Boris Johnson’s unlucky dirty tricks on the No 13 bus

The Number 13 bus - not to be used by Boris for a dirty tricks! Pictire Credit: Commons

The Number 13 bus – not to be used by Boris for a dirty tricks! Picture Credit: Commons

Is there no desperate act a politician will stoop if his mate could lose his seat on may 7? Well Boris Johnson is prepared to do it to save Mike Freer, his Tory colleague standing for Finchley and Golders Green even it means telling porkies in the seat that once returned Margaret Thatcher and has a large Jewish vote.

Threatened according to another Tory peer and now eminence gris of the pollsters, Lord Ashcroft, with losing his seat to Labour’s Sarah Sackman on May 7, Boris thought he could perform a minor miracle and save a much loved bus route,the number 13 from Golders Green to Aldwych and swing the vote.

Unfortunately for him his success turned out to be a lie – because he has no power to do so particularly under the purdah rules in a General Election which forbids politicians ( and Boris is of course a Parliamentary candidate elsewhere) from taking controversial decisions for electoral gains.

This didn’t stop Mike Freer – see below – posing with Boris on his website announcing he had saved the Number 13.

As he says on his website:

” London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has today announced that the Number 13 Bus from Golders Green to Aldwych has been retained. The Mayor’s announcement follows a long-running campaign by Mike Freer to save the much loved service. Mike raised the issue of the 13 bus during the Mayor’s visit to Golders Green last week.

Mike comments ““I’ve already had a meeting with TfL and told them they were wrong and when Boris came to Golders Green recently I told him he needed to go back to the drawing board.

The proposals have been dropped and the number 13 is going nowhere. I’m very happy about it. It’s always useful when you can get things done.

“Being an MP you don’t always get your own way but sometimes you can get a result like this. Under Boris’s mayoralty, the number 13 is going nowhere.”

Err Unfortunately not true Mr Freer. That is not the story Transport for London are telling the people as this letter shows:

Dear Stakeholder

We recently consulted on proposals for changes to bus routes along Finchley Road and Abbey Road, which included the replacement of route 13 with alterations to routes 82 and 139. We received over 3000 responses to the consultation which is now closed. However, concerns have been expressed that the consultation has been partially undertaken during the pre-election period which runs until 7th May.

It is therefore our intention not to progress the scheme at this time.  The comments received from this consultation will however be used to inform future bus network planning in the Finchley Road and Abbey Road areas, and any resulting proposals would be subject to further public consultation.

 Yours sincerely

Peter Bradley

Head of Consultation

Transport for London

All that has happened is that Transport for London has already postponed the consultation until after the election – when it will come back again. No doubt Mr Freer hopes he will have been safely re-elected by then and of course will have no interest in any cuts that follow for his constituents.

How Ashcroft got a peerage and no tax bills

lord ashcroft- a non dom peer for a decade-picture courtesy the Guardian

Lord Ashcroft must have been laughing all the way to the tax office for the last decade if the revelations produced by the release of Whitehall memos telling the story of the scrutiny of his peerage are anything to go by.

 They show that the ultra canny lord successfully managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the scrutiny committee, enlist the loyal support of leading Tories to keep his non dom status and befuddle and exasperate some of the country’s leading mandarins. No wonder he is a billionaire, pity any business partner negotiating over the small print with him.

 By concentrating on the semantic difference between being a “long term resident” rather than a “permanent resident” Lord Ashcroft managed to both escape paying tax and still get a peerage with all the status and influence that implies in both Parliament and the business world.

 It is totally clear from the reaction of Baroness Dean that the scrutiny committee believed that he had agreed to the terms and conditions to pay tax in order to get his peerage. But in fact under a deal negotiated by the then chief whip, James Arbuthnot, and Sir Hayden Phillips, the Whitehall mandarin in charge of the negotiations, it was nothing of the sort.

What yesterday’s hearing by the Commons Public Administration committee reveals is a question mark over Sir Hayden’s role – whether he knew that the deal he was negotiating had let Ashcroft off the hook. Certainly Sir Hayden was probably fed up to the back teeth with the issue and probably wanted it sorted out. But it is rather surprising that he insists he did not know of the tax implications.

 What I have been told by a very senior Whitehall source is that Sir Hayden happily took on the job because another figure Lord Wilson, then Cabinet Secretary, didn’t want his hands dirty over such a hot political potato. It is therefore possible that the jovial Sir Hayden got out of his depth in dealing with such a slippery customer as Lord A.

This leaves the issue of how much senior Tories knew about it all. It is crystal clear that Arbuthnot knew exactly what was going on. He seems to have been up to his eyes in securing Ashcroft the peerage. I find it hard to believe that William Hague was also  in ignorance. Ashcroft  is very close to Hague, funds his Parliamentary office and jets around the world with him as shadow foreign secretary. Even at that time his office could have had a look at Ashcroft’s chequebook- and see where the donations came from. So it is possible that Hague could have known at the time, not just in the last few months, that Ashcroft was not paying tax.

Two figures come out well in this sorry saga. Tony Wright, the Labour chairman of the committee, who stuck to his guns and held the inquiry, despite a childish boycott by Tories on the committee. The other is Gus O’Donnell, the present Cabinet secretary. By releasing the documents rather than keeping them secret, he has shed a lot of light on a very murky tale about the award of peerages. Both have done voters a great service in the run up to the election.

This blog is also on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website.

Conservative Home: Asset or Tory trojan horse

tim montgomerie -Con Home success could be Cameron's dilemma

If David Cameron wins the next general election, will Conservative Home be an asset or a Trojan horse that could wreck the first Tory government in 13 years?

Like its right wing counterparts in America the website is one of the great success stories in giving a lively voice to free market and Conservative views. It reflects the wide gamut of party opinions on Europe, crime, benefits and taxation. It is to the embarrassment of Tory spin doctors at Central Office singularly unafraid of carrying blogs criticising the Cameron leadership.  Witness the recent public debate on the site over whether Cameron was out of touch and living in a protected bubble from the rest of the party as he roamed round Parliament. Something you might expect more on Labour Home than Conservative Home.

Despite being funded by billionaire Tory donor Lord Ashcroft there appears to be no heavy hand of censorship and some Tory stars like Eurosceptics David Davis and John Redwood are more popular on Conservative Home than members of the present Shadow Cabinet.

Much of its success is due to the personality of Tim Montgomerie, a Christian Tory who is less abrasive than his anarchic right wing counterparts, Tory Bear and Guido Fawkes. He appears to have taken the view that a well read website should not have to toe the party line and can produce uncomfortable facts for the leadership. None more embarrassing recently than the low priority many of a new generation of Tory prospective MPs give to the environment and climate change – despite the Cameron leadership emphasising the “ Blue  Green “ nature of modern Conservatism. It is almost a Christian view of ensuring the leadership have to turn the other cheek when they face a problem.

This is fine while the party remains in opposition but what would happen if it came to power. Now most of the criticism of Cameron is hidden in a deluge of comment attacking New Labour or as many Tory bloggers call it, Nu Labour. It is very easy to take pop shots at Brown over bullying, or slam Ed Balls for his ruthlessness. Attacking Harman and the Milibands is no doubt very helpful to the Tory leadership. They can be blamed for broken Britain.

  But in power it would be different and the signs are that the real Tory party is nothing like the one the Cameron leadership presents to the electorate. It would be extraordinary if the right wing blogosphere that has none of the old guard deference to the leadership did not organise against it with same ferocity it attacks Nu Labour.

I know this is already happening. Before Cameron even has a chance of putting a foot inside Number Ten, Tory right wing rivals, UKIP, have spotted that Cameron appears to have foolishly pledged to hold a debate in Parliament on whether the UK should stay in the EU. Provided, of course, one million people sign a petition.

Organising a million strong petition on the net is child’s play with Facebook, Guido Fawkes and of course Conservative Home, only too happy to play a part. And UKIP has said to me that with many of their friends on Conservative Home sympathising with their views on Europe, they think that debate would have to take place soon. No wonder Cameron is despatching the old pro European bruiser Kenneth Clarke to Brussels to reassure our partners in the EU.

And why stop at Europe? Big tax cuts, bringing back hanging, demanding the right to kill a burglar, abolishing trade unions, opposing action on climate change, none of which are on Cameron’s immediate         agenda, could  become the new  on line demands.

Lord A could pull the plug on Con Home after a Tory victory. But the genie is out of the bottle and the Tory leadership is in for a rough ride from the grass roots cyber fighters on the right.

This post is also on the Progress website under Tory Tracker at