Shapps and £140,000 from secretive club with no accounts in 4 years

Grant Shapps

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has his personal election campaigns bankrolled by a secretive club fined by regulators after failing to submit financial returns for more than four years. Funds transferred total some £140,000 since Shapps has been a Westminster candidate in Welwyn Hatfield.

Scrapbook reported earlier this month that Conservative Club (Hatfield) Ltd – a members’ social club based at the same address as Shapps’ local party — was fined £3,000 by the Financial Conduct Authority after refusing to reveal financial data or the names of its officers.

But challenged on Twitter over the breaches, Shapps attempted to deny his links with the organisation, claiming “that’s a club, not my association”:

As if ‘CONSERVATIVE ASSOCIATION’ emblazoned along a flank of the building and ‘Conservative Club’ above the entrance weren’t obvious enough, Scrapbook has since determined that Shapps’ party own the whole property and rent a portion of it to the club.

Welwyn Hatfield Conservative Association and Club

Perhaps Shapps would be on firmer ground if the links ended there. But papers filed with the Electoral Commission reveal that members of the club were automatically counted as members of the local party and paid membership dues — in addition to hefty four-figure donations from the club as a whole.

Grant Shapps' Hatfield membership

A report by local campaign chiefs which notes “increased leafleting and canvassing” on behalf of Shapps in the run up to the 2010 election goes on to state:

“Income generated from the Conservative Club continues to be a significant part of the unit’s income.”

Shapps even boasted during an online debate about his local party’s membership figures, emphasising the relationship with the secretive club:

“I think the change in apparent Welwyn Hatfield membership is down to a reporting quirk caused by Conservative Club members no longer being included in the returns. Our actual membership has been strongly rising.”

The club is also controlled by senior party figures. Their last accounts — which as a friendly society are regulated by the FCA rather than Companies House — were received way back in November 2009. They show that the then chairman was a sitting Conservative councillor.

In summary, the chairman of the Conservatives — the man ultimately responsible for their entire election operation and legal compliance — has his personal campaigns funded by an organisation that hasn’t submitted any accounts in over four years.

Gove heads Ruffley probe, implied domestic abuse is ‘life choice’

Domestic violence: life choice?

With pressure building on David Ruffley, the Tory MP who accepted a caution for assaulting his partner, what better person to investigate the matter than new chief whip, Michael Gove. Errrr …

This from last November:

“Women’s Aid is challenging statements made by Michael Gove in a speech on reforms to social care which, it says, imply that domestic violence is a ‘life choice’ that women should take responsibility for. Women’s Aid is highlighting that it is not ‘ideology’ or a lack of personal responsibility which makes women seek help from social workers to escape domestic violence, but a real fear for their safety.”

This from the party which tried to put the sister of someone accused of protecting a paedophile in charge of a child abuse probe.

Number 10 dragged into Michael Fallon ‘slut’ row

Tories on women

Michael Fallon — cough, sorry, his ‘friends’ — have been spinning for all their lives are worth after he was named as the minister who called a young female journalist a very rude word (to her face):

“He referred to them in the wrong way, which went down badly and he apologised for that, but he did not use the word “slut”. He does not go round calling women sluts”

Michael Fallon Michael Fallon’s friends claim that he actually called her a “slattern” … so that’s all okay. This theme has now been picked up by Number 10:

“Does the PM think the use of the word ‘slut’ is appropriate in any sense? No.”

“[There is a] debate about versions of exactly what was said”

One problem: it means the same thing as ‘slut’:

By the end of the 15th century the sense “a woman given to immoral or improper conduct” had come into use, and it is the only meaning in use today. Interestingly, the same second meaning, a promiscuous woman, developed for the term slattern.

Are Number 10 suggesting that it would be in any way better for a middle aged Tory MP to have called a young woman a ‘slattern’ to her face?

UKIP man tells shocked council meeting he used to be a drug dealer

Paul Godier UKIP on drugs

A UKIP councillor sensationally claimed to have been a drug dealer in the middle of a packed council meeting — before denying that he had said anything of the sort.

Cllr Paul Godier — who was homeless but turned his life around to become a candidate for the party — told a full meeting of Portsmouth Council:

“My background is being a drug dealer … I’ve tested out these legal highs”

Cllr Paul Godier flatly denied he had made the claim — until played a recording of the meeting by Scrapbook. He then insisted that he had never dealt drugs, saying he misspoke during a debate due to “first speech nerves”. Godier went on to call for a crackdown on legal highs.

Whatever the facts, his current stance puts him at odds with UKIP’s libertarian leadership. Nigel Farage told the Telegraph back in April:

 “I hate drugs, I’ve never taken them myself, I hope I never do, but I just have a feeling that the criminalisation of all these drugs is actually not really helping British society.”

“I think we should look at it and if ever there was a subject where we needed a genuine Royal Commission [to look at decriminalisation of certain drugs]“

Could ‘metropolitan liberal’ Farage be out of touch with the UKIP grassroots?

Nick Clegg slumps to new poll low

Nick Clegg cutout reviews on Amazon.co.uk

If the deputy prime minister fancies some retail therapy to distract himself from dire personal ratings, perhaps he should steer clear of online shopping. Nick Clegg’s cardboard equivalent has been given the lowest rating by a majority of reviewers on Amazon.co.uk.

Apparently it’s a bit flimsy:

“I tried to stand this up outside my local university, but it just collapsed. It’s like it hasn’t got a spine. I had a lot of expectations and hopes reading the description, but it was quite the opposite.”

Worryingly, customers are receiving an additional product they didn’t order:

“A lot of people bought this a few years back. I didn’t. Nevertheless i’ve since inherited it against my will. It’s sadly very unstable, flopping around quite a bit. Entirely unreliable. Unexpectedly, it came with a David Cameron, David Cameron Lifesize Cardboard Cutout Standee which has wreaked havoc in my home. Also, i keep getting bills sent to me saying i owe money to cover the costs of Cameron, whom i never ordered. They are threatening to annex my closets as bedrooms and cut my wages if i don’t comply”

Problems have been blamed on a lack of communication between different cardboard cutouts:

“I was extremely disappointed with the price of this product; when I was informed of its delivery I was assured I would pay no more than £3290 for every year I owned it. Now I’m stuck paying £9000 a year – which was always the plan, apparently, because my Nick Clegg cardboard cutout was unaware of what my previous Tony Blair and Gordon Brown cardboard cutouts had been doing”

Cleggy averages 1.7 stars — but Scrapbook isn’t sure what the margin of error is with a sample of seven people.

Why are Tories using Foreign Office to vet their Russian donors?

Boris Johnson / Russian flag

Boris Johnson is asked a question about the Tories’ vetting of Russian donors on LBC — and immediately opens up another can of worms:

“We’ve done, obviously we are relying heavily on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office because they are leading on this and I’ve had absolutely categorical assurances

“I think I’ve met this gentleman’s wife and she seemed very nice but they’ve checked him/her out as far as they possibly can and we think that he doesn’t come anywhere near this category [of being a Putin crony] and that is reason really.

“I am assured by the FCO and they ought to know.

So … errr … why are taxpayers footing the bill to check the backgrounds of controversial donors to the Conservative Party? Labour are posing the following questions:

  • What checks have CCHQ conducted on Russian donors to the Conservative Party?
  • Which Conservative Party donors have the FCO looked at?
  • How many FCO staff and at what grade have worked on checking Conservative Party donors and over what time period?
  • What advice has the FCO passed on to David Cameron, Boris Johnson and CCHQ, and given this was funded by taxpayers’ money will this now be made public?

The involvement of the Foreign Office is even more intriguing given that the Conservative Party already had their own private vetting arrangements in place, retaining Control Risks Group — an international consultancy specialising in “political, integrity and security risks” — to vet staff and individuals participating in their campaigns.

Getting taxpayer-funded officials to do this would obviously be cheaper.

Fake Lib Dem councillor sends cybernats into overdrive

A Twitter account purporting to be a Lib Dem councillor has sent cybernats into overdrive — with a Commonwealth Games rendition of Aidan Burley:

Fake Lib Dem tweet on Glasgow

But there is no councillor in the country by this name and the picture used is of a Lebanese singer by the name of Magida El Roumi:

Magida El Roumi

Top trolling.

Osborne in Southampton marginal … poses with ad for rival port

George Osborne visits the ultra-marginal of Southampton Itchen to promote the government’s pension reforms and pose with a candidate who sounds like a packet of crisps. All is going according to plan …

… until he decides to pose in front of a sign advertising the city’s bitter maritime rival: the port of Liverpool. Cue outrage from the local paper.

Osborne posing in front of Liverpool port ad ... in Southampton

At least this will boost the Tories’ prospects in those marginal seats near the Liverpool docks. Errrr …

Picture via Southern Daily Echo

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