The NO to AV CoalitionTory and Labour Big Beasts Unite Against LibDems

If you thought the government coalition negotiations were complex and a turn up for the books, Guido thinks it would have been fascinating to have been a fly on the wall when this campaign coalition against the LibDems was brought together. Here is the first look at the list of “patrons” of the NO to AV campaign who under the presidency of Labour’s Margaret Beckett will represent the campaign for next May’s referendum:

  • David Blunkett MP
  • Lord Falconer QC
  • Lord Prescott
  • Lord Reid
  • Emily Thornberry MP
  • Ken Clarke QC MP
  • William Hague MP
  • Steve Norris
  • Baroness Warsi

Seeing old enemies Hague and Prezza united against the LibDem dominated Yes-2-AV campaign will be interesting…

Rohan is on a Roll

One of the biggest nights in the propeller-headed wonks calendar is The Prospect magazine’sThink Tank of the Year Awards. David Sainsbury’s new plaything, the Institute of Government, took away the big prize leaving many on the right feeling a little put out as they thought they’d had a pretty good year when it came to influencing the policy agenda.

The judging panel was somewhat slanted to the left: Ben Rogers from IPPR and Demos; Kishwer Falkner the Liberal Democrat peer; David Goodhart Prospect’s editor; the FT’s James Crabtree and for balance from Downing Street, Rohan Silva.

Hardly the most balanced of panels, but made worse by the fact that Silva didn’t bother showing up to meetings at which the awards were actually judged. In the right-wing think-tank world, where one would expect Conservative Downing Street policy advisors would be tight in with, there are some who were ticked off with him for not holding up the side. Rohan just seems to make friends wherever he goes…

Expenses Milker Beaten by the Udder Guy

Further to Guido’s little delve into the MEP world this morning, breaking news from Brussels is that Martin Callanan has creamed the controversal Richard Ashworth who featured on the blog this morning. After the expenses milking and previous history of his opponent, it’s not hard to see how Callanan got over 50% in the first round.

Somehow Guido doubts Ashworth will be keeping the Agricultural brief, there is plenty more scandal on that front…

UPDATE: A high-ranking euro-co-conspiritor gets in touch “Your Ashworth stuff was widely discussed among MEPs before the vote and contributed to him falling from favourite to third-place also ran. As a result of this, the Conservatives over here have elected their first ever Eurosceptic leader.” We shall see about that last part, but always nice to hear from another happy reader.

Tory MEP Expenses Milker – How Dairy Stand For Leader?

On Friday Guido highlighted the fact that Tory MEP, and candidate for delegation leader, Richard Ashworth had been milking the EU gravy train by seemingly employing his wife, on a full-time salary close to thirty grand, for what was described as non-existent job. Talking of milking, and as the ballots go out this morning, Guido couldn’t help but chuckle when he read that:

“Richard is currently a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and is Conservative Spokesman in this area.”It gets better, according to the Tory website“Richard’s life has heavily revolved around cows. He was a dairy farmer in East Sussex for over thirty years and during this time operated his own dairy business”

All true, but if Guido’s farming career had been anything like Ashworth’s he wouldn’t be boasting about it. How such a spectacular agri-disaster can represent British interests in Europe, where the UK’s farming industry is strangled and controlled from, is mind boggling. Way back in the Eighties it seems Ashworth wasn’t quite the agricultural expert he claims to be now, nor was his behaviour that expected of a leader. In 2001 his Sussex farming career came to an abrupt end:

“Richard Ashworth, the tenant farmer at Fairlight Place Farm, departed after legal action was threatened over the pollution of the Fairlight Glen he was repeatedly causing by allowing slurry to run-off from his intensive dairy farming. His negative approach to farming was condemned by many people, but councillors and council officers were reluctant to take action against him because of his prominence in the local establishment.”

Fairlight Place was Ashworth’s 11 bedroom manor that he was forced out of after trashing the surrounding farmland. He settled with Hastings Council in the year he was elected as a Conservative MEP. The Council paid Ashworth off only to avoid his farm waste polluting areas of special scientific interest, saving rare plants have survived from 5,000 years ago. In the end the council had to spend taxpayers’ money cleaning up the now MEP’s mess. His “prominence” managed to keep that one quiet though. 

Guido wonders what the EU Agriculture Committee would say about it all, let alone the farmers who Ashworth claims to stand up for in Europe.

The Return Flight

Tory MP Howard Flight was secretly recorded discussing plans for cuts in the run up to the 2005 election. What he suggested has been completely eclipsed just five years later and fell far short of even what Labour proposed at the last election. Michael Howard, in a last-ditch bid to look like a strong leader in waning election campaign, summoned the TV cameras to his home and fired Flight live on air.

His treatment was a textbook example of when being ruthless was unnecessary. Nick Herbert, now the policing Minister took his safe seat and seemingly ended the career of the experienced right-winger. Guido is sure he will get on famously with his fellow red-bencher Lord Howard…

UPDATE: Flight comments: “It was clear before 2005 that Labour’s public spending was going to end in tears and sadly it ended in even more serious tears than even I was talking about back in 2005.” Quite.

+ + + Rumour: Lord Young to be "Resigned" + + +

Peer of the Year on Wednesday.

Fired on Friday?

Rumours swirling that he is off. Cathy Newman scoopsAgain.

Piggin' Wiggin Caught Fibbin'

Yesterday Guido published a recording of expenses fiddling Tory MP Bill “piggin” Wiggin defending himself against allegations from a constituent about where exactly his main and second homes are. Wiggin claimed, on the record, he told Parliament that his “main home” was in Herefordshire, enabling him to benefit from the perks of the second home allowance for his London property, but that’s not what he told his local council.

The official rules determining how these parking permits are given out state that in order to get one the house must be your primary residence and the car has to be registered to that address. Wiggin claims that he was allowed not one, but two, permits, which he later expensed, despite it not being his primary residence because his his children went to school in the area. This smelt a little off to Guido, so he spoke to someone senior at Hammersmith and Fulham who stated in no uncertain terms:

“We don’t do special dispensations for anyone on parking permits and if we ever did it wouldn’t be because of children.”

Guido knows old Bill is a reader, so would he kindly explain that one?

See also : Cameron: Wiggin Has To Go, Piggin’ Wiggin’s Permit Porkie Pie, Beginnin’ Diggin’ into Piggin’ Wiggin, Piggy Wiggin and Khan’s Moranic Receipts, Wrigglin’ Piggin’ Wiggin

Wrigglin' Piggin' Wiggin

Jim Miller is a constituent of Bill “Piggin” Wiggin, has been scrutinising the David Cameron’s close friend and fellow Old Etonian for many months. He has published a recording of a meeting where he grills the expense fiddling Tory backbencher over the fact that, as regular readers will remember, despite claiming to the Fees Office that his main home is in Herefordshire, he told Hammersmith and Fulham council that his London home was his main home so he could get a parking permit. Wiggin felt it necessary to bring his lawyer to the meeting.

Wiggin told the local papers before the general election that he was “cleared” over his  expenses in reference to the Legg report, but was in fact later found to be in the wrong by the Parliamentary Standards commissioner and had to repay thousands in false claims. Miller met Wiggin to challenge him over what he says are his lies. This recording (made by Wiggin) is long but worth a listen. Wiggin wriggled around the points, but admitted he has not one but two parking permits that are apparently essential for his work – in Parsons Green, where Wiggin’s family home is, those permits are like gold dust. Wiggin now claims he was entitled to the permit because his kids are at school in the area – when the Sunlight Centre contacted him he previously claimed it was a misunderstanding. The rules don’t seem to confiem that though.Wiggin confesses he told two different authorities (H & F council and the Fees Office) that two different properties were his main home:

Having listened to the recording Guido has a few more questions for Wiggin:

  • If Wiggin and his wife have two parking permits from H & F council, why was the one he claimed on expenses in his wife’s name?

  • Could it be that Wiggin didn’t want the Fees Office knowing that he was telling H & F council that his London home was his Main Home not his second home?
  • Since he and his wife live together with their children at school in London, in what is clearly his family home, how come he told Parliament that his “main home” is in Herefordshire? Anything to do with the Second Home Allowance perks?
  • Also why can’t Wiggin travel the nine stops on the District Line from Parsons Green to Westminster like everyone else? Why should we pay for him to drive into Westminster which probably takes longer anyway. He can’t wriggle out of that one.

The tape proves Wiggin is a regular reader of the blog and very, very good at dodging questions… If he is prepared to answer any of these then do get in touch

See also : Cameron: Wiggin Has To Go, Piggin’ Wiggin’s Permit Porkie Pie, Beginnin’ Diggin’ into Piggin’ Wiggin, Piggy Wiggin and Khan’s Moranic Receipts

Guido's Misery Index : Britain's Got the Blues

Dave wants us to have some kind of gross national happiness index, an idea Sarkozy has also pushed. Not sure if the government really has any control over our overall happiness, it seems to Guido that governments mostly cause unhappiness and can do little to make us smile. The national mood is cheered by things like good weather, Royal Weddings and sporting victories which are beyond the government’s direct control.

Ronald Reagan popularised the idea of a “Misery Index” initiated by the economist Arthur Okun, an adviser to President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. It was simply the unemployment rate added to the inflation rate.

Given the budget deficit is the biggest economic challenge the country faces today, Guido’s Misery Index adds on the government’s deficit divided by the GDP taken from the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Retail Prices Index + Unemployment rate + ( Public Sector Net Cash Requirement / GDP ) = Misery Index

Plugging in the latest available figures for September 2010 gives you:

4.6% + 7.7% + (20.7 / 331.4 x 100)  = 18.55

The Misery Index has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the year. Misery rising even after Gordon has gone. Welcome to Tory Britain, it’s certainly blue.

N.B. Stats bods can check Guido’s adding up here.

Brothers in Arms

Late yesterday evening by Piccadilly tube station a smug looking sharp suited man and a scruffy looking bald chap in shorts and a  red cycling jacket, made ready to head their separate ways.

Donning his red cap the slightly dishevelled looking chap unlocked his bike, before laughing and sharing a joke with his Underground bound companion. They then hugged like brothers in arms.

With the look on their smiling faces, Guido would love to know what it was Steve Hilton and  Rohan Silva were plotting over drinks last night…

The Birrell Bandwagon Rolls On

He is wounded, but without a smoking gun Coulson isn’t going to be forced anywhere. However let us just say a few months into the new year a job offer he can’t refuse might arise and off he goes. Whenever Coulson leaves, and in whatever way; be it disgraced, or off back to News Corp., British Petroleum or a spin merchants at board level there will be one hell of a power vacuum in Number 10. There is no way that the control-freakish Steve Hilton isn’t going to want to fill the post with one of his own. One of the Zen Men so to speak…

Since months before the election the name of Ian Birrell has been floating around CCHQ and wider Tory-circles.  Since they sing from the same hymn sheet it seems likely that Hilton wants the Big Society enthusiast and former deputy-editor of the Indy inside Downing Street. Other than being a mate of Dave and Steve’s what is it about Birrell that is so desirable? Even ConservativeHome today calls for Birrell and three other people to be added to the No.10 machine, despite the Tories promising to cut the number of political advisers. Is something afoot? Birrell’s big-society, blue-sky, Cameroon credentials are not entirely to ConservativeHome’s taste…

UPDATE : Well connected source texts speculating that he could replace Ed Llewellyn, Dave’s chief-of-staff. Hmmm…

Beginnin' Diggin' into Piggin' Wiggin

Dave’s Old Etonian chum Bill Wiggin might have thought he had got away with his expenses, but the discrepancies between his evidence and his receipts leave a literal paper trail. Dave gave one of his famous cast iron pledges that Wiggin would go if he was found guilty, yet he’s still got the Tory whip. As Guido has previously reported though, there are new developments. Wiggin’s office received this today from the Sunlight Centre:

Guido hears that Wiggin replied personally, almost automatically, claiming the matter was in the hands of Hammersmith and Fulham Council who are apparently dealing with a “misunderstanding”. Looks pretty black and white from here…

Coulson Thais Tongues

There was a quiet mention last Friday of Dave’s Christmas plans. Ephraim Hardcastle reported “friends of the Prime Minister say he plans to take his family to Thailand, where he will enjoy the hospitality of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.” Eton and Oxford educated Vejjajiva is a contemporary of both Cameron and Boris, although the Mail played a straight bat others were quick to notice Dave’s old school chum’s atrocious human right record and willingness to employ emergency powers at the drop of a hat. The little matter of a coup d’etat against a democratically elected government and the shooting by snipers of dozens of peace protesters in May. Strangely there was nothing in print though…

Guido understands that at a number of Sunday papers were ready to question how appropriate it is for Cameron to be kissing under the mistletoe and sharing turkey with such a controversal figure, even if they did know each from school, but the Downing Street machine had other ideas. Andy Coulson and Henry Macrory deployed the security line to put off at least one Mirror hack from filing their piece. Apparently, despite the news of the visit already appearing in print, the PM and his family would be at risk if the Sundays picked it up. Yes, of course, that’s why they didn’t want the story running. An heir to Blair indeed…

Piggin' Wiggin's Permit Porkie Pie

David Cameron’s old Etonian chum Bill Wiggin escaped the hatchet despite a previous promise from the PM that he would be sacked if he was to be found in breach of expenses rules. However new allegations have come to light that might put this old ally, whose wife Camilla is one of  Dave’s ex-girlfriends, in a pretty tricky spot.

During the investigation by John Lyon into his expenses, Wiggin told the Commissioner: “I could not claim the second home discount because Hammersmith and Fulham Council do not allow residents parking permits for second homes. Therefore I was not able to claim any discount.” And Piggin’ Wiggin was absolutely correct – the council website says:

“Who cannot apply for a residents permit?  Residents who own a property in Hammersmith and Fulham but spend the majority of their time at a different address.”

But is the little piggy telling porkies? Wiggin lives in the 4×4 haven of Parsons Green, does he really not have a car in town? If he ever applied for a parking permit he would be misleading the council as to where his main home really is, if what he told the commissioner was true. How do we know Piggin’ Wiggin’ told a porky? He claimed back for the cost of a residents parking permit on his expenses last year of course:

Oh dear it seems that Mr Wiggin must have declared that his London house is his Main Home in an official document to the council, yet at the same time he was claiming tens of thousands of pounds by telling parliament it was his second home. Potentially every claim since 2001 has been false.

Bow Group Turning Into "Failed Candidates' Association"

It was Henry Kissinger who said student politics is vicious because the stakes are so low, that logic applies to think-tanks. Over at the Bow Group the mother of all squabbles is raging and Michael Howard, one time chairman of think-tank back in 1970, has been called in to settle their increasingly vicious internal battle.

Rival factions in next month’s internal elections are briefing against each other as to whether the candidate for chairman, Brian Cattell, is eligible to stand. His opponent Craig Rimmer says that Cattell is over the Bow Group’s age limit of 36. The current Chairman, Annesley “Action” Abercorn seems to have upset pretty much everyone with his efforts to scrap the age limit to allow Cattell to stand. Abercorn denies he is backing Cattell but repeatedly referred to “the other side” when referring to Rimmer on the phone to Guido earlier.

Kwasi Kwarteng MP, a long time Bow Group figure, sent furious emails to other members describing “Annesley’s latest piece of madness … the worst type of student politics”. Opponents of the move include the MPs Sam Gyimah, Andrew Jones, Peter Lilley and Chris Skidmore. One rather bitchy new member said the change risked turning the Bow Group into a “failed candidates’ association” with chairmanship of the Bow Group seen merely as a way to revive flagging parliamentary ambitions. Abercorn, and his bus, gave a spirited fight in LibDem seat Hazelgrove at the election and Cattell stood in Leeds in 2005.

In August Abercorn chose a poorly attended meeting of the Bow Group Council in Brent to call an Emergency General Meeting to discuss raising the age limit to allow three members of the Council to be older than 36. Fewer than thirty people turned up to the meeting and it was declared inquorate. Abercorn then declared the EGM postponed and at another meeting a few weeks later, the motion was passed, clearing the way for Cattell to stand. Guido asked to see the minutes but apparently it was “private”. The whole drama spilled out onto Facebook at the weekend with both factions seizing the Bow Group account to get their version of events across to the membership. The world waits with baited breath for Michael Howard’s adjudication at a meeting scheduled for tomorrow…

Cameron: Wiggin Has To Go

When Tory whip Bill Wiggin first came under the expenses spotlight Dave was put under pressure to sack him. The Prime Minister told GMTV on the 21st May 2009:

“He [Wiggin] has given us every assurance that every penny he claimed should have been claimed and it does look like it is – look it’s a bad mistake – but it looks like it’s an honest mistake and he was not claiming money that he wasn’t entitled to. Now if he was, that would be totally different and he would be out of the door…”

Yesterday the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner ruled that Wiggin was guilty of a “serious” breach of the rules for claiming thousands of pounds in expenses “he did not actually incur”. He has been told to pay back £4,000. So now time for Dave to crack the whip and show him the door…

Expenses Are Back – Piggy Wiggin and Khan's Moranic Receipts

With invoices being trawled, coppers called and MPs still insisting they have done nothing wrong, it could be June 2009 all over again. With MacShane being referred to the Yard yesterday it has also emerged that Tory whip Bill Wiggin claimed thousands of pounds for costs he “did not actually incur”. Another way of putting that is “fraudulently”. Back in the day Wiggin defended his over zealous expense claims by saying “I think people need to realise we are but human”. Yes, greedy ones. The mind boggles as to how it wasn’t seen fit to pass on his file along with MacShame…

With MacShane and Margaret Moran both being looked into by the cops, the total number of Labour MPs under investigation or facing trial is now at six, but there seems to be some discrepancies in those cases that the Met are picking up. One of the key allegations against Margaret Moran is her dodgy receipts. Amongst various housing decorations she also claimed £130 from her communications allowance for Labour Christmas cards. The claim was rejected and so she resubmitted the invoice calling the cards “Constituency Surgery Cards” and Fees office duly coughed up. A trick that sounds very familiar.

Back in March Guido reported:

“Having had over a grands worth of greeting card receipts rightly rejected from his Communications Allowance claims, Khan then went back to the printers and had them create a new receipt, for the same amount, but without the birthday cards itemised on them.”

Khan’s printer “Public Impact” is run by Labour Party affiliates and he told John Lyon he “couldn’t remember the complaint”. Which is convenient. A report was submitted to Scotland Yard who have, as of yet, not ruled concluded the investigation. Perhaps in the light of their look at Moran, they might like to clamp down on other MPs with equally dodgy receipts…

Yeo's Below Par

Having had the best part of three months off you would expect MPs to have got all their holidaying out of their system until Christmas. But then not every MP is part-time like the multi-millionaire green investment guru Tim Yeo. When he’s not whoring-out the Parliamentary estate for his “green investor” friend’s benefit, he’s hypocritically arguing that wind farms should be built, but not in his pretty constituency. All the hard work he has put in – Parliament has been back a week – has forced Yeo to apparently take a golfing holiday to the States. He’s clearly looking for more anecdotes for his golf based after dinner speech service and FT Golf column…

But come on Tim, what about your carbon footprint? A business class flight across the Atlantic generates 3.56 tonnes of carbon per person. Nigel Bennett, Yeo’s local LibDem opponent said “this really goes to show once again that Yeo is a below par MP”.  When Guido called to confirm this story the painfully posh assistant in Yeo’s office wasn’t very helpful: “I don’t think Guido Fawkes is a very nice friend to Mr Yeo so we won’t be commenting.”

Strictly No Laughing

Guido can’t decide whether the British public are a sympathetic bunch who want to help some one out, or a cruel rabble who want to elongate someone’s humiliation for their own viewing pleasure. Either way Anton Du Beke must be missing old partner Kate Garraway.

It turns out that despite her atrocious Strictly Come Dancing performance on Saturday, which saw the lowest ever score for a salsa, Anne Widdecombe still topped the viewers vote for the person they didn’t want to go home. The boffins at Survation, a specialist pollster who gauge this sort of thing, seem to think the public feel sorry for the former Tory MP and feel she could become a John Sergeant type figure. Guido can’t think why people would want to see more of this:

He has his suspicions though…

Here We Yeo Again

Multi-millionaire green investor and part-time Chairman of the Environment Select Committee Tim Yeo is advocating massive increases in green spending again in today’s Guardian. On the one hand it will do his business interests a world of good, but  just make sure it is kept well away from his backyard.[…] Read the rest


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Ruth Davidson on working with PM Boris

“I have worked with him when he was Foreign Secretary. I will work with whoever the Prime Minister is. I haven’t had a phone call yet to ask me to run his campaign in Scotland. I am not expecting the call. But I will genuinely judge him on the same criteria as I judge any of the candidates.”


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