Today I have published from a new database how much money MPs made from second jobs in the last Parliament with Boris Johnson top of the premier league of high earners. Read the full story in Byline Times here and see for yourself from a link to the database here. You can check your own MP.
When someone as distinguished as Lord Falconer, a former Lord Chancellor, writes to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Met Police chief, and the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, people should take sit up and take notice.
The extraordinary story that senior people in Downing Street and the Conservative Party were prepared to either bribe people with peerages or offer other inducements such as jobs, presumably funded by the taxpayer to stand down in a general election is almost unbelievable.
Not since David Lloyd George, a former Liberal PM, was involved in handing out peerages has this ever happened in British politics. And if anything this is almost Trumpian in its excess – only that the Prime Minister would not get impeached in this country if he allowed it.
I am not surprised that Downing Street and the Conservative Party is desperately trying to deny it happened – as they would know it was a criminal offence.
I am reproducing the letter in full here:
Lord Falconer of Thoroton, House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
15 November 2019
Dear Director and Dame Cressida,
I wish to raise with you as a matter of urgency a number of recent reports in which senior figures in the Brexit Party have alleged that some of their candidates had been approached by the Conservative Party in an effort to persuade them to withdraw their candidacies from the upcoming General Election.
On 14 November the Leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage MEP, tweeted that “Boris Johnson’s Chief Strategic Adviser Sir Edward Lister is calling our candidates and offering them jobs if they withdraw”.[i]
The following day Mr Farage said that candidates from his party had come “under intimidation” from the Conservative Party, and added that “officials from Number 10 ringing up candidates and offering them jobs if they stand down.”
Mr Farage also claimed that he, along with eight “senior figures” in his party, were offered peerages.[ii] Meanwhile, it was reported on Thursday that one Brexit Party candidate, Anne Widecombe, was told she would be part of the government’s post-election Brexit negotiating team if she stood down, according to senior Brexit party officials.[ii
Today, Ms Widdecombe has given an interview to the BBC confirming that she had received multiple phone calls from a figure in No. 10 attempting to persuade her to stand down and offering inducements to do so:
“I was rung up twice by somebody at No 10.The first time it was really about how I had a moral obligation to stand down. It was all that kind of stuff. The second time it was to say that if I did stand down, I would be offered ‘a role in the negotiations’.” Anne Widdecombe, BBC News, 15 November 2019
On the 11 November, Mr Farage announced that his party would not stand candidates in 317 seats won by the Conservatives in 2017, but would be standing candidates in all other seats in Great Britain. However, since then at least two Brexit Party candidates have withdrawn from seats which the Conservative Party did not win in 2017.[iv]
I believe these allegations raise serious questions about the integrity of the upcoming General Election, and in particular whether senior individuals at CCHQ or No. 10 have breached two sections of the Representation of the People Act 1983 namely:
s.107: Any person who corruptly induces or procures any other person to withdraw from being a candidate at an election, in consideration of any payment or promise of payment, and any person withdrawing in pursuance of the inducement or procurement, shall be guilty of an illegal payment. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1983/2
And/or s. 113 (2): (2) A person shall be guilty of bribery if he, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf— (c) makes any such gift or procurement [gives money or procured an office] as mentioned above to or for any person in order to induce that person to procure, or endeavour to procure, the return of any person at an election or the vote of any voter,or if upon or in consequence of any such gift or procurement as mentioned above he procures or engages, promises or endeavours to procure the return of any person at an election or the vote of any voter. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/15-16/72
Given that ‘payment’ is defined in s.118 of the 1983 Act as meaning “any pecuniary or other reward”, this would indicate that s. 107 is wide enough to cover promises of the kind alleged to have been made in this case. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1983/2/section/118
I also bring to your attention s.1 (2) of the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925, which states: If any person gives, or agrees or proposes to give, or offers to any person any gift, money or valuable consideration as an inducement or reward for procuring or assisting or endeavouring to procure the grant of a dignity or title of honour to any person, or otherwise in connection with such a grant, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanour. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/15-16/72
Furthermore, as breaches of the 1983 Act may have taken place, pursuant to s. 181 of the 1983 Act, I am formally requesting that the Director of Public Prosecutions do institute the necessary investigations and commence such prosecutions as he sees fit. Finally, as a senior civil servant has been named in these allegations, I am also sending a copy of this letter to the Head of the Civil Service, Sir Mark Sedwill.
Sincerely, Lord Falconer
Footnotes: Nigel Farage, Twitter, 14 November 2019, https://twitter.com/Nigel_Farage/status/1195010065947869186?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Et weetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1195010065947869186&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com% 2Fpolitics%2F2019%2Fnov%2F14%2Fnigel-farage-says-he-is-unlikely-to-vote-for-any-party-in-election
Sky News, 15 November 2019, https://news.sky.com/story/general-election-farage-claims-no-10- offered-brexit-party-candidates-jobs-to-stand-down-11861383
One really has to ask what lengths will these people go to ” fix ” the election result.
The Swiss will introduce work quotas, the Danes and Estonians will treat new Brits settling there after Oct 31 under the Alien laws and the Belgians will introduce tough border checks to see whether we have enough money to holiday there.
All this is in new legislation already passed by many of the 31 countries in Europe to counter Boris Johnson’s No deal Brexit on October 31.
Halloween or October 31 may be more of a dramatic day this year than just the date set for a ” no deal ” Brexit.
It could also be the day of the next general election – if the ruthless approach by Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief executive to get Brexit done is a top priority.
I have no inside information but logic points to this possibility now the political scene in Whitehall has changed beyond all recognition with the election of Boris Johnson as PM and surrounding himself with a Vote Leave government.
With a majority of one it is quite clear that Johnson cannot continue as PM until 2022 and hope to get anything through Parliament. But he needs to choose a general election date with considerable care. Too early and he risks a more resurgent Remain Parliament since the Liberal Democrats ,SNP and Labour will campaign against a “ No deal” and move to revoke Article 50. Too late and he could face a backlash if “Project Fear” turns into “Project Reality” and the experience of Brexit goes sour on the British people.
My full analysis is in Byline Times here.
CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM
A damning report from the Commons women and equalities committee has attacked the country’s equality watchdog and ministers for their complacent attitude in tackling age discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere.
The report released by the all party committee of MPs warns that the talents of up to one million women over the age of 50 are being wasted by outdated employment policies. Its strongly worded condemnation of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and ministers responsible for equality follows what can only be described as a pretty lack lustre response from both.
Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP, said:
“Without effective intervention from the Government and EHRC, we cannot see how discriminatory practices against older people in employment, that we know are rife, will be tackled. That’s why I find the responses we have received today disappointing as we had hoped they would have worked together to agree specific enforcement actions across both the public and private sectors.
Our Committee will be taking follow up action to make sure we get the change that is desperately needed.”
The response from MPs highlights what they see as a failure to implement the 2010 Equality Act. They are particularly scathing of the failure by the EHRC which has powers – which appear to be rarely used – to use enforcement procedures against employers who have ageist recruitment policies.
The lack of the use of its powers is worrying given that campaigners for 50s women who are waiting up to six years to get a pension also want the EHRC to use its powers to remedy what they see as discrimination against this group. This group who are being forced to look for work until they are 65 – are facing a double bind of finding employers don’t want them while the state won’t give them a pension.
They have even had the facetious suggestion from Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, that they take jobs as apprenticeships at £3.60 an hour while they wait until they get a pension.
The EHRC today said it would take action – even though this seems to be confined to fine words rather than deeds.
A spokeswoman said: ““Everyone has the right to work and the right to a working environment that allows them to achieve their full potential. We have taken and will continue to take robust enforcement action, using all of our statutory powers, to tackle unlawful discrimination and ensure that no one is excluded from the workplace. This includes enabling Britain’s employers to benefit from the talent and contributions of workers of all ages.
“The right to request flexible working should apply from day one in all jobs and we have stressed the need for employers to make their workplaces accessible for everyone, including older people, parents and carers. We have also sought to tackle bias in recruitment by taking action against discriminatory adverts that request characteristics or terms that are associated with a particular age group.”
MPs are particularly angry that the government will not enact section 14 of the Equality Act – which would allow people to bring multiple ground cases against employers who discriminate against them. Thus an older woman could not bring a case on both age and sex – she has to choose one or the other.
Both former women’s minister Harriet Harman and the Fawcett Society have condemned ministers for not doing this. The government says it won’t do it because it increases burdens on business and promises more research in its response. One has to ask as this legislation was passed by Parliament – there must have been some research already behind it – so this is a pretty lame excuse.
The government uses the same excuse of putting too much a burden on employers to make it mandatory for firms employing over 250 people to publish an age breakdown of staff. Yet Whitehall already does it.
Altogether this is a pretty pathetic response from both the government and the watchdog to a serious issue. But I am very glad that the committee is also very dissatisfied and intends to pursue both organisations to come up with something better. You can get the full report here.
CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM
I have stayed in a number of Premier Inns on holiday and the atmosphere has always been cheap and cheerful with an emphasis on a good night’s sleep and a good value breakfast.
That is until this year when my wife and I stayed at the Lauriston Place hotel in Edinburgh for the festival. Last year we stayed at its more centrally placed York Place hotel and found it efficient with obliging staff.
During the last 12 months what has changed? For a start there were fewer EU staff which suggests that the chain – in common with national figures released by the government – can no longer rely on people from Europe coming to work here.
Brexiteers- including Jacob Rees Mogg and Nigel Farage – say by halting low paid and unskilled immigration from the EU – British workers will benefit from higher wages and better conditions because firms will have to pay them more.
Well so far if the Premier Inn at Lauriston Place is any guide this ain’t happening. From talking to some of the staff instead Whitbread are using recruitment problems to make staff double up and do the work of two people or give people huge work schedules which they can’t possibly do in time.
And if that fails they are starting to withdraw services to customers. For three out of five nights we were there Premier Inn stopped offering to serve anyone who wanted to dine in their hotel restuarant if you wanted to walk in. Notices of apology – rather reminiscent of the privatised rail companies explaining poor services- were posted in lifts and at the front desk. One even included a reference to bad weather – it was raining outside.
And if you did dine there – by getting a rare booking – the menu appeared to be a wish list rather than an accurate description of what you could eat. The restuarant had run out of rib eyed steak and chocolate puddings – rather basic fare that should not be subject to food shortages in Edinburgh.
And the cleaning was also under pressure. On one rainy day the room was not cleaned until after 4.0 pm. I found the cleaner, a middle aged woman in, I guess, her 50s, exhausted pushing a cleaning trolley in the hotel corridor.
She had five floors of bedrooms to clean and her shift which was supposed to end at 1.0 pm had taken three hours longer because of the large number of rooms (well over 100) that had to be cleaned. We took pity on her and decided our room did not need a thorough clean that day.
As for a pay rises they were out of the question. Instead the company seems to be relying on higher turnover of staff as people leave rather than paying higher wages.
And wages are low -basically the national minimum wage of £7.83 an hour rather than the national living wage . The figures are here on this website.
Those with higher responsibilities -like being a chief chef – get on average another 82p an hour.
Compare that with the top management of owners Whitbread. The latest remuneration report of the company shows a different picture -rather similar to the widening gap shown between bosses and workers published this month.
Alison Brittan, the 53 year old ex banker chief executive of Whitbread, under an incentive package can get up to £3.4 million a year if she achieves her targets which include opening as many new Premier Inns as possible.
If she is a failure she still walks off with £1m a year – 20 per cent going into a pension so she’ll be able to retire in luxury at 60 if she wants to not caring a bit that her staff will have to work until they are 67. I suspect if any of her lowly paid staff failed, they are promptly sacked.
Two years ago her minimum salary was £775,000 – so she has enjoyed a minimum of £225,000 pay rise while most of Britain’s workers have been lucky to get a one per cent increase.
She claims in an article in the Daily Mail that she only ever stays in Premier Inns. If she does I bet her room is being cleaned while she has breakfast and if she dines there – she has a full choice.
I did put put questions to Premier Inn earlier this week about current wages, turnover of staff, and whether Brexit was making the recruitment of staff difficult but they could not be bothered to reply or acknowledge the request.
One thing is certain I won’t be staying in a Premier Inn when I go to the Lake District. Sorry Lenny.
CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM
Many angry 50s women frustrated they can’t get a pension for up to six years – have the power at the ballot box to knock out the MPs who voted for the change. Since the next general election will be closely fought and many seats have narrow majorities they are literally – no pun intended -in poll position to effect change.
There isn’t a constituency in the United Kingdom that has less than 3000 of these pensioners according to a breakdown helpfully provided by the House of Commons library.
And it is the current Theresa May government and her DUP allies who are vigorously pursuing higher and higher retirement ages for future generations of pensioners that are the MPs most at risk. The Conservatives got a high proportion of votes from the over 60s at the last general election so need these votes to win the next election.
The biggest voter power of this group is in the Isle of Wight – where there are over 10,000 people affected by the raising of the pension age.The Tory MP, Bob Seely appears to have an impregnable 20,998 majority – but that would be halved if this group of people voted didn’t vote for him.. The main challenger there is Labour who came second and if people switched their vote to Labour it would become a highly marginal seat.
Much more vulnerable is home secretary and ironically women and equalities minister Amber Rudd, whose Hastings and Rye seat, has 7400 people affected. She has a majority of 366 and Labour is the main challenger. There are 20 times more people hit by the change than her majority.
Another ultra marginal is Calder Valley where the Conservative MP Craig Whittaker,a Treasury whip, has a majority of 609 over Labour. There are 7000 people affected by the change in his constituency.
Similarly Corby where Tom Pursglove has a Conservative majority of 2,690 – it is more than outnumbered by 7,300 people affected. Both Milton Keynes seats (North and South) have small 2000+ Tory majorities but over 14,000 people affected between them. And Scarborough where Conservative MP Robert Goodwill has a 3435 majority is dwarfed by 7,100 people affected.
The entire London borough of Barnet is another hotspot. Chipping Barnet, where Theresa Villiers, Conservative MP and ex minister, has a 353 majority has 6,200 people affected. Labour is again the main challenger. Next door Hendon which also has 6.200 people affected. Tory MP Matthew Offord has a majority of 1072 over Labour .In Finchley and Golders Green Tory Mike Freer has a majority of 1657 over Labour and there are 6000 people affected.
There are also a string of safe Tory seats with between 7,000 and 7,800 pensioners who have lost out where the Tory majority can be severely dented or turned into marginals by switching to the highest challenger. Among these are Beverley and Holderness ( Graham Stuart majority 14,042); Bridgewater and West Somerset ( Ian Liddell-Grainger majority 15,448); Croydon South ( Chris Philp majority 11,406); South Dorset ( Richard Drax majority 11,695), Wells (James Heappey, majority 7585 over liberal democrat) and Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk ( John Lamont, majority 11,060).
Among Labour seats with over 7,000 pensioners affected include marginal Colne Valley (Thelma Walker majority 915) and safe seats Croydon North and Brent North. The most marginal with over 7000 affected people is Rutherglen and Hamilton West held by Gerrard Killen with a majority of 265 over SNP.
DUP seats with the largest numbers of people affected ( 6500 and 6400 respectively) are Upper Bann held by David Simpson with a 7,992 majority and Antrim North held by Ian Paisley Jnr with a 11,546 majority.
None of the Welsh Parliamentary seats had more than 7000 pensioners.
In addition there are those with lower numbers of people affected but who could influence the result. One is East Worthing and Shoreham which has 6,100 people affected. The MP is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on State Pension Inequality for Women pensioners group, Tim Loughton. He has a 5106 majority over Labour.
These results suggest that Waspi and BackTo60 supporters supporters have more influence than they realise. It is a question of energising it.
Check your own constituency in the table here. It is an Excel document. Go the page and scroll until the bottom and click on constituency estimates.