Tag Archives: Culture Secretary

Double standards: Inquiry into Miller’s expenses – why not Osborne?

Today the BBC tells us the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has opened an inquiry into expense claims by Maria Miller, the culture secretary.

The question is, why has a similar inquiry not been opened into expense claims by George Osborne, that diddled the taxpayer out of £100,000 in order to put a MILLION pounds into his own pocket?

I’m aware a criminal file has been opened on this matter (I requested it, along with many others) but that should not prevent Parliament from examining it as well.

The inquiry into Mrs Miller comes after Labour MP John Mann submitted a complaint about her claims on Tuesday, after a report in the Daily Telegraph that she had allowed her parents to live in a south London house, on which she claimed £90,718 in second home allowances.

In 2009, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards ruled that second homes must be “exclusively” for the use of MPs in fulfilling their Parliamentary duties and that housing a politician’s parents was “specifically prohibited” by the rules.

If so, then why is Osborne getting away with buying a house and paddock on an interest-only mortgage, getting the taxpayer to pay the interest on that mortgage for both as a Parliamentary expense – remember, second homes must be exclusively for fulfilling Parliamentary duties – while claiming on his expenses forms that the money was for the house only, and then selling the lot for more than twice the original price and pocketing every single penny?

A spokesman for Mrs Miller said any suggestion her arrangements are questionable is untrue – well he would, wouldn’t he? I’m sure Osborne would say the same about his own arrangements. That doesn’t make it so.

It’s clear from comments on my previous articles – about both these individuals – that many, many members of the public are just as nauseated by this as I am. I have written to my own MP, seeking clarification of the situation regarding Osborne, and am awaiting a response. I hope everybody reading this has done the same – or is about to.

You can find your MP’s contact details here: http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/

This isn’t going to go away. We want answers; we need justice.

Miller’s ‘killer’ instinct homes in on the press

The new culture secretary, Maria Miller, loves to throw her weight around, doesn’t she?

I wasn’t going to write about how she claimed £90,000 towards a mortgage and other expenses associated with the south London house where her parents live – the Daily Telegraph has already done a very good job of it – but then, it seems, she decided to try bully-girl tactics.

While the newspaper was researching the story, we are told, Mrs Miller’s special advisor – one Joanna Hindley – warned a Telegraph reporter that the paper’s editor was meeting the Prime Minister and the culture secretary to discuss the implementation of the Leveson report.

The implication seems clear enough: “Leave her alone or she’ll make life very difficult for you.”

Big, big mistake.

You see, this meant it wasn’t another “dodgy expenses claim” story any more. It’s now about abuse of power. That puts this minister up in the big leagues, with George Osborne and that paddock he used to own.

Gideon, as by now I have documented very thoroughly, thought he could get away with using taxpayers’ cash to make a cool million pounds in the property market without anyone being able to do a thing about it. Now there’s a criminal investigation under way, examining his activities.

Mrs Miller, who earned the nickname ‘Killer’ for her part in implementing cruel and unnecessary welfare reforms that have led either directly or indirectly to the deaths of 73 people per week (on average) – and who also ensured the closure of 36 Remploy factories, which employ disabled people (another 10 have come under threat from her successor) – seems to think she can use her position to stop the public finding out the facts about her.

Well, now we know one thing for sure: She’s a nasty piece of work.

And she can’t perform her job impartially, which is what is required. Cabinet ministers are supposed to act for the good of the nation, not their own petty personal interests. In this, both Gideon and ‘Killer’ have failed. They have abused public trust and should be dismissed. My opinion is that Osborne should be jailed.

‘Killer’ has been reported to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards as her expenses claims appear to be similar to those of Labour MP Tony McNulty who, in 2009, was required to pay back more than £13,000 in expenses claimed on a second home occupied by his parents.

I hope she gets penalised in a big way.

But even if that doesn’t happen, she can be sure that life won’t be easy from now on. Reporters don’t take kindly to bullies, and a threat against one – in the way she engineered – is a threat against us all.

I reckon we’ll be finding out a lot more about Mrs Miller’s misdeeds from now on. Perhaps life will become difficult for her.

Cameron and Brooks – the more we know, the less we like it

What have they got to hide, and can it be any worse than what we’re all thinking?

There’s a bad smell surrounding the correspondence between David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks, and it has nothing to do with the horse she let him ride.

The Observer is today reporting details of “intimate” texts sent between the current UK Prime Minister and the former head of Rupert Murdoch’s News International. One of them, from Brooks, states that she felt so emotional listening to his (2009) conference speech she “cried twice”, and that she “will love ‘working together’.”

Working together?

In what way, exactly?

There are too many loose ends here for anyone to feel comfortable. Everywhere you turn, one of them whips you in the face (like a riding crop, perhaps).

Let’s bear in mind all the embarrassment fomer Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (Con) had over the plans for Mr Murdoch’s firm to take over Sky TV, granting it an unprecedented dominance over the UK mass media. Working together?

Let’s remember that Andy Coulson, a former News International employee and editor of the News of the World, became Mr Cameron’s Downing Street press officer for a time, until he was implicated in the phone hacking scandal and stood down. Working together?

Let’s also consider the way the right-wing press – of which News International and Sky News form an uncomfortably large cohort – has suppressed stories about the harmful effects of Mr Cameron’s policies, such as the deaths of 73 sick or disabled people every week (on average) who had their benefits cut after reassessment by the Department for Work and Pensions and its contractor, Atos. Working together?

Cameron has refused to allow publication of any more of these texts – and it is understood that around 150 may exist. The Observer states that it understands many of them would prove to be “a considerable embarrassment” to the government.

We don’t know what is in those texts, and we are being told that we never will. The only possible conclusion is that they contain information that is damaging to Mr Cameron, and therefore to his Conservative-led government. Because of the identities of the correspondents, we can also conclude only that this damage relates to them working together.

It’s obvious he’s got something to hide.

He’s not going to come clean about it either.

So he’s being dishonest to us, the British public.

It is not in our interest for him to behave like this.

What else has he been doing that is not in our interest?

I think we have a right to know.

After all, he didn’t win the 2010 election; he’s only in Downing Street because of a dodgy deal with the Liberal Democrats.

Hapless Jeremy proves yet again what a… Hunt he is

Not the right kind of tree-hugger: This is an artist’s impression of what Jeremy Hunt looked like, hiding behind a tree to avoid being seen going to a meeting with Rupert Murdoch.

It is not a good time to be Jeremy Hunt.

“When is?” I hear you cry. Fair point. The reactions of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh certainly seem to have put the Health Secretary in a state.

He was at a smart Buckingham Palace event, arranged to thank everyone involved in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, which took place while he was Culture Secretary. He decided this was the moment to put his greatest talent on display.

Clearly, it wasn’t his wit. No, I refer to his talent for making a faux pas – or, in English, a bloody fool of himself.

“I read about a Japanese tourist who said afterwards how wonderful our Queen must be to take part in that, as they would never get their emperor to jump out of the plane,” he told Her Majesty. Faced with an irrelevant comment about a completely different event, she paused, smiled politely, shrugged, and moved on.

Then the Duke of Edinburgh turned up. You may remember he had quite a rough time during the Diamond Jubilee, contracting an infection that hospitalised him for several days. As a result, he probably saw most of it on TV but – clearly – the then-Culture Secretary hadn’t made the slightest impression on him as the first thing he said was, “Who are you?”

Hunt managed to spit out some information about his current job, and that he was Culture Secretary during the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, only to have the Duke respond: “Well they do move you people on a lot.”

We are led to believe Mr Hunt was embarrassed by the whole episode. What makes it worse is that he might have gained a bit more recognition if he had mentioned some of the other public disasters in which he has been involved.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls: Mr Hunt’s bell-end landed in a passing lady’s lap. Oh dear.

Perhaps he should have said, “I’m the fool who went ringing a bell to announce the start of the Olympics, only to have the end fall off and hit a passing lady in the lap”?

Or: “I’m the twit who arrived at a meeting with Rupert Murdoch – a gentleman with whom I have long-standing ties, even though he’s being investigated by an official inquiry ordered by my government – but, finding a multitude of press photographers there and not wanting to be seen publicly with the head of NewsCorp… hid behind a tree. One that was too narrow to stop them from spotting me.”

At least he had the good taste not to mention the moment when James Naughtie mispronounced his surname, live on national radio. The use of the C-word would have been beyond the pale.

(Although, it might have won him the recognition he wanted from the Duke).

Perhaps David Cameron would have been better off introducing into his Cabinet some faces that were more recognisable?