Does anybody think Dudley North will remain a marginal constituency after today’s allegations about Conservative (ex-)candidate Afzal Amin?
According to the Mail on Sunday, Mr Amin encouraged the English Defence League (EDL) to announce a march against a new “mega-mosque”. The paper said he planned for the march to be scrapped so he could take credit for defusing the situation.
Mr Amin denies the claims, but the Conservative Party has stated that it is a matter of serious concern and has suspended him as a candidate.
Dudley North is currently a marginal constituency; the Parliamentary seat is held by Labour’s Ian Austin with a majority of just 649.
It seems unlikely that this will continue to be the case as voters may see the allegations as proof that sleaze is slithering back into the Conservative Party – and go back to providing majorities in the thousands for Labour.
The fact that the story has been broken by the ultra-Conservative Mail on Sunday makes it all the more convincing.
Vox Political recently reported that David Cameron was afraid to release his planned Dissolution Honours list, for fear that Conservatives he nominates might be embroiled in a scandal before polling day. This blog stated: “Clearly, corrupt and immoral behaviour among Tory MPs is expected by the Conservative leadership.”
It seems the allegations about Afzal Amin may confirm that view amongst the electorate.
Considering her record of behaviour, is anyone else surprised that the only reason Janice Atkinson has been suspended is her expenses?
According to the BBC, the MEP for the South East was due to contest the Folkestone and Hythe Parliamentary seat on May 7 – until the Sun newspaper revealed a possible expenses impropriety in which her chief of staff, Christine Hewitt, appeared to ask the manager of a restaurant in Margate, Kent, for an invoice for a much higher sum than the bill she had originally received, around the time of UKIP’s spring conference.
It is not known whether these actions were authorised by the candidate herself. If she is prevented from running for the seat, UKIP may have saved itself from scenes like this:
The party may also have saved itself the embarrassment of another televised faux pas (that’s your actual French) like the moment last year in which Ms Atkinson said that a UKIP supporter from Ramsgate was a “ting tong” (whatever that may be).
From the BBC report, it seems UKIP has already reached a conclusion about her behaviour: “A UKIP spokesman said the party was ‘incredibly disappointed’ with Ms Atkinson, who appeared to have ‘exercised extremely poor judgement’ and to ‘have acted in a way the party has never and would never condone’.”
Considering her record, one has to ask why it took the party so long to recognise this.
Cameron’s attitude to Parliamentary corruption: When he brought in the Lobbying Act, it ensured that rich corporations had unfettered access to MPs and the Prime Minister himself.
The Labour Party is banning its MPs from holding paid directorships and consultancies, to ensure that their only interest is their duty to their constituents.
Labour MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates have been put on notice that, from the coming General Election, the party’s standing orders will be changed to prevent them holding such second jobs.
The measure, which Ed Miliband has confirmed will be included in the party’s manifesto, would ensure no Labour MP holds a paid directorship or consultancy.
Labour is also consulting on legislative measures including placing a strict cap – similar to one that exists for members of the US Congress – on any additional money they can earn beyond their salary as representatives of the people.
Mr Miliband’s actions follow a series of allegations over recent years, about how MPs from both sides of the House of Commons have risked a conflict of interest by seeking or taking paid work from outside organisations.
Most recently, former Foreign Secretaries Jack Straw (Labour) and Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Conservative) were secretly filmed apparently offering their services to a private company for cash.
It is claimed Mr Straw – a major figure in New Labour – said he had used his influence to change EU rules on behalf of a firm which paid him £60,000 a year.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who is chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, is reported to have told reporters posing as representatives of a fake Chinese firm that he could arrange “useful access” to every British ambassador in the world.
Mr Miliband has written to Tory leader David Cameron, challenging him to impose on Conservative MPs the same restrictions as are being placed on Labour’s.
The letter states: “I write … 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.
“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.”
He added that Labour “is also consulting on legislation to make this a statutory ban, as well as imposing a strict cap on all outside earnings by MPs”.
Vox Political applauds this move by Mr Miliband and Labour.
Long-term readers may remember this site’s e-petition, on the government’s website, to ban MPs from speaking or voting in debates on matters which could lead to them, companies connected with them or donors to their political party, gaining money.
Labour’s move goes further than that, by banning MPs from having any financial connection with commercial operations and interests.
It seems unlikely that Mr Cameron will do the honourable thing, though.
He has removed the party whip from Rifkind, but said he has no control over the chairmanship of the Intelligence committee. Rifkind has stated that he will not willingly step down from it.
Cameron said he approves of MPs having second jobs.
He said Labour would allow someone to be a trade union official but not “to run the family shop” or something similar, which is a gross misinterpretation of the issue.
This is not about running family shops; it is about taking money from huge corporations, to impose commercial priorities on the nation to the detriment of the general public. But Cameron will never admit that, or speak out against it.
How much more corruption must the British taxpayer underwrite?
The latest private firm to face allegations that it took huge amounts of public money and used it corruptly is Capita.
That’s right – the outsourcing giant whose government contracts include taking over the Work Capability Assessment from discredited Atos in some parts of the UK, is facing an investigation into allegations that it used a major government contract to short-change small companies, resulting in some going out of business.
Capita took a minimum 20 per cent cut of the value of all contracts to administer a £250 million civil service training scheme, in a project hailed as a model of how to open up the public sector to small businesses and provide better value to the taxpayer.
But 12 companies involved in the scheme have now teamed up to demand that the Cabinet Office and the National Audit Office launch an investigation into Capita.
If it is found guilty, the company will join a roll-call of shame that includes PricewaterhouseCoopers (helping clients avoid tax while advising the Treasury on its policy to tackle tax avoidance), G4S (failure to provide security for London 2012, criminal tagging fraud), Serco (criminal tagging fraud) and A4e, if anybody can remember that far back.
To its shame, it seems the Coalition Government is still employing all of these companies.
Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said allegations against Capita included claims that firms had gone out of business due to late payments and government departments had been charged more for services than they were under previous arrangements.
“David Cameron promised the Government would pay small business suppliers within five days, yet his failure to act continues to damage our economy,” she said.
“Labour will shine a light on government outsourcing by ensuring firms delivering Government contracts comply with freedom of information requests.
“We will also back small businesses struggling under the Tories by cutting and then freezing business rates.
“And we have put forward a clear plan to tackle the scandal of late payment, ensuring late payers automatically pay interest to their suppliers, and outlawing bad payment practices such as firms being asked to pay for the right to be a supplier.”
That all seems good – and bolsters Labour’s claim to be good for business – but…
In order to make good on its FoI promise, Labour will have to strengthen the law to prevent contractor firms ducking requests in the same way that – for example – the Department for Work and Pensions is currently ducking demands to reveal the number of benefit claimants who have died since November 2011 – the DWP says it already has plans to publish the information, but on an unspecified date that keeps getting pushed further and further into the future.
Any business rate freeze must take notice of local conditions to ensure that no part of the UK is disadvantaged. At the moment there’s a postcode lottery, with businesses based in the most lucrative areas gaining an instant advantage. A blanket freeze would maintain that advantage, rather than levelling the field.
Also late payment controls must be robust enough to prevent firms from finding loopholes in order to delay.
In other words, while the broad strokes are good, the devil’s in the detail.
Why would the police be called to Leon Brittan’s home if he was succumbing after a long battle with cancer?
And why would a post-mortem examination be required? Post-mortems, or autopsies, are carried out on the orders of a coroner to determine the cause of death – in order to inform a decision on whether to hold an inquest. This is in cases where the cause of death is unknown, or in the event of a sudden, violent or unexpected death.
None of those would apply to a case in which the deceased died of cancer – would they?
Lord Brittan died on Wednesday aged 75. He was a key figure in Margaret Thatcher’s government and later a European Commissioner – but recently faced questions over his handling of child abuse allegations, centring on a dossier on alleged high-profile paedophiles handed to him in the early 1980s by former Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens.
Did anybody else know anything about Leon Brittan having cancer before today’s announcement?
According to his family, the former Home Secretary died last night, aged 75, after a long battle with the disease.
This writer was completely unaware that Mr Brittan had been diagnosed with it, and a (quick, admittedly) search of the Internet makes no reference to it either.
The death, and the revelation that it was due to a hitherto-unmentioned disease, is almost certain to lead to conspiracy theories – especially when one considers the fact that Brittan’s reputation has been tarnished by his connection to historic allegations of sexual abuse, in which it has been suggest that he not only hid evidence of such crimes, but may have committed them himself.
Personally, this writer finds it a huge inconvenience. I have been working on a piece of fiction involving a group of assassins working for the Establishment (not the government) to eliminate anyone likely to cause embarrassment to the power-that-be; their modus operandi being to make the death look like an accident or natural causes.
Now I’m going to have to rework chapter one completely.
Afterword: Some readers may feel this article does not show proper respect to somebody who is recently deceased. While sympathy is due to Mr Brittan’s family, there are so many questions remaining to be answered about his life and conduct that they should not be avoided for the sake of social niceties. That is how it is ensured that these matters are forgotten.
Cameron advisor: Doug Richard (right) [Image: Daily Mirror].
Remember Patrick Rock, the aide of David Cameron who was arrested early last year over possession of pornographic images of children? He’s currently on bail until February 27, having denied making an indecent image of a child and possessing a further 56 such images.
Well, it seems lightning can strike the same place twice (if only metaphorical lightning), as another Cameron aide has now been charged with indecency in relation to the under-aged.
His name is Doug Richard, and he has been arrested on suspicion of raping a girl aged 13. He is currently on bail, after being questioned by police.
The married 56-year-old, who was born in America, has strenuously denied the charges. He has been a policy advisor to George Osborne and David Cameron and has travelled with the prime minister on an official government trip to Africa.
Beleaguered: At last, Fiona Woolf has done the decent thing, after acknowledging that she could never hold the trust of child sex abuse victims due to her relationship with Leon Brittan, who might have to give evidence to the inquiry she had been appointed to chair.
The second chair of the so-called independent inquiry into historic child sex abuse cases has resigned, according to the BBC.
Fiona Woolf said she wanted to “get out of the way” after it became clear that victims did not have any confidence in her.
To the Tories, you see, image is everything – and it had been made abundantly clear to Mrs Woolf that hers was tarnished by her freely-admitted association with Leon Brittan, a man who, as Home Secretary during the 1980s, managed to lose a dossier containing the names of more than 100 alleged child sex offenders, including some prominent Conservative Party members (if rumours are to be believed).
The association made her as suspicious to victims’ groups as her forerunner, Baroness Butler-Sloss, whose own name was unavoidably linked with that of the late Sir Michael Havers, attorney-general during the 1980s, whose behaviour has also been called into question by allegations that he tried to hush up child sex abuse allegations against prominent members of the Establishment.
And these were all Establishment figures in their own right. Mrs Woolf had tried to distance herself from these claims by making assurances that she herself was not a member of the Establishment – but her case was lost before she even made it. She is, you see, the Lord Mayor of London.
This second resignation from an inquiry that is supposed to be independent, by a chairperson who had clear ties to people she would have been investigating, has raised renewed claims that the current Home Secretary, Theresa May, has not carried out ‘due diligence’ when considering who to appoint.
And the longer this drags on, the more suspicious the entire situation will seem. People will start asking more deeply disturbing questions. Logically, the first will be whether Mrs May has encountered so much difficulty in appointing a chairperson because the Conservatives want to influence the inquiry’s outcome, to ensure that nobody connected with them is ever implicated.
You see, image is everything to the Tories, especially with a general election taking place in the not-too-distant future.
David Cameron had given his backing to the choice of Mrs Woolf – as, if memory serves, he did to the choice of Baroness Butler-Sloss – so the resignation calls his judgement into question.
Then again, it seems that almost everything said about Cameron these days calls his judgement into question, whether it is his cavalier attitude to the NHS privatisation started by his former boss Andrew Lansley (that he didn’t understand), his keenness to award NHS contracts to Tory donors, his (alleged) failure to take an interest in the European Union’s re-evaluation of membership fees until he was presented with a bill for £1.7 billion this week, or any of the many other bombshells that seem to be bursting around him every day.
A report in Thursday’s Guardian has accused him of misleading the public over the total amount of his government’s planned austerity cuts that have been implemented during the current Parliament. Cameron said four-fifths of the process was complete, while the Institute for Fiscal Studies said more than half were still to come into force.
Never mind Fiona Woolf’s resignation – isn’t it time we demanded Cameron’s?
This is NOT the man who abused Steve Messham when the victim was a child. But if he wasn’t, why did a police officer tell Mr Messham he was?
It’s well-documented by now that abuse victim Steve Messham has apologised to former Conservative Party Treasurer Lord McAlpine after he realised that his claim about the identity of the man who abused him when he was a child were inaccurate.
It seems he was shown a photograph of his alleged abuser by police, back in the 1990s, and was told it was Lord McAlpine. This was not the case, as he discovered on Friday when he was shown another photo and realised his mistake.
This has led to a backlash against the BBC’s Newsnight programme, which covered Mr Messham’s allegations. Newsnight did not mention Lord McAlpine’s name; that came out via other means, but still the programme has come under attack.
Everybody seems to be going to great lengths to avoid some obvious questions:
Who was the man in the photograph shown to Mr Messham in the 1990s?
Who was the police officer who showed it to him?
And why did they lie to Mr Messham about the identity of the person in the photograph?
I also find it very disturbing that this vindication of the Conservative lord comes so soon after the incident on This Morning, when presenter Philip Schofield handed a list of alleged Conservative Party paedophiles to David Cameron. It looks like a hasty attempt by the Party at a whitewash: “Oh no, we don’t have paedophiles in our organisation. Look – the allegation against Lord McAlpine was wrong.” And the implication: “No, we’re not going to look any further into this.”
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