Well, well, well. That makes a pleasant change then! Instead of the trashy Rochdale Online, "owned" by Paul Rowen through a rather sleazish tax payer funded Faustian web services contract, wait for the Observer to go to press and go to web, and THEN nick their stories. Unattributed, un-thanked, unpaid for.
Last night they actually "nicked" the Obbie story before it even had a chance to appear! This is because PR Paul Rowen MP's bullying control freakist the disgraced and disgraceful (right) former councillor and former Tory boy David Hennigan, who makes Damian McBride look like an amateur when it comes to filthy dirty smearology, actually wrote most of the Observer story.
There's press relations. And there's taking the piss out of a weak editor, running scared journalists, and a business-before-integrity management. Though getting the time line wrong may be some kind of power play, proving he's taking the piss, but it does look like a schoolboy error from where I'm sitting.
Here's the Obbie story which you might like to compare and contrast with the Rowen Online exclusive of last evening which we have already torn to shreds HERE. There is something missing. Can you see what it is yet?:
'I have always striven to put rochdale (sic) first'
June 26, 2009
PAUL ROWEN has blasted ‘unsubstantiated and false’ accusations he used taxpayers’ money to fund party-political activity.
The Liberal Democrat Rochdale MP gave a point-by-point refutation of opponents’ claims about his expenses.
He said he had been ‘shocked’ by the allegations – and wanted to put the record straight for his constituents.
"I have always striven to put Rochdale first," he told the Observer.
Mr Rowen made clear:
* He only spent £3,539.06 on printing and advertising, and not the reported figure of £26,000.
* The ‘annual report’ that money helped to pay for was signed off by House of Commons officials as NOT being party political.
* The ‘advertising’ was also for non-party political purposes – alerting constituents to surgeries and Mr Rowen’s contact details.
* His claims for a string of minor food items – including 40p for a banana, 5p for an Asda ‘bag for life’ and £1.29 for Burger King fries – were for an unpaid intern, as per parliamentary rules.
* His Drake Street offices, while part-owned by the Lib Dems, are paid for at a market rate – an arrangement common to many MPs.
Mr Rowen said: "It is frustrating that I have been criticised, and that unsubstantiated allegations have been made against me.
"I have never paid for the printing of political leaflets using my expenses.
"To do so would be illegal.
"I placed adverts in externally printed party newspapers advertising my surgeries and printing posters for my surgeries for display in libraries and community centres."
On the rental for his offices, the MP added: "Many MPs – including the Prime Minister – rent offices from political parties or supporters.
"The rules for this are clear. It must be a fair market rent determined by an independent surveyor. That was what I did."
Mr Rowen said £4,000 he had paid the north west regional Lib Dems in consultancy fees had paid for ‘invaluable research and advice on region-wide policy issues’.
It also funded ‘assistance with region-wide media content, communications and coverage, staff training and staff management advice’, he said, as well as ‘cross-constituency event co-ordination, liaison and promotion of MPs’ work across the region and access to regional office services and administration staff’.
He added: "All MPs claim allowances and expenses to enable them to do their job.
"I welcome the greater transparency but the media, whilst exposing wrong doing where it occurs, has a duty to report these fairly and responsibly.
"As someone born and bred in Rochdale, it has always been my ambition to represent the people of my town.
"I have done this conscientiously and my staff and I have always striven to put Rochdale first. Whether this is by the thousands of cases we do on an annual basis, fighting for extra resources like our new sixth form college, Metrolink and bus station or campaigning for the very best services for our town."
THE Rochdale Observer would like to make it clear it has no information that Paul Rowen MP was using Parliamentary expenses to fund Liberal Democrat political activities and apologises if any reader got that impression.
This "apology" is a matter of semantics.
Through Mr PR Paul Rowen MP's decisions on how he spends his various allowances the Rochdale Lib Dem party are considerably enriched and this appears to extend way beyond in effect getting a free office to having spare cash to use for campaigning.
Yes, it's true that some other MP's have contrived similar convoluted arrangements and time shares ... most often found in the case of dishonourable Lib Dem members. Other MPs pay less than the market rate from their party, don't let them use the facilities, as let's face it this looks wrong, and by doing this free expenses for greater assistance to their constituents. More of which anon. Rowen wants to make a feature of it? Bring it on!
Through Mr PR Paul Rowen MP's payment of a tithe to the NW Region Lib Dem office, as already shared and cross subsidised by failed former Oldham and Saddleworth MP Mr Chris Davies MEP who admits to giving lots of his spare expenses away to charity and in political donations, they too are considerably enriched.
And through Mr PR Paul Rowen MP's employment of what Rochdale Lib Dems own annual report and audited accounts describe as one-and-a-half "political workers" the local party is apparently released from the need to directly employ these people to organise their campaigns and political activity.
These workers were previously funded by a stream of donations from such erudite organisations as the unincorporated and unregistered Cobden Bright Trust, the unincorporated and unregistered Friends of Cyril Smith under various shadowy names, the actually incorporated Rochdale Reform Buildings Limited, and of course by a donation of more than £20,000 from Rochdale's Lib Dem councillors.
They - and Rowen, and Rowen's employees - are the people who actually benefit in the pocket and in the power stakes from all this work to get them and keep them elected. It confirms this transfer of political workers from the party to the MP plain as day in black and white. A confession signed by two independent auditors. You've gotta say this for Dave Hennigan ... he's got some bottle and some bare-faced cheeks to boot.
Forget the knob of butter, forget the 40p banana yellow and crooked though it may be, forget the dinner beverages and bar/beverages, forget even the £9.99 TV Services enjoyed by Paul Rowen or someone on his allowances, the real deal for the Lib Dems is top-slicing, bottom-slicing, side-slicing and hollowing out the tax payer funded allowance and expense regimes and applying them to their pursuit of power.
They say of course that all these moves are "within the rules", and they employ tired semantics to explain their moves away, but it is for the people of Rochdale to decide whether these cunning stunts and weasel words are "appropriate" or in at least some cases "inappropriate" as Rowen's rival Simon Danczuk suggested. According to the Rochdale Observer's now redacted story.
If Rowen doesn't identify some serious ticket items in his claims to repay to the Fees Office and if he continues to defy the court of public opinion and pretend his office and staff arrangements are sweet smelling ... that's his choice.