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Labour NEC elections: should Electoral Commission investigate Starmer vote-rigging claims?

Stymied: Keir Starmer has failed to increase his power on Labour’s ruling NEC – and may face an investigation by the Electoral Commission over the possibility that his leadership team interfered with the votes, binning many that should have been counted.

Perhaps Labour Party members – the few who remain – should be grateful for small mercies: after the NEC election left-wing Grassroots Voice candidates took five of the nine CLP seats.

It means Keir Starmer’s ‘Stalinist Right’ (apparently) faction has been denied a chance to consolidate its power over the party; he will continue to face opposition to his more extreme right-wing policies in the party’s ruling committee.

But do these results really matter, when they come amid allegations of vote-rigging?

The claim is that Starmer’s leadership has been disregarding votes by people who subsequently quit their membership of the Labour Party in disgust at the undemocratic decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn for no reason at all.

And it seems this claim may have validity. The number of votes counted in this election is said to be around 117,000 – 27 per cent of the membership, according to the most recent figures we have. Last time, 68 per cent of the membership voted.

That’s a huge difference.

It is entirely possible that the 117k figure represents 68 per cent of the current membership, after the party haemmorrhaged members following Starmer’s election as leader and his immediate choice to betray those who voted for him by ignoring his 10 pledges and turning the party’s direction sharply to the right.

But if Starmer’s people have been binning votes from people who were members before they quit in disgust, then it seems they have acted unconstitutionally by removing votes that should have counted; these people were members when they voted and had every right to vote at the time.

Fortunately for democracy in the UK, we have an organisation dedicated to ensuring that elections are carried out in a free, fair and legal way.

So here’s the question:

Should the Electoral Commission be called in to investigate this election?

And if so:

Should the result of the NEC election – as currently reported – be ignored until the Electoral Commission is able to confirm (or deny) it?

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Why are expense fraud MPs above the law?

One law for them...: This image appeared on Twitter, summarising how the law treats MPs in comparison with the rest of us.

One law for them…: This image appeared on Twitter, summarising how the law treats MPs in comparison with the rest of us.

How strange that John Bercow would want to make himself an accessory to MPs’ fraudulent expenses claims!

It seems the Speaker of the House of Commons has ordered that details of all MPs’ expenses, claimed before the system was reformed in 2010, should be shredded.

The decision will have come as good news for Members such as George Osborne, who made a cool £1 million off the taxpayer from expenses payments made to cover a mortgage on open land in his Cheshire constituency which he claimed he was using for Parliamentary business.

(The bad news for him is that Vox Political holds copies of relevant documents and will certainly launch another attempt to have Osborne prosecuted, if the opportunity presents itself. Oh, and the Daily Telegraph – which has a complete record of claims made under the former system and used it in a series of reports that shocked the nation and led to the system being reformed, a matter that has now become a two-edged sword.)

Bercow’s reasons for burning the books are a mystery. According to the Telegraph, weakling standards watchdog Kathryn Hudson has been dealing with multiple allegations raised by constituents. Now she is able to tell them that their concerns cannot be investigated due to lack of evidence.

This is not good enough.

In fact, it is worse than the original, scandalous system. At least, with that, it was possible to find out who had claimed money and why; that is no longer the case.

The Telegraph article tells us that the Commons’ ‘Authorised Records Disposal Practice’ lays down guidelines about the length of time for which records may be kept. Thousands are stored indefinitely in the Parliamentary Archive. The pay, discipline and sickness records of Commons staff are kept until their 100th birthday. Health and safety records are kept for up to 40 years.

How long are records of MPs’ expenses kept until they are destroyed? Three years.

Why such a short period? “Data protection”.

Why does this only apply to MPs’ expenses and not to the other matters? No answer.

We know why, though, don’t we? It’s in order to cover up the wrongdoings of the most corrupt Parliament in living memory.

We know that the government has been legislating to ensure that money is drained from the poor and needy into the hands of the rich and the powerful corporations they run, in return for generous donations to the Conservative Party (arrangements for the Liberal Democrats are not known to this blog).

Who knows what backbenchers have been doing in the meantime? They’ve certainly been living the life of Riley while some of us have had to struggle simply to secure the state benefits that we have spent our entire working lives subsidising – and many others, having been denied those benefits for spurious reasons, are no longer with us as a result.

Still, considering the limp punishment handed down to Maria Miller, who between 2005 and 2009 claimed £90,718 in Parliamentary expenses for the mortgage and upkeep of a south London house that was occupied, not by herself, but by her parents, there is no reason to believe any of them would have received a just and proper punishment.

(She was fined £5,800 and made a half-hearted apology – not to the taxpayer, but to Parliament, after a committee of, you guessed it, MPs overruled the standards commissioner’s recommendation that she be made to repay £45,000.)

If any other citizen (who did not have the right business- or class-based connections) embezzled that much money, they would be jailed for a lengthy period of time – in fact we have recently seen cases in which people who were reduced to stealing from supermarkets or food banks, after the DWP sanctioned their benefits, have been jailed for unduly lengthy periods. Yet MPs are, essentially, let off the hook.

The problem is: They’re above the law.

There won’t be any justice in this system until the whole mechanism for investigating allegations against MPs – of any kind – is handed over to the police, where it belongs.

And not just the Metropolitan Police, who are nearby and may end up facing their own corruption allegations. Perhaps it is best that the responsibility be handed between forces on a rota system, in order to minimise the opportunity for underhandedness.

No MP would ever vote for that, of course. In a perfect world they might but, in this one, all that is required to buy their silence is peer pressure. In a perfect world (again) the electorate would be able to hold MPs to account with the threat of being removed from their seat at the next election, but we know that this does not happen in practice. Some ex-MPs who were disgraced in the last expenses scandal will be standing for election again next May.

What’s the answer, then?

A petition has been started, to have MPs accused of fraud investigated and prosecuted – but this seems doomed to failure for practical purposes; the evidence no longer exists!

Perhaps the best way forward would be to pursue Bercow, for ordering the destruction of the files, and the weakling Hudson for allowing them to be destroyed.

Alternatively, the Telegraph could make its files publicly available, and we could all carry out investigations of our own.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Omnishambles, omnishambles, omnishambles

Feeling tired? Don’t worry, Vince Van Winkle, we’ve got a cosy place in the Cabinet for you, next to Ken ‘Can’t Keep My Eyes Open’ Clarke!

Before the general election in 2010, David Cameron reminded us that Tony Blair had summed up his ambitions in three words, “Education, education, education”, then said he could manage his in three letters: “N.H.S.”

How wrong he was!

We now know that the correct three-word slogan would have been: “Omnishambles, omnishambles, omnishambles”!

Here’s three examples of Coalition government ineptitude that have fallen onto my desk during this morning alone.

1. The government is having to shred £350,000 worth of ballot papers for the Welsh police and crime commissioner elections after a late decision to print them in both English and Welsh.

There really is no excuse for this. I know for a fact that Labour and, I believe, Plaid Cymru were both pushing for bilingual ballots, months before now.

When Christine Gwyther heard the Home Office did not have Parliamentary approval for bi-lingual ballot papers and information to voters, she immediately took steps to rectify the matter, writing to Bryn Parry-Jones, the returning officer, who agreed to pursue it on an all-Wales basis. She told Labour’s Brecon and Radnorshire constituency party the story at its meeting in September, which was one and a half months ago at the time of writing.

The government says the cost will be met from the £75 million election budget. I find this unconscionable. People across the country are getting into terrible states of anxiety over how to afford an extra £20 or £30 a month due to benefit cuts (of which more in a moment), but this government is prepared to throw away hundreds of thousands of pounds because its members couldn’t be bothered to make a perfectly simple decision in a reasonable amount of time.

Shambles.

2. A senior Downing Street aide has quit working for David Cameron in order to join Wonga.com, the loan company that charges bizarrely exorbitant rates of interest – more than 4,000 per cent. This is according to Sky News.

Jonathan Luff has done this, allegedly, at a time when the Office of Fair Trading is trying to crack down on payday lenders and concern is high about the industry’s business practices. The question is whether the move will give Wonga inappropriate access to ministerial decision-makers.

I guess we’ll find out, if the issue mysteriously goes away in the immediate future, with no explanation.

Already, critics have denounced the move as a sign of what Conservative supporters are really interested in – not the good of the country, but the size of their bank accounts.

Shambles.

3. Finally, in an article on this very blog, I seem to have revealed ambiguities in the plan for the new, so-called “bedroom tax” that could add tens, if not hundreds of pounds to the cost for people renting council- or social houses.

It seems that it is unclear whether the amounts to be removed from housing benefit – 14 per cent for one extra bedroom, 25 per cent for two or more – are to be taken from the amount of benefit being paid, or from the total rent being paid on the property. One of my readers tells me that Cornwall Council has taken the latter stance, meaning a loss of £21 per week for the first spare bedroom, £29 per week for two – considerably more than the advertised average of £14 per week.

Social housing provider Bromford, on the other hand, states clearly that it is a household’s housing benefit entitlement that will be cut, which seems to make it clear that it is a percentage of the benefit, not the full rent.

One wonders whether the government will stir itself to provide a definitive answer before the new rules come into practice next April. I shall not be holding my breath in anticipation.

Oh, and households with students away from home for less than 52 weeks per year – exempted under the new rules – will find that Cornwall Council doesn’t see it that way, either. from the form letter: “If you have an extra bedroom(s) for children who don’t live with you full time, the Government will count this as a spare bedroom and your benefit will be cut.”

Omnishambles.

Bubbling under, we have the accusation against Business Secretary Vince Cable that he slept through the new Cabinet Growth Committee’s meetings, as he seems to know nothing about them despite being, as I understand it, the vice-chair.

Coming soon: Borishambles.