Although the Guardian Media Group have been rather cowed by the bumptious bullying "only here for the beer" Lib Dem MP for Rochdale, Mr Paul Rowen top scribbler Mike Keegan and his editors have had the courage to run a new Rowen story.
A story in which the hapless "knob of butter" member has been exposed for:
(a) sending unsolicited mailshots to rising 18s;
(b) trying to solicit their Facebook friendship; and
c) failing to put adequate or indeed any postage on their stuffed brimful envelopes.
Sending letters to new voters is fair game. Let's not be too harsh on that one. As long as it doesn't turn into harassment. But there's something that makes me a little uncomfortable about an MP begging for teenage friends and followers. And clearly failing to stick the correct postage on such material is piss poor.
Now, all this happened some time ago. But the teenager concerned is still a teenager, still unemployed, still out of pocket by £1.27, still a little worried I'd say at this Facebook proposition. Nonetheless the Lib Dem sock puppets are out in force.
What looks like an incognito and hair trigger Lib Dem Cllr Steve Cooke is the latest to speak his brains, more than two hours ago, haven't they had any more comments with this story among the "most read" of the day:
You've printed a story about incorrect postage on a letter that was sent a year ago? Give us a break and write a real story. Looks like someone just has an axe to grind against their local Lib Dem MP.
Before that there's Mark,Radcliffe (no relation):
The real story is why has it taken a year to deliver?
And various other Lib Dem sock puppets ("all" pictured above, we might wonder) with silly names and the same tedious chorus:
With just one message supporting the story at the time of writing:
Doesn't this show how desperate MPs are? Sending letters to 18-year olds asking them to be his friend on Facebook.
This is quite a good story actually. Whatever the foolish PR Paul Rowen's friend(s) in their many schizoidal incarnations may try to suggest.
But something is missing from Keegan's scoop. The thing which makes sense of making this relatively old news into a current story. But I'm not afraid of the Big Cry Wolf. So, let me help out.
RECENT revelations of this foolish, flustered and fallacious MP's allowances claims showed that he had purchased a very substantial paper folding and envelope stuffing machine. Perhaps this behemoth also has a franking facility? I don't know. It's something like this one here:
This means that Shane White and the rest of us have contributed some £6,000 - possibly the maximum allowed by the Green Book for an office machine - to the means for Mr White and hundreds and thousands of others to be sent mailshots.
The machine had an apparent total cost well into five figures. And I think most reasonable people would agree that it seemed ludicrously over-specified for a single local MP office. What are this motley nay hen-speckled crew actually up to?
Other Lib Dem MPs in the region and nationally have used tax payers money towards high volume printing machines. John "Bull" Leech MP for example has paid a proportion of the cost for a two-colour Riso printing machine. There are some obvious discrepancies with these arrangements which we'll come back to one of these days.
But no matter. Between Rowen, who also has a Riso plus his big FO stuffing machine, and Leech with his high-volume Riso there is the beginnings of an unvirtuous circle production line. I wonder what Andrew Stunnell MP in Hazel Grove and Mark Hunter MP in Cheadle have to bring to the party?
Some of these MPs at least, or their local supporters or their local parties, have set up unincorporated "Printing Societies", whatever those are supposed to be. "Unaccountable" would be one thing they are I suppose. Surely not an attractive characteristic given the MP's allowances soup they're all in?
I think Rowen's local party may have one of these Printing Society. His colleague John Leech MP in Manchester Withington certainly has one of these - Withington Printing Society - associated with his local party and I believe sharing his parliamentary office, or the same premises at any rate.
Many Lib Dem MPs have apparently taken completely non-political adverts on highly political leaflets with the payments going to their local party funds. Paying for the printing. Albeit indirectly. This may be "within the rules", but does it look right?
And most of these Lib Dem MPs also seem to be paying a kind of "tithe" to their regional offices. And as a rule also sharing their space with political activists (and/or printing organisations) which makes keeping track of what's what rather difficult.
£1.27 may seem like a trifling matter. Rowen may be belittling the pain felt by a job-seeking teenager but at least he'll join Hazel Blears in paying the money back!
But there's a chance that hundreds of letters have been sent out without stamps. DESPITE this fancy party machinery. That we the tax payer have helped pay for. And the unstamped letter therefore becomes the tip of a very large iceberg of hidden arrangements and difficult questions.
So well done Mike Keegan. Well done Manchester Evening News. Well done Guardian Media Group. Mr PR Paul Rowen MP may have tried to gag your journalists but you really need to take courage from small victories and pursue the sacred truth of what this rather sordid individual has been doing in our name, and with our money.
POSTSCRIPT 17:05: Stuffing machine added. And those naughty boys at Rochdale RAW have also posted on this.