Thursday, June 25, 2009

Paul Rowen: "Within the Rules" or "Inappropriate" or Both?

Well, is what PR Paul Rowen MP claimed under the various parliamentary expenses headings "within the rules" and reasonable? As he claims. Or is some of it "inappropriate" as his rival Simon Danczuk feels may be the case? Or are they both correct in this case? That's probably it.

Paul Rowen's allowances claims may be BOTH "Within the Rules" and also in some cases "Inappropriate". We may be able to agree after all? And we'll surely all agree that heavy manners to browbeat local papers to chicken out and print rather ridiculous clarifications and apologies and to make charitable donations is NOT the behaviour of a man interested in democracy, openness or clarity. Rowen gives Stalinists a bad name.

PR Paul Rowen MP is quite simply trying to silence his critics with smears and bluster. Journalists and opponents have a right to give their opinions. Minor factual errors can be corrected in a proportionate way. The Obbie should stand up to this pressure. It's not too late.

But all this stupid fuss just seems like Rowen throwing his not inconsiderable weight about. Bullying is all.

Not content with forcing The Rochdale Observer to redact web coverage of his expenses claims he's making them give him the front page for a second attempt at a defence. AND making them apologise - completely unnecessarily, they don't seem to have done anything much wrong as it goes - the weak and sinking Rochdale Lib Dem MP PR Paul Rowen has given Malcolm Porn-O's shoddy online organ Rowen Online the exclusive scoop.

We'll soon see about that though. Here we fisk the ridiculous article, probably written by naughty Paul Rowen's "Agent" Dave Hennigan, and aim to show up every last piece of arrant nonsense and studied over-reaction:

Rowen tackles allegations
Date published: 25/06/2009

Following the threat of legal action by Paul Rowen MP, the Rochdale Observer has agreed to print Mr Rowen's refutations (below) on the front page and an apology on page two. The newspaper is also making a donation to Springhill Hospice and meeting Mr Rowen's legal costs.

Why, why, why have they done all that? They should change their mind and scrutinise Rowen's property dealings properly. At this rate they might as well let the ridiculous, up himself piss taking gravy trainer dictate what's in the paper every week.

Mr Rowen, who describes the coverage as, “inaccurate, misleading and damaging to my reputation" and (sic) said: “This last week has probably been the hardest of my political life."

To be blunt, this is unlikely to remain the case for very long Mr Rowen. Now is it? Those weeks could get harder week by week from here on in I reckon. As they should. Your reputation mate is being damaged because "within the rules" or nay the broad population are by and large uncomfortable with any MP who maxxes the ACA as joint Number 1. Never mind one who games every little party advantage out of all the other headings.

"Since the article appeared I've been contacted by scores of Rochdalians shocked at the way the Rochdale Observer has belittled and misrepresented the work that I do. C P Scott must be turning in his grave."

"Scores" Paul? Really? Scores? How many contacted the Observer and indeed your good self and suggested that whether what you do has been "within the rules" or not they're absolutely disgusted and they don't find your excuses that compelling.

"I appreciate the scrutiny of the expenses I incur in my job representing Rochdale locally and nationally."

No you don't. You are scared witless that all your dodgy decisions, which even if technically "within the rules" just look plain wrong, as you well know, will be exposed to the light of day. If nothing else we've learned over the past weeks how being "within the rules" is not nearly enough for many people.

Twenty or so "within the rules" MPs have already retired or been cashiered over inappropriateness. Like your bottom feeding gudgeonry.

"As someone who has represented Rochdale both on the Council and in Parliament, I am shocked.”

If that's true you're a clown Paul Rowen. Scared witless I'll believe. Worried that you'll be rightly tipped out at the next election. Probably. But "shocked"? give over Paul mate. Rochdale is not even shocked when journalists get a kicking for outing a bollock fiddler. When special needs kids organise for rent boy action at Smith Street bogs - Rochdale is hardly shocked.

You know full well PR Paul that all these dodgy decisions to push the proverbial envelope of what's allegedly "within the rules" were lurking in your possibly inappropriate expenses claims. Ready to come out and bite your balls.

Commenting on the allegations made by Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate, Mr Rowen said: “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 strived to put Rochdale first. Whether this is by the thousands of cases we do on an annual basis, or fighting for extra resources like our new sixth form college, Metrolink and Bus Station or campaigning for the very best services for our town.

MORE LIKE: Watching the city centre redevelopment stagger from pillar to post, watching that muddy regeneration field get still muddier, watching the Cyril Smith the asbestos legacy continue to be fudged, and so on and so forth. Rowen is a sodding Lib Dem. He has no leverage whatsoever. And to call a photo opportunity "fighting" is just an insult to those who really do graft and struggle. Many of the people in Rochdale under Lib Dem MPs and/or councillors.

“The comments made by my political opponent are the type of disgusting smears that Labour is trying to put behind them nationally. The fact is that he completely misrepresented by (sic) expense claims. It is clear that he cannot be trusted on issues like this. I hope that he will have the good grace to apologise and promise in future not to misrepresent facts in this dishonest manner. Behaviour like this drags politics back into the gutter and is morally indefensible. I hope that in future we can have an open debate on the future of Rochdale after decades of Labour neglect.”

What a paragraph of completely unsubstantiated smears. The Rowen smear being that he is himself being smeared. Something he simply cannot stand up. Most everything seems to be fair comment. Apart from one possible factual mistake. And from here on in this elaborate rebuttal can you tell which observations about Rowen's claims were given by the Observer as quotes from his rival? And which were simply editorial?

Fact is Hennigan is crawling round Rochdale saying he has personally written all this nonsense. Danczuk might well consider sueing Hennigan, the ex-Tory bottle boy.

The claims and Mr Rowen's refutations:
Among the more surprising claims made by Mr Rowen were 30p for syrup for his £2.05 latte at Starbucks
Other low profile claims include 40p ... for a banana.
But the list doesn't stop there, with Mr Rowen claiming as little as five pence for a 'bag for life’ at Asda and £1.29 for fries at Burger King.

Who cares about this stuff? Other MPs have taken such exposures with good grace. Fact is most of them claim the maximum of petty cash and have a good dip in the food money. And then they put in silly receipts for pennies too. It is risible. Is all.

Mr Rowen has told the Observer these claims were made on behalf on an unpaid intern, he said: “It is quite clear from the information available to the Rochdale Observer that these claims were made on behalf of an unpaid intern. This was not apparent from the article.

Again, who cares? This practice of unpaid interns really ought to change. Many MPs have already moved away from it. But lunch for interns, or even for PR Paul? Who cares? Looking at the redacted pages of receipts now published by the Telegraph it generally WAS NOT obvious in the cases of most MPs who the claims were made for. And we must remember that Freedom of Information champion Paul Rowen strictly time rationed access for the Rochdale Observer and the Manchester Evening News to his heavily redacted papers.

"Unpaid interns are common in MPs Offices as it gives them valuable experience working in the House of Commons.
"I currently have a student from Rochdale working in my office and have given 4 local people this unique opportunity since being elected in 2005.
"Interns receive reasonable travel and food allowances through these costs and that is what these costs refer to.

Who cares Paul? Seven blooming paragraphs to deal with a tenner's worth of sweeties and snacks. He's protesting too much don't you think? Most MPs just treat this as water off a duck's back. Which is as it should be. Rowen's running round squealing like a stuck pig.

The MP also claimed a total of almost £26,000 for printing and advertising in 2007/08.
Mr Rowen said: “This is simply not true and completely without fact. This implies that a huge amount of money was spent on party political campaigning. The actual figure spent on advertising and printing was £3,539.06. This included my annual report, delivered by volunteers to 42,000 houses in the Rochdale constituency. Since being elected, I have done 4 of them. An annual report is delivered by most MPs across the country. Before it is printed, the House of Commons proof read it. If this printing is party political then they would refuse to pay for it. The fact that it has been accepted means that it is not party political.

This surely is not the print that's being criticised, though this advance proof reading has not AFAIK been the case for the last four years. Again, isn't this £26,000 or the idea it was for just one year thing the Observer's error? Not Simon's? I'm not sure where it came from. Perhaps it's the printing over the four years? That'd be about right.

"The advertising was simply letting constituents know where and when I carry out my advice surgeries and comprised of posters that go in community centres and other community and municipal buildings.

Much of the advertising was in fact scruffy little postage stamp adverts on political leaflets. Paid at many, many times the market rate. Even PR Paul Rowen MP's paid web builders and propagandists at Rochdale Online slammed him for taking adverts on political leaflets. It's a bloody obvious abuse.

Even Malcolm Porn-O could see it was dead wrong. Even if it is "within the rules".

The building is partly owned by the Rochdale Liberal Democrat party, who have shares of less than 30 per cent.
These claims have led Labour Parliamentary candidate to accuse Mr Rowen of using his expenses to raise funds to help fund party politics.

Mr Danczuk said: "The thing that strikes me most, apart from Mr Rowen claiming 40p for a banana, which he could have got from Rochdale market for less than 10p, is the amount of taxpayers’ money that has been claimed to fund the Rochdale Lib Dems.

"Time and time again he has claimed for printing of leaflets and rent of the building with £4,000 claimed for the consultancy services of the North West Lib Dems.

"The taxpayers of Rochdale are paying for these free leaflets to be produced. I am convinced that some of what he is doing is inappropriate."

Advertising on party political leaflets clearly has the effect - the intended effect you would think - of giving his local party money with which they could print more leaflets. Which they used in campaigning. Simple pimple. It might be "within the rules". Or it might not. Let's assume for now that it is. But it is still very, very wrong. "Inappropriate" I think Simon said.

Mr Rowen said: “It is frustrating my political opponent has criticised me and made unsubstantiated allegations.

We'll see who is making unsubstantiated allegations when the fat lady sings Paul. You may thing that weighing in to your local paper and making a right song and dance about this is going to kill off the resentment in Rochdale over the whole MP's expenses scandal. But sadly it will not.

"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. Both contain no political content.

This is downright disingenuous. Paul Rowen paid an absolutely ridiculous amount for tiny adverts in crummy political leaflets. This is a tried and tested Lib Dem trick. If it's "within the rules" then it really shouldn't be. It's plain wrong. Chris Huhne did it when he was an MEP. He used Euro funds to pay for adverts in leaflets FOR HIMSELF as he sought to become an MP.

Clearly these unnecessary and contrived adverts provide Lib Dem party units with the funds to print the leaflets they appear on. It's an old-established principle. Advertising pays for content and printing of many, many publications. Rowen may not, strictly speaking, have paid for these leaflets. But he paid for the adverts. And the adverts paid for the printing. He's splitting hairs. It may be "within the rules" but how does it look Paul Rowen?

"He also implies that there is some sort of impropriety in the rental agreement surrounding our Drake Street offices. 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. In the same way my predecessor Lorna Fitzsimons rented her office from a Labour Councillor (Doug Cronshaw).

This is a gross over-simplification of the Lib Dems Drake Street money generator. According to the parties own accounts there was a 333% increase in rent paid by the party to the ultimate landlord when Rowen was elected. But there were two other features to the arrangements. Rowen paid the local Lib Dem party TWICE this increased annual rent for a part year. So they made £2,000 profit from that. And 90% of what they did pay was GIFTED BACK to the party by Rochdale Reform Buildings Limited.

According to that Lib Dem document. Audited annual accounts. The new MP paid the party about £4,000 for a share in the office space. And once they had the profit from that and the donation from the landlord they banked about £3,800. It hardly touched the sides. Of course this is worrying. As is the lack of clarity on the ownership of the Rochdale Reform Buildings Limited.

If the Lib Dem Party own 30% who owns the other 70%? And why did they give almost all the rent back to the political party in that first year? And how did the tangled relationships here evolve in future years? Sadly and strangely the Lib Dems have stopped publishing their accounts. It's all secret.

"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.

Strikes me Rowen is protesting too much and trying to cover up what are quite extraordinary arrangements, presumably "within the rules", with legal threats and bluster. It'll end in tears Paul, it'll end in tears.

"The £4,000 for the North West Regional Lib Dems pays for invaluable research and advice on region wide policy issues, assistance with region wide media content, communications and coverage, staff training and staff management advice, cross constituency event co-ordination, liaison and promotion of MPs' work across the region and access to regional office services and administration staff.”

All the Lib Dem MPs in the region are sticking this tithe into the pot of the Lib Dem party AS WELL AS specific amounts for specific services by way of training, computer systems and the rest of it. It may be "within the rules" Paul Rowen but how does it look? What would you say if a Labour or Tory rival had pulled half these claims?

FOOTNOTE: Paul Rowen has called on CP Scott's memory. What the man said was: "Facts are sacred, but comment is free." What Simon Danczuk must do is simply lay out the facts of how Paul Rowen has spent taxpayers' money, apparently "within the rules". Let the people decide whether all this was "appropriate" or indeed "inappropriate".


Anonymous said...

Regrettably, there will be no change in Rochdale politics until the Labour party, the Conservative party - or ideally both put up credible candidates.

Anonymous said...

If Paul Rowen is the benchmark for "credible candidate" then the other parties can put up anyone and the politics of Rochdale will indeed be changed. Rowen is a complete greasy sweaty lardy twat. Hennigan is a lying bastard and a drunken scumbag. Their million pound and counting conspiracy is rooking the people of Rochdale. Rowen spends more advertising on local Lib Dem lie sheets than many Rochdale people have for their whole annual income.

Get Real said...

Rowen's tactic is simple and blunt - to go balls in on the small stuff to try to ensure there is little local debate on his expenses in the local media forever.

was the Obby an Aunt Sally for such shenanigans? The new editor a patsy?

Editors have very long memories.

Will this kill the real investigations and reports that dog Paul Rownen and Rochdale Lib Dems? No. it will make them harder to report in the very short run but they will not go away.

The claims of sex abuse, corruption and criminal activity are out there and "Knob of Butter" Rowen cannot unring that bell.

Get Real said...

Rowen's tactic is simple and blunt - to go balls in on the small stuff to try to ensure there is little local debate on his expenses in the local media forever.

was the Obby an Aunt Sally for such shenanigans? The new editor a patsy?

Editors have very long memories.

Will this kill the real investigations and reports that dog Paul Rownen and Rochdale Lib Dems? No. it will make them harder to report in the very short run but they will not go away.

The claims of sex abuse, corruption and criminal activity are out there and "Knob of Butter" Rowen cannot unring that bell.

Chris Paul said...

Alright "Get Real" we heard you. No need to repeat yourself. We'll find out this afternoon whether Hennigan's delighted back cartwheels over his bullying of this craven local paper are justified or not. But looking at the Rowen online story we find that in essence they didn't really make any serious error at all. Rowen is simply smearing them and smearing his opponent. He's the one with the incestuous rental arrangements, the tithe to his party's regional office, all the ridiculously over-priced adverts on party political litter, the fibs about who was paying for the hoardings, the staff allegedly concentrating on political work not casework. Looks like Rowen and Henn have bullied the poor reporter who will have her card marked, even though there's scarcely a mistake. And they've immediately bullied the new editor too. And the regional papers group, which is essentially run by a bean counter anyway. Will they even be leaning on the MEN Chief Reporter Dave Ottewell?

Someone among these needs to stick up for the story and stick some fingers up in the direction of the bastard nasty bully. The word Henn is putting out is that the Obbie are giving £5,000 to charity over what amounts to fair comment and a small error. Can that be true?

And has Rowen come through with a list of his own charitable donations in the two years when he was a councillor and an MP? Supposedly giving away all his councillor allowances. Does he think the Lib Dems are "charity"? Is that it?

Get Real said...

Do Paul Rowen and Cyril Smith have the same speech writer?

Oh no, there is a difference...

Paul Rowen suggests the grave rolling of C.P Scott (founder of the Manchester Guardian)

A few months ago, when news came out that the Rochdale Obscurer was closing its Rochdale Office, Spanker Cyril had a letter in the Ob that spoke of Norman Stott turning in his grave.

Not the Norman Scott linked to Jeremy Thorpe doggy shenanighans but Norman Stott the early 20th century Rochdale Freemason, Rochdale Observer owner and editor, Curtain Theatre big wig (together with Samuel Turner of Turner & Newell Asbestos Co).

wheels within wheels.

Poor Paul Rowen says this has just been the hardest time of his political life.

God help him soon then.

Anonymous said...

Rowen will probably bow out gracefully very soon. Quit while he is just about ahead.

Step forward Cllr Hothouse or Couzens?

Anonymous said...

Rowen bleated that recently was "the worst week in his political life"

He has got one hell of a year in front of him!

Time for him to get out the Kleenex.

Something someone so lonely is probably used to.