Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nic Starling: An Open Letter to the Norfolk Blogger

Faced with a listing of some of PR Paul Rowen MP's little wrinkles around allowances claims and best Lib Dem practice the Norfolk Blogger Nic Starling has left a pithy rejoinder (also above). Here's an open letter in reply:

Dear Nic

Thanks for your enquiry. The answer is two fold:

  • First, it would seem that a large volume of queries and discrepancies did see the light of day courtesy of the Telegraph, particularly for Labour MPs who got first drubbing over sins great and small but mostly pretty pathetic, and then Conservative MPs, which were often moat'tastic and bourgeois;
  • Second, it would seem that the Liberal Democrats got off very lightly indeed. Not to be treated seriously. Clearly Lib Dem MPs as a tribe were rather more sensible on second homes in London, barring the few fat cats like Lord Rennard, but it seems to us that Lib Dem MPs have quite simply got away with a different category of gaming the system. A third way.

  • For the Labourites, mirroring their constituents on council estates, it was often a case of finding themselves with a few bob and getting a big fuck off telly or two on the taxpayer. Positioned so it can be seen by neighbours, natch.

    For the Tories, mirroring their core vote or perhaps not so much, it was Wisteria, Moat Cleaning, Ride on Lawnmowers and Duck Houses. And a nanny.

    My point is that for the Lib Dems it appears to be relatively modest amounts of these two vices plus a sort of "within the rules" money laundering which for some reason or other the media haven't latched onto.

    As I stated before I think it is a case of delayed gratification and not somehow charitable or reasonable to raid the tax pot to fund campaigning. And Mr Chris Davies vain and feigned fury at Bournemouth is the cherry on the icing of the cake of Lib Dem hypocrisy and shamelessness on expenses.

    Sooner or later LOL feel that this hubris and what I feel is hypocrisy will come back and bite Mr Davies' bony fell running arse.

    This stuff often isn't "within the rules" at all - in my opinion - because the expenditure isn't necessary and doesn't help representation of the constituents who are paying for these schemes.

    Paul Rowen MP epitomises this meme. There are plenty of other candidates. But Rowen is a tremendous example. He is so very up himself. His people are fighting so very dirty. And he really isn't all that as an MP. He wasn't all that as a councillor to be honest.

    The more I delve into the records of Rowen's LD colleagues the more of a pattern can be seen. Almost as if there is a coordinated strategy of maxxing campaign war chests by systematically exploiting loopholes, grey areas, and to my mind plain old cheek.

    Mr Starling has a blog. Lots of Lib Demmers have blogs. If there are examples of Labour MPs in "worse offences" then for goodness sake let's be having them. We'd want rid of any MPs who were bending the rules to the extent I believe Mr Rowen and others are doing. I'd personally organise a "recall" campaign if I thought my MP was up to the sorts of tricks carried out by Mr Rowen.

    I'd say the Labour and Tory excesses and errors of judgement have mostly been raked over with a fine tooth comb by the Torygraph. What I cannot see is an equivalent raking over with a fine tooth comb of the sort of gimmicks the Lib Dem franchises appear to be collectively practicing. Your party are missing out. And LOL are all for fair play. Here are some of the headline characteristic Lib Dem gimmicks:

  • 1. Arguably contrived office tenancies, with often unregulated office and equipment shares, and in Rowen's case an independent valuation apparently coming from a Board Member of his Lib Dem supporting/owned ultimate landlord;
  • 2. Generally speaking undeclared tithes on elected councillors and MPs which are neither registered as donations nor trigger party accounts though clearly eligible for both types of transparency;
  • 3. Advertising surgeries and the like on political leaflets, at silly prices, which is poor value for money and which looks like tax money paying for party politics;
  • 4. All sorts of gimmicks around printing. Ridiculous apportionment of costs. And "Printing Societies" which are unincorporated and unaudited "black box" schemes appear to be endemic;
  • 5. A prevalence of street fighting agent types not caseworkers, apparently paid for by tax pounds but appearing to do party politics not casework.
  • 6. Mysterious standard payments to Party Offices for who knows what. From Tax pounds not from tithe on earnings.

  • On a sample basis PR Paul Rowen MP appears to have political attack dogs instead of case workers. And the Lib Dem group's tithe apparently pays for another attack dog working in the same space and with the same smeary style as the smeary Riso in the back room. The last time his party published accounts - a good long time ago, despite the apparent turnover - they spoke of the MP taking over the cost of the political workers and the party no longer having to fund them.

    In Rowen's case there are also some local angles and obviously the hilarious banana and the mysterious TV Services (£9.99). And the "owned" local web publisher (a Tory freemason and pornographer lite, tea totaller and born again "Christian") who is acting like a super numerary attack dog of the vilest kind, while getting paid with tax pounds to produce a website from the PCA that itself appears to flaunt the rules from time to time.

    And there are also four cases of three and four figure claims being knocked back by the Fees Office. Common enough. But whereas we know about the Labour and Tory idiots whose claims were thrown out as try ons there is little information about Rowen's. I needed an FOIA requests to even get a start.

    And of course Rowen is an ex- Deputy Head sitting not so pretty on a tasty pension pot for that. And he took two years of two job double helpings, claiming he was giving his councillor take to charity and would reveal all. But so far he has failed to do so.

    And Rowen is a remunerated Director of an offshore company directly linked to a property company on his patch. And that local company is business-linked to the Lib Dem run council through leasing them substantial offices. And Rowen has some Euro gravy also.

    Mr Rowen claims manfully that everything he does is "within the rules" and in terms of the letter of the rules it might be. Sailing very close to the wind for this old windbag. But it might be.

    Exploiting loopholes and pushing the envelope in the grey areas. But my feeling is that much of it offends the underlying test of being wholly necessary, much of it is terrible value for money, and in this new age of expected purity the electorate's recalibrated nostrils are twitching.

    They do not like what they can smell from Mr Rowen's direction. And not just that baleful aftershave.

    LOL are not for one minute suggesting that there are no bad apples left to expose among the Labour or indeed Tory ranks. But what I am suggesting is that these contrived practices appear to be concentrated heavily among Lib Dems and simply ARE NOT found to be endemic in the other parties.

    Taking each in turn.

  • There are no doubt local Labour Party units that own property but fluid sharing of space between Westminster and campaigning activity is a big no no. It really is. And the rent ramps on election in Rochdale are prodigious.
  • Manchester Labour Group contribute regularly to political funds. But unlike say Rochdale Lib Dems this is completely transparent and declared to the Electoral Commission, published on their website, included in published accounts, open and transparent.
  • I am not aware of any of this advertising to pay for leaflets malarkey in my party. Seems to be common as muck among Lib Dems, including the saintly Mr Chris Davies hisself.
  • Should Manchester Labour ever create a Printing Society I would expect that to be registered with the Electoral Commission as an intermediary and to operate an open book policy. This cannot be said for WPS, RLDPS, Beveridge PS and so on and so forth. A mere handful of recognisably LD printing societies worry the scorers at the Electoral Commission. A few Lib Dem MPs with a conscience?
  • Labour caseworkers are of course usually members and some are elected councillors. Most of them put in a few hours volunteering for the party where they live. We'd expect nothing less. However they actually spend their working hours doing casework!
  • Labour don't do this. Don't think Tories do. Looks iffy.

  • So Nic Starling ... LOL will bring Lib Dem and Tory expenses, allowances and donations schemes kicking and screaming into the light. If there are Labour MPs with "worse offences" than Rowen's catalogue of GRASPING BANANAS NONSENSE then please be shining the disinfecting light onto them too.

    If you make the case well LOL will even link to your posts Nic. And we've one or two stories in "legal" at the moment ourselves.

    Yours aye aye

    Chris Paul

    UPDATE: Point 6 and response added at 13:58.

    Finally, as a little adjunct to yesterday's Lib Dem PPC Crazy in Machine Gun Hoax scandal we've found this cutting in the archives at the much missed Fib Dems site.


    Unknown said...

    Labour MPs pay into the party from their salaries after they are paid - i.e. once it is their money. Almost every Lib DEm pays several thousand pounds each year into their Party Parliamentary Office POLD from their office allowance. I haven't the time to tot it up across all of them but expect that around £200k is being syphoned from public funds into political activities. Can't work out why this has not yet been picked up by the media (expect local paper covering Devon and Cornwall)

    benchilltory said...

    its a shame that your story of jiggery pokery with the Rochdale lib dems is not making its way onto the headlines....trouble is the media is covering tales of the problems that a labour minister are having with her servants!

    Chris Paul said...

    Yes Paul. If it is 63 of the buggers and £4,000 a throw it's £1.25M over the life of the parliament. And in NW Chris Davies MEP is tenant in their regional office too. Possibly similra in other regions.

    The Lib Dem MPs also join councillors in paying tithes.

    Lib Dem group on RMBC is paying out £25,000 or so per year as tithe on back benchers plus allegedly something like £50,000 per year from special responsibilities pay, plus the MP also being tithed we assume. Say £5,000.

    That is an eye-boggling revenue NOT declared as donations and NOT triggering local party accounts either.

    Chris Paul said...

    BHT: The story is with the MSM currently, with some exclusive features I'm not blogging just yet. there was a publication due today actually but another story bumped it from the prime space in the particular publication concerned.

    The "servant" (singular) problem is as nothing compare to the huge amounts of money apparently being systematically gamed out of the tax pounds by the Lib Dems.

    They're not nice. And they are certainly not open and honest.

    Chris Paul said...

    PS Paul

    Did the Devon and Cornwall story make the web edition?

    Paul Rowen's former accountant said...

    Paul Rowen MP has his fat grubby hands in Corinya (UG) Ltd - as Private Eye would say, this is a Ugandan company. (Handy for charidee visits to East African children's homes)

    That makes Corinya (UG) Ltd in company law parlance an OVERSEAS company not OFFSHORE company.

    Perhaps you had the OFFSHORE Island of Jersey in mind as a freudian slip regarding Rochdale Lib Dems and Cyril Smith- Haut de la Garenne children's home and historic sexual abuse and all that.

    Chris Paul said...

    Offshore, overseas ... who's bothered? It's not a jurisdiction where it is easy to get company stats, results, reports and financials that's for sure.

    The story here is the fact that that overseas company is largely owned by a Rochdale based property company which is a landlord to the Lib Dem RMBC and the owner of all sorts of land and property in the borough.

    How does Rowen come to be involved? He's an ex- Deputy Head. Does he have some instinctive grasp of property letting and property development? Did he just stick in a load of cash at the outset? How did this thing get put together? In what way isn't this a conflict of interest from which Mr Rowen should have disinvested?

    Come on Paul, explain yourself.

    What fees, drawings and dividends have you had from this company in the whole history of your involvement? Disclosing just the last year is actually annoying and raises more questions than it answers. (It was £1500 you declared)

    What is your shareholding now worth?

    How on earth can you justify a continued involvement in this business given its links to the Rochdale council on which you used to serve and so on?


    The other shareholders are a Kenyan guy and the Rochdale Austrians that own the UK Corinya. And it is the Uganda company I believe that sponsors the Suubi orphanage near Entebbe. It was a different orphanage, across the border in Kenya where he had a dabble, working holiday wise.

    I wasn't thinking of Jersey and I don't understand what you're getting at with the deaths in the orphanage connection you're making.

    Was Cyril Smith in any way connected with the Haut de la Garenne story? NO. Cut it out.

    Anonymous said...

    No Cyril Smith wasn't involved in the child abuse in Jersey. The important thing to connect Cyril and Jersey is the fact that the wheels of criminal justice can turn slowly in a 'local' place where in the past some in the police, justices, doctors and some politicians and freemason acted in a cabal to keep sex crimes secret and unpunished.

    The insular, cosy Establishment of Jersey in the 1960's has stark similarities to Rochdale in the days of Alderman Cyril Smith.

    It seems it took a new Jersey Chief of Police from across the water to break the silence and secure a prosecution.

    As for Rochdale, despite the advancing years, those victims of Cambridge House in the early 1960's deserve justice.

    Nich Starling said...

    I seem to think that much of what you say can be levelled at most Labour MP's too.

    Oh, by the way, who the hell is Nic ? I am Nich.

    Thanks for the response though. I must blogroll you (later).

    Unknown said...


    The article did make thisis website for devon & cornwall will try and find it - not kept on facebook group - oops