Conway: what should Dave do?
Take time to read the Standards and Privileges report on Derek Conway. It is jaw-dropping stuff. The facts are that Mr Conway paid his son Freddie roughly £32,000 to "work for him" while he was at Newcastle University. The committee concludes: "This arrangement was, at the least, an improper use of Parliamentary allowances: at worst it was a serious diversion of public funds. Our view is that the reality may well be somewhere between the two."
Keeping it in the family
First an MP is found guilty of paying £50,000 to his "all but invisible" son in what was, at worst, "a serious diversion of public funds." Then it emerges that he paid his other son and his wife too. So why is Derek Conway not in more trouble? There are many small procedural answers and one very big political reason.
Tory MP Derek Conway has been outed as employing his son as a parliamentary researcher whilst he was a full-time student and paying him £1,000-plus per month, with a total of around £13,000 salary - plus bonuses. And all from taxpayer's funds, for work that wasn't done. Certainly not work to that value, anyway. There is no excuse for what he has done. It is utterly disgraceful and unacceptable. He should have to repay every penny that has been wrongly taken. Every. Single. Penny. From his own money.
Derek Conway: Dead Man Walking
Do you remember Michael Trend? He was a former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party who stood down as MP for Windsor at the 2005 election over a mistake about his expenses. In his case he had claimed an annual allowance of £20,000 that was meant to fund London accommodation for MPs from faraway constituencies. He was disciplined by the Standards & Privileges Committee, suspended for 2 weeks from the Commons and had the sense and honour to stand down at the following general election.
Sleaze: Before The Tories Get Too Smug...
DerekconwaympAny Tories gloating or feeling smug about Labour's embarrassment over the financial affairs of Peter Hain, Alan Johnson or Harriet Harman and "donorgate" should read the latest report of the Standards and Privileges Committee of MPs: Conduct of Mr Derek Conway. The committee is chaired by former Conservative cabinet minister Sir George Young.
Conway row to escalate, as Tory poll lead shrinks
Following yesterday's initial revelations, it's since emerged that Derek Conway employed another of his sons using taxpayers' money. The news is like manna to the Government, and has spurred the Labour MP John Mann to call for another formal investigation into Conway's actions.
How many more Conway's?
Half a dozen? A dozen? More than a dozen Tory MPs engaged in what amounts to treating parliamentary allowances "like a family heirloom," as one Westminster insider puts it in today's Daily Mail? We'll know soon enough. Chances are this emerging scandal won't just end the career of Conway and at least one prominent Tory frontbencher, it could be the end of Cameron. If more cases emerge and it transpires that the Tory leader knew about them then it's goodnight Vienna.
The Tories get medieval
Did you know that on average, we give a measly 0.7 per cent of our income to charity? Or that if we raised this to just 1 per cent, the voluntary sector would get an extra £4 billion? It was one of the more intriguing points raised at the Tories' judderingly titled one-day conference today, 'The Role of the State in the Post-Bureaucratic Age' (which Alice Thomson also dropped in on. It was basically a blue-skies thinking session (there was even a cheery squiggly blue-sky background) at which a succession of Shadow Cabinet members trooped up to affirm their commitment to decentralising power, opening up the processes of government and, basically, not making the same mistakes as Labour.
It's still the economy, stupid
Bill Clinton, famously, hung a sign on the wall of his 1992 presidential campaign headquarters that read: “It’s the economy, stupid”. It was placed there to keep the campaign team focused on the plain fact that, broadly speaking, voters feel more inclined to change their governments when they feel that the alternative is more likely to look after their economic interests.
London Mayor election update
1. Evening Standard latest: Lee Jasper (aide to Ken Livingstone) admits £18,000 was improperly diverted. Police now investigating …
2. … and as Lynne Featherstone points out, that makes five police investigations into allegations of financial misdeeds at City Hall and the London Development Agency (LDA). As Lynne says, once again there are also question marks over whether their press operation has been telling the full story.
3. Political Betting casts reasonable doubt on the last YouGov Mayor poll (which put Brian Paddick on 8%, +1%): the sample size was just 240, which makes the margin of error +/- 6.5% - a very high figure. (This is the margin of error for the random sampling process; in addition there are other causes of error, such as a systematic bias in who is asked to take part in a poll.)
Who told us that we are better than McDonalds workers ?
We've all heard the jokes about people who work in McDonald's. It is supposed to be harmless fun, but at the end of the day it is often a class thing, a smugness amongst the educated middle class against people who are lowly paid, often lacking qualifications and end up in what is seen as a dead end job. So it saddens me to see people being so demeaning of the opportunity given to McDonald's staff to earn a proper accredited qualification.
Mayoral poll based on just 240 voters
How much can you trust a survey with such a small sample? The detailed data on YouGov’s London mayoral survey is out today and there are two things to highlight - the survey took place AFTER the controversial Channel 4 Dispatches programme last Monday but the size of the sample was just about the smallest that I can recall from the firm. In their normal national voting intention surveys YouGov generally involve about 2000 people. The figure for Saturday’s Daily Telegraph poll was 1992. In previous surveys for the London Mayoral race the figure has been about 1000. The December survey was based on 995 responses and a poll in November had a sample of 1036.
What does Cameron actually stand for?
“Cam’s withering”, says Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun. The Tory lead has been slashed to two per cent in one poll and eight per cent in another. “Voters still don’t grasp what he stands for?” says Trevor. Where’s the vision thing. We all know that Dave can do the soundbites, jump the red lights and mulch his own compost but what would he do if he was given the Westminster vegetable patch?
Daily Record tells Wendy to go
The death knell on Wendy Alexander's leadership of Scottish Labour (Holyrood division) has been sounded by the official Labour press office in Scotland, the Daily Record. To be generous, the editorial is a warning shot to Wendy that she needs to up her game. In reality, this is a notice to quit.