Monday, October 29, 2007

Oh my God how incredibly embarassing!

What a pleasure, Bob Piper has linked to me saying I am a "fearless investigator of dodgy dealings in public life". Slight problem, I'm actually just an IT geek who is also a card-carrying Tory with a habit - unhealthy some might say - of writing about politics and attacking the Government. However just to keep him happy I will post about it as the whole point he seems to have been making is that Tory bloggers don't write about Tories.

So, for anyone reading this who hasn't already read Guido's post on the subject, apparently a load of Tory MPs have entered in the Register of Members Interests (over a period of time) flights to places that have been paid for by a company called Flying Lion which is apparently registered in Bermuda but controlled by Lord Ashcroft.

Apparently there is something "whiffy" about these publicly made entries on the Register, because the company Flying Lion is not registered in the UK. However, the rules in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 states that MPs can accept donations from foreign people or organisations if the purpose of the donation is to pay for the travel costs. The travel costs registered are to be calculated based on commercial rates too.

So... errmm... I'm not sure what the problem is exactly. Interestingly Bob Piper also noted that I (and others) might "maintain an embarrassed silence" about the 'sordid' affair. Precisely why I should be embarrassed that some MPs accepted a legitimate donation from a company controlled by a senior Tory peer in terms of travel costs and then registered it as per the rule is beyond me.

But hey ho! No doubt my relaxed and confused attitude to it all will merely reinforce the view that I am playing something down or refusing to investigate a errr.... "Flights for Gifts" scandal because I'm a partisan. Such is life!


Barnacle Bill said...

Perhaps Mr Piper's and the rest of the ZaNuLabor's embarrassment stems from the fact that this has all been done in an above the board matter.
Instead of the usual devious NuLabor way of trying to hide everything from the electorate.
Mind you are they trying to generate a smolescreen for some potential bad news laeking out on their side?

Anonymous said...

I think you are perhaps being a little disingenuous when you say you don't know what the problem is. All I know is what I read on blogs but the accusation seems to be that Flying Lion provided private jet transport which was declared at First Class rates. i.e. A flight that commercially might have costs many tens of thousands of pounds, was registered at two or three thousand.

If that is the case, do you see it as a problem? If not, why exactly?


Barnacle Bill said...

Well at least it didn't require a visit from Inspector Yates!

Tom said...

Dizzy, lets face it, if the likes of Bob Piper & Co are reduced to faining moral outrage over what is essentially an old no-story, it says more about them than the Tories.

dizzy said...

The private jet thing is not actually known as far as I can tell, so I can;t really condemn something that is unknown. Additionally the value is meant to be a notional value of the commercial travel cost, not the value of the commercial provider cost.

If the latter were the case then a £29 Easyjet ticket would have to be registered as significantly higher as well.

So no, I don't see as it as problem, because the rules are not about having to say to the donor that gave you a flight, "how much was the fuel? how much was the airport charge? how much was the pilots salary? how much was the air crew salary?"

Anonymous said...

As if those same Labour bloggers post about their own side when something wiffy is going on.

AD627 said...

As a matter of fact, in most circumstances where there are more than three people flying, a business jet can be price competitive with tickets at the front end of a commercial flight. That is why business aviation has seen such extraordinary growth in recent years.

Teejay said...

How much did Blair's holidays with Cliffy and that Bee Gee etc. cost in reality? And how much was the commercial rate stated at?

You see, the scandal seems to be about getting 'something for nothing' - not whether it were reported or not.

And that would never do.

Alex said...

One of those makintg a fuss about supposedly "impermissible" donations is that twit of an MP Tom Watson. He is a member of the party that passed the PPERA into law, so he should know the rules.

Alan Douglas said...

I've left a comment at Piper's site which I am damn sure will be censored, so here it is :

Congratulations - you have moved your party back 13 years, to the good old days of "Tory sleaze" - a very important thing to do in the face of 10 years of trough-swilling on the part of your shameful party colleagues.

What is the betting this comment will by some miracle not be approved ?

Alan Douglas

Iain Dale's Rabbit said...

Poor old Alan Douglas. It seems that your comment on Bob Piper's site was allowed. You must be so very disappointed Bob didn't act like Guido and Iain and censor those emails he dislikes.

Never mind eh, anyway at your age shouldn't you be out buying sock suspenders?

Lobster Blogster said...

No, there clearly isn't a problem. Just a little "oversight" by Mr Cameron, perhaps?

dizzy said...

I see you're perpetuating the provider cost as the figure to declare.

Lobster Blogster said...

Not at all. I provide a way of estimating the costs. Mr Cameron has provided precisely nothing. Perhaps he bicycled to the Artic Circle?

Chris Paul said...

Must say I think you're wrong old bean counter. The figure to declare is the full market value of the particular service provided less any payment made by the sponsored MP or party.

Not marginal cost, not alternate cost, the REAL COST on the open market of the actual service provided.

In this case high end private jet travel at the beck and call of the Tory high ups. The open market price of which is astronomic.

Non permissible donor (as you now seem to accept?) plus huge under declaring brings humungous clawback, eternal shame and, let's hope, being made an example of.

Chris Paul said...

PS The commercial cost bunkum is just that Dizzy. No-one else is saying that are they? the aviation fuel and wages and dues are just the tip of the iceberg running one of these things anyway.

The actual test is the open market value for the service actually received.

If someone buys you 100 poster sites for political material and they are used and then it comes to registering the donation you cannot say:

"But we could have done this with flyposting/fliers/word of mouth/freesheet ads for one tenth of this cost so we'll register that amopunt instead".

dizzy said...

What a lod of bollocks. If that was true why do MPs not list the wages and aviation fuel required for their Easyjet ticket? Total crap. Plus the actual cost of running a business jet is not half as expensive as you claim it is.

dizzy said...

p.s. I am busy doing work so don;t expect a quick reply*

* feel free to say how this is a Tory avoiding awkward questions etc etc. Some of sadly have a mortage to pay and have real jobs.

Barnacle Bill said...

That chris paul, you got to laugh at him!
I mean, here we are up to our eyeballs in NuLabour corruption & sleaze, and he is arguing the toss about the real cost of a flight.
How about the real value of our forces lives?
I don't hear chris paul taking The Bottler to task over sending our forces into war with some of the crap material provided by NuLabor.
As the man who held the purse strings at the time he can't wiggle out of his responsibilities.
Having to take it in turns to wear the only piece body armour.

tory boys never grow up said...

Trade Union sponsorship of MPs is limited to one quarter of their General Election expenditure limit by the Parliament Code of Conduct.

What limit should apply for sponsorship by Lord Ashcroft or his companies? And how should we measure the value - the market value of the flights on the private jets or the equivalent BA fare??

Is Lord Ashcroft even registered to vote in the UK?

Is it moral that someone who is not registered to vote in a country, should actively interfere in that countries elections by donations to political parties?

Lord Ashcroft (or his companies) are also reported to have made donations to the Australian Tories

dizzy said...

How should we measure the value - the market value of the flights on the private jets or the equivalent BA fare??

Good question, although it's been suggested the prices might be comparable if there are three or more passengers on a business jet.

Is Lord Ashcroft even registered to vote in the UK?

I think so, but not sure.

Is it moral that someone who is not registered to vote in a country, should actively interfere in that countries elections by donations to political parties?

Why does it need to be moral?

tory boys never grow up said...

"It's been suggested the prices might be comparable if there are three or more passengers on a business jet."

I very much doubt it based on what I have seen in the past.

Ok moral - may not be the right word - do you think it is a good or a bad thing? The law was designed to prevent foreign donors getting involved in british Politics - it may have left open the loop hole of using companies incorporated in the UK (providing they carry out business in the UK) - but that doesn't mean that it is respectable to take advantage of the loophole.

If Ashcroft is registered to vote in the UK - it raises the question as to why else he passes donations through his companies rather than make them directly - there should be a tax advantage from doing so - as political donantions are not usually an allowable expense. The good Lord has never explained why he uses this mechanism.