:
“If Scotland votes Yes, all hell will break loose – and the unionists’ complacency will be to blame. It’s time for Westminster to focus on the independence referendum.”
Rachel Sylvester also has growing concerns, telling Dave:
“If he becomes the Conservative prime minister who presided over the break-up of the United Kingdom, he will face immediate calls for his resignation from within his party.”
Squeaky bum time…
The Telegraph would usually be the first out of the traps on an expenses story, but they’ve decided it will be more fun to side with the ‘Kippers and knock the Times today. Brogan has been activated and is talking down the story. The polling, it seems, would agree with his angle, namely that scandal is wasted on Farage because – like Boris – the public have warmed to him. Nothing like a bit of mudslinging to liven up a dull day though.
Could today’s effort by The Times to get UKIP have anything to with the complaint made last month by the Lib Dem MEP Edward McMillan-Scott about UKIP’s use of allowances? His complaint was based on a series of reports by Times journalists Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson. Yesterday that complaint was thrown out by a European Parliament bureau meeting that found there was no matter requiring further investigation…
Times hack Billy Kenber has hit back at claims from UKIP that they borked the figures in their story this morning.
From: “Kenber, Billy”
Date: 15 April 2014 10:14:05 BST
To: David Samuel-Camps
Cc: Alexi Mostrous, Nigel Farage
Subject: Re: Your report
The difference between the two figures lies in the way Ukip MEP’s break down their transparency reports.
This includes various categories – of which the one of relevance to rent is “office management and running costs” which covers rent, utilities, insurance, business rates and cleaning. In his transparency reports Farage claims to have spent £15,500 a year solely on this category since July 2009. This does not include office equipment, phone bills and stationery which fall under “communication costs” and “stationery, periodicals, subscriptions”.
As you say, the total monthly cost for all office expenditure was £700 (down from £2,000 when you managed to cancel various locked-in contracts for things like unnecessary amounts of printer ink) which I asked you to break down into its constituent parts – something we went through twice to ensure accuracy.
You said that utilities and insurance amounted to less than £100 a month and that council tax/business rates were £150 (I looked it up and it was £149 a month for the current financial year 2013). Hence the figure of £250 a month, which is £3,000 a year. The remaining £450 a month falls under the two other categories outlined above.
Bognor Regis is the nearest well-known town for readers who are less familiar with the West Sussex coast.
Media Guido, your one stop shop for airing dirty laundry in public…
Guido said this morning that this would get messy, and as predicted, one of the Times’ sources is now kicking back. In a letter to the journalists who wrote the story, David Samuel-Camps says he was misquoted:
“Mr Kenber and Mr Mostrous,
Re: Nigel Farage and office costs
I am extremely concerned that in your report you have distorted my responses to your questions regarding the Lyminster office costs.
On the front page you quote me as stating that the costs were £3000 per year. This is grossly incorrect. I told you that the previous manager had tied the office into some supply contracts and as a result the monthly costs were some £2000. I told you several times that I eventually reduced the costs to £700 per month. When I went to school we were taught the times tables and that £700 times 12 equals £8400 (which is not too far removed from Mr Farage’s £1000 per month) so where on earth did you come up with a figure of £3000?
At no time did I say that “electricity, heating, and business rates at the office totalled less than £250 a month”. I told you that I could not remember the individual amounts as it was over four years ago but they would have been in the region of £200 each.
Later, you then contradict yourselves by quoting me as saying that the costs were £700 per month – which is correct. You asked me a number of times about the £700/month figure which I confirmed several times; again I have to ask how does £700 per month equate to £3000 per year? I should also point out that our conversations were witnessed.
To the best of knowledge and belief I was completely honest in my answers and resent the fact that those answers have been completely distorted. I did warn you that there is a small minority who are “mischief makers” – one in particular who would go to any lengths to destroy Mr Farage’s reputation.
I expect you to publish corrections as outlined above.
Finally, I should point out that the Lyminster is nowhere near Bognor Regis; it is on the outskirts of Littlehampton, a fact that could have been verified by looking at an AA road atlas!
David Samuel-Camps BA (Hons) Dip. PA”
To a completely impartial observer like Guido, this doesn’t look good. If what Samuel-Camps is saying is true they should go to the PCC…
The Times have done over Nigel Farage this morning, reporting that £60,000 of taxpayer cash paid into his personal bank account is unaccounted for. The £15,500-a-year was for the upkeep of his constituency office in Bognor Regis, but since Farage gets it rent-free the accusation is that he only spends £3,000-a-year on running costs. Leaving around £12,000-a-year missing. No doubt it will turn out to be within the European parliament’s lax rules. It doesn’t smell right, even if the payments are automatic.
UKIP pre-empted the Times splash yesterday by naming the anonymous ex-party official who has grassed Farage up to the EU anti-fraud office as Jasna Badzak:
“Jasna Badzak is a convicted fraudster serving a suspended sentence, whose allegations are unfounded and vexatious. She has never been a press secretary or confidant of Mr Farage’s. Your use of her indicates that you are writing an article with a defined end by inventing a road to achieve that end.”
Just one problem: the Times tells Guido that Badzak was not the source of the story. This could get messy…
Last week this blog pointed out that Ed Miliband is hardly coming across as the Prime Minister in waiting, well today the people agree. A Times/Yougov poll has just 19% saying they can see Ed in Number 10, when the same question was asked of Dave in 2008 the number was 49%. Just 26% think Labour is ready for government. As Morten Morland says in the video above, Britain can do better than this…
Plenty of names in the hat for the soon-to-be-vacated Political Editor position at the Sunday Times. A top three Lobby job is up for grabs, as usual Guido gives you the runners and riders. A betting man would have a flutter on Tim Shipman from the Mail, the Spectator’s Pol Ed James Forsyth has Sunday experience from his Mail on Sunday column, Rob Winnett is said to be upset about being recalled back to Telegraph Towers, so could well put his hat in the ring. Sam Coates of The Times gets stories. Guido would not rule out Nick Watt either, for an outside bet, why not Brendan Carlin? Maybe Gaby Hinsliff – who seems busier than ever – might want a break from the kids…
Guido asked one Lobby hack what he thought, only to be told it was the “Worst job in Westminster. Everyone who does it leaves journalism afterwards. I seriously have no idea who would want it. I certainly don’t. I still want to be a journalist in 10 years.” It’s an exhausting job…
Worth keeping an eye on this one. An unnamed undercover Sunday Times reporter has been accused of having sex with the target of her sting, a dentist believed to be involved in female genital mutilation. Particularly awkward that Omar Addow will not face charges after the CPS suggested the journalist’s version of events was not credible. She denies the claim that she recorded her target offering to carry out FGM on a camera during a visit to his flat in which the pair, as he puts it, “did sex”. Tom Kark QC made the claim yesterday:
“It appears he and the journalist have sexual intercourse. We may form the view that the journalist had gone to extra lengths to get her story.”
Interesting further reading in this Greenslade piece last year as well…
It would seem the soon to be Lord Finkelstein is already getting used to the high life. A co-conspirator just spotted this in SW1:
What’s the betting it will be a ministerial limo soon enough…
With no diary bitch fights to entertain MediaGuido today, the Times have taken to winding up the Telegraph in person. Their Royal reporter Valentine Low has been busy subverting the Telegraph’s royal baby webcam this afternoon:
In fairness, it’s the first time anything interesting has happened on the feed so far…
With the coming of Sun+ next month, where readers will be charged to read the paper online, four national newspaper websites will now be behind a paywall. As of August the Times, FT, Telegraph and Sun will be asking readers to pay for content. Even if the “Digital First” Telegraph’s attempt at keeping out cheapskates is amusingly easy to dodge by going incognito, this means that four of the papers Guido is most likely to link to are now paywall protected. So it is time for a change of linking policy. Guido has previously tended not to link to paywall sites on Seen Elsewhere, using a ‘£’ sign on the rare occasions that links are given. Since so many papers have now succumbed to a paywall this no longer makes sense. So links will now be given to paywall sites as they would non-paywall sites, without a ‘£’ sign. If you are unable to remember if a website is behind a paywall, that is your problem.
Incidentally, it is still Guido’s view that websites without unique content won’t make a success of charging for that content online. The audience is still out on that one…
One of the most catty twitter media bitch fights of recent memory. The claws are out between Mandrake’s Tim Walker and the Times Diary:
Media Guido is hearing of big movements over at the Times. Witherow is, as expected, swinging the axe…
Roland Watson is out as Political Editor – he’s been told to apply for Foreign Editor apparently – a desk getting squeezed.
Cameron biographer Francis Elliot will replace him and Sam Coates is coming back from the scaled-back business desk to the Lobby.
Guido is hearing conflicting reports of his job title, though it is expected to be along the lines of Deputy Political Editor or Associate Political Editor.
Some twenty newsroom sackings are said to be imminent.
In lighter news, the much missed Times Diary is set to return.
UPDATE: US sources suggest that Witherow has also axed the Times’ Wall Street correspondent with the expectation being that they will share content with the Wall Street Journal. The New York features writer has also been given the bullet. Developing…
UPDATE II: Guido understands no more cuts are hitting the business desk beyond Coates and the Wall Street correspondent. Apparently the brunt of the staff cuts are in sections with less affluent readers.
It’s all over for Tim Yeo. The Energy and Climate Change select committee chairman has been stung by the Sunday Times, offering to become a paid advocate for a fake firm for £7,000-a-day.
“The reporters approached Yeo posing as representatives of a solar energy company offering to hire him as a paid advocate to push for new laws to boost its business for a fee of £7,000 a day. He told them he could commit to at least one day a month, despite the fact that he already held four private jobs and was in negotiations to take a further two. Setting out what he could offer, the MP said: “If you want to meet the right people, I can facilitate all those introductions and I can use the knowledge I get from what is quite an active network of connections.” Asked if that extended to government figures, Yeo replied: “Yes.” The House of Commons code of conduct forbids members from acting as paid advocates, including by lobbying ministers. Yeo also said he could help them by guiding them on submitting evidence to his own committee, which he described as “a good way of getting your stuff on the map”.”
Confirming what we knew all along: Yeo is one of parliament’s most shameless Honorable Members. Guido has hunted him for years, you can read all this blog’s stories on Yeo here. Westminster is for sale…
UPDATE: Funny that he mentions his “active network”, on Newsnight a couple of years ago Guido accused Yeo of of abusing his position as an MP to facilitate a green investment network. He threatened to sue…
Things have got so bad for one disgruntled Tory voter, going only by the name ‘Martin’, that he has taken out a full page advert in today’s Times laying into Cameron and Osborne as a “desperate and expensive cry for help”:
“I am a natural Conservative voter who has become very disillusioned with my party over the last 3 years. I realise you are both terribly important and you really cannot afford the time to actually think about us mere taxpayers and citizens, which is why you have correspondence units and a phalanx of staff to shield you from the unpleasant realities of the real world. I am rather hoping however, that you read the newspapers. That is why I chose this rather unusual mechanism for trying to remind you that there are real people out here. Call it a desperate and expensive cry for help.
… Finally, no Mr Miliband. This does not mean that you, or indeed Mr Balls, would be likely to do a better job. Your party, in the form of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, got us into this mess by exploding government spending for little positive benefit. There is no reason to suppose that you would do any better.”
You could hardly imagine a busier first day in the office for Tim Montgomerie as the Times‘ new comment editor. It must also have been some baptism of fire for his replacement over at ConHome, Paul Goodman. Meanwhile not only did the prolific Peter Oborne tell us to marvel at Maggie in the Telegraph, he also managed to pen an obituary for the Mail as well. At least they were both consistent…