Tag Archives: CCHQ

Is the Telegraph withholding emails that could help the inquiry into child abuse?

Tom Watson MP

Tom Watson MP

Thanks today go to Vox Political commenter concernedkev, who brought this writer’s attention to a piece by Labour MP Tom Watson. It’s self-explanatory so here it is:

I have had cause to write to [the Telegraph] about a disturbing allegation shared with me by Chris Bryant MP. They just ignored me.

My letter was prompted by a conversation I had with Chris. He told me that he’d had lunch at the Quirinale restaurant with Telegraph political correspondent Matthew Holehouse. [We won’t quote this part because there is a direct quote from Mr Bryant later in the piece, as follows:] “Matthew Holehouse told me at lunch at Quirinale that he had been accidentally included in a series of email exchanges between senior figures at Conservative Central Office who were speculating about which Labour sitting MPs were paedophiles and how they should deploy this ‘information’. Matthew seemed to think that this showed that CCHQ was run by a bunch of children and he said it was worse than Damian McBride. He reckoned the paper would be running the story later that week, unless the powers that be intervened. I asked him which senior figures were involved. He said ‘very senior’, but refused to elaborate. He also refused to tell me which Labour MPs were speculated about. He didn’t believe that any of the emails’ allegations were anything other than nasty vindictiveness and an attempt to smear Labour MPs.”

When what he told me had sunk in I was furious. It showed that senior offices at CCHQ were either a; holding back vital intelligence from the police abuse inquiry or b; engaging in a smear campaign against their opponents. Either way, it showed appalling conduct.

I felt it needed addressing at a senior level in both the Conservative party and the Telegraph.

Here’s the letter I wrote to David Cameron about the matter on 26th January:

Dear Mr Cameron,

Child Abuse Allegations

As you know, the scandal of child sex abuse at every level of society, including in the highest reaches of political life, has caused deep distress to many thousands of sex abuse survivors. Your party, with others, has been arguing for a full, open inquiry into these matters and for the police to pursue perpetrators.

You have also rightly been among the first to deplore the fact that — amid the speculation that this scandal has caused — a number of individuals have found themselves the subject of baseless, hurtful and defamatory allegations, often spread in an irresponsible way on social media networks and by email. Just this weekend Lord Selwyn Gummer condemned online “innuendo” as “wicked”.

With the above in mind, I understand that there has been an email exchange between several members of staff at CCHQ in which the staff are reported to speculate about which sitting Members of Parliament might be paedophiles.

It is possible that it is a serious piece of investigative work. In which case I urge you to hand this evidence over to the police immediately, so that they can investigate -rather than keeping it in the confines of the party. You recently publicly declared that all documents held by party whips will be made available to the police. I trust the same is true of internal party emails.

If, however, it is a scurrilous and puerile attempt to smear sitting politicians, then that is a different but no less serious matter.

First, I am sure that you would consider it your duty to report the existence of such an email and the identities of those who originated and circulated it, in the same way that other instances of unfounded smears disseminated by political advisers have rightly been condemned by you in the past.

Second, I would hope you also see it as your duty privately to share the relevant material with the MPs who are mentioned in this email, so that they can take necessary legal action to protect their reputations if they want to do so.

I hope you would agree that it would be wholly inappropriate for you and party officials to sit on these emails and refuse either to confirm their existence, or inform those whom it defames. That would be a disservice to the public interest, it would further harm the proper process of getting to the truth of child sex abuse and it would damage your personal reputation.

I do not intend to publicise this letter at this stage, as I appreciate you may not be aware of this matter. I do not want to put undue pressure on you while you are investigating the issues I have raised and taking the necessary actions.

However, I look forward to hearing your response as a matter of urgency.

[Needless to say, he didn’t get an urgent response and had to write a follow-up letter which got the brush-off from Grant Shapps, Tory party co-chairman. He continues:]

We tried to chase up the Telegraph for a formal response but they kept ignoring us. I even asked my researcher to call the switchboard to ask for Robert Winnet’s mobile number but they refused to give it him. If I’m being honest, at this point I gave up. You can only fight so many battles.

Despite giving up I still think that Chris’s account of Holehouse’s allegations are in the public interest and would ordinarily have been jumped at by a newspaper editor.

When I read Peter Oborne’s article yesterday I felt I should at least explain that he was not alone. He did a brave thing and today he is being mocked by his former employers and others in the industry.

They’re closing ranks and trying to traduce the character of a respected journalist because he spoke truth to power like he’s supposed to, though on this occasion it was a powerful media mogul.

It’s not right.

You can read the full article (this is just an excerpt) here.

Withholding evidence is a serious offence. If the Telegraph does have this material, and does not intend to use it in a story, then its writers, editors and publishers may be accessories to the crimes of child sexual abuse to which they are said to relate; by holding them and not releasing them to the police, they would be allowing the perpetrators to remain at large.

That is criminal.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Back to the maths class for DWP decision makers

When I was six, I told friends and family I did not want to go out with a girl because "she can't do her maths". What a pity the adults in the Coalition government don't know now what I knew as a child.

When I was six, I told friends and family I did not want to go out with a girl because “she can’t do her maths”. What a pity the adults in the Coalition government don’t know now what I knew as a child.

Iain Duncan Smith was right to weep when he visited Easterhouse, all those years ago – although he would not have known the reason.

It turns out there are probably drug dealers on that estate with a better grasp of mathematics than anybody in his Department for Work and Pensions – or, let’s be honest, the entire Coalition government.

This week it emerged that the National Audit Office has refused to sign off the DWP’s accounts – for the 25th year running. While this indicates that the problem is not limited to the Coalition, it should be noted that David Cameron’s crew has done nothing to rectify it.

The NAO has instead delivered a “qualified” audit opinion, in respect of fraud and error which is considered to be unacceptably high. It seems the department overpaid £3.5 billion or 2.1 per cent of total benefit expenditure due to fraud and error – and also underpaid £1.4 billion to claimants.

Of this, fraud remained static at £1.2 billion (the same as in 2011-12), while underpayments due to official error increased from £400 million to £500 million.

Official error has increased while fraud has not.

An interesting sidebar to this is the fact that fraud has not decreased either, despite all Mr Duncan Smith’s apparent efforts to hammer it. Next year’s accounts – due after April 2014, although your guess on the actual date is as good as anyone’s – should make interesting reading, as they should show the effect of the major regressions (not reforms) he introduced this year.

Further evidence of government incompetence with the figures came in a chart from Conservative Central HQ’s press office, flagged up by Jonathan Portes and the immeasurably cleverer people at NIESR (National Institute of Economic and Social Research).

The chart’s claim was that 28,500 households had been receiving more than £500 per week in benefits, despite containing people who could work but weren’t – until the £26,000 per year Benefit Cap was brought in and reduced it to nothing.

Mr Portes told us the chart was based on DWP statistics published last week that show that 28,500 households have had their benefit capped at £500 per week, “however, the interpretation – and the chart – is utterly wrong in every respect.

“It just is not the case that every one of those 28,500 households contains someone who “can work”.  As the DWP publication clearly states, the cap applies to households in receipt of key out of work benefits – including both those in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) and those on Income Support (IS).  For people in the WRAG, the position is quite clear. As the DWP itself puts it… they are ‘currently too ill or disabled to work’.

“DWP makes clear that there is no assumption that Income Support claimants ‘can work’, but quite the opposite. As a general rule, most people who ‘can work’ should be on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), not IS. In practice, most of those on IS are single mothers with young children, who are not expected to work.

“Overall, although we don’t have precise numbers from the DWP statistics, it seems quite likely that in fact less than half of the households affected by the cap contain ‘people who can work but aren’t’.”

Mr Portes went on to analyse the second assumption in the chart – that there are now no households receiving more than £500 per week in benefits that include “people who can work but aren’t” – and found it “just as wrong,” – because DWP guidance exempts households with anyone on DLA, PIP, Attendance Allowance, the support component of ESA or Industrial Injuries Benefits, and those receiving War Disablement Pension and equivalent payments from the Armed Forces Compensation Payments Scheme.

“Of course it’s perfectly possible for such households to contain ‘people who can work but aren’t’ – most obviously households with a child receiving DLA, but there are lots of other possible cases. Moreover, even this excludes couple households where one person is working but the other could work, but is not, who are also exempt. Given enough children and/or high enough housing costs, such households can receive more than £500 per week in benefits,” wrote Mr Portes.

“Again, we don’t know the exact numbers, but we are certainly talking about thousands of households, not zero.”

Only on Monday, Mr Duncan Smith assured the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee that he had warned CCHQ and Tory chairman Grant Shapps against such jiggery-pokery with his departmental stats: “I have had conversations with him and others about being careful to check with the department.”

So did the chart go out with his department’s full endorsement, in which case this is even more proof that the DWP can’t get its facts right – or did CCHQ ignore Mr Duncan Smith’s words and make its own mistake?

For this government, and Mr “In Deep Sh…ambles”, the result is the same.

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