As Scrapbookpointed out yesterday, the scope of the government’s proposed changes to election campaign expenses will likely go far beyond their intended target (trade unions). Indeed, the first up for the Nick Clegg-backed circular firing squad could his Lib Dem colleague, energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey.
New rules forcing election agents to account for additional printing overhead costs such as office space will naturally lead to awkward questions over the current and future use of equipment purchased with MPs’ expenses. A case in point is the £14,687 industrial-standard envelope stuffing machine bought by Ed Davey with help from the now abolished Communications Allowance.
This machine can prepare 4,500 communications an hour, meaning that Davey could fill enough envelopes to reach every household in his constituencyin just ten hours. The issue of whether taxpayers’ money has been used to bootstrap party propaganda operations — and how this would be accounted for under new proposals for election expenses — is one that may well lead the Electoral Commission to Kingston and Surbiton.
Perhaps Ed can start by revealing the whereabouts of his Maximailer Inserter and what he has been using it for since the Communications Allowance was abolished in January 2010.
Cabinet minister Ed Davey has gone on record saying that the soaring unemployment rate in the North East isn’t as bad as it seems, but rather is “good news”.
Visiting Newcastle, Davey seemed oblivious to the region’s 11.5% unemployment rate, the highest in the country. Despite unemployment bucking the national trend to grow by 6,000 in three months, Davey attempted to mollify residents before characterising the overall labour market picture as “good news”:
“There is a lot of good work here. This does not sound to me like anything other than good news … What has been good news is how the labour market has reacted, how unemployment has reacted.”
Davey’s comments follow similar remarks from Conservative MP John Redwood, who told the North East to stop being so gloomy about unemployment and economic woes.
Lib Dems, Tories, who can tell the difference any more?
Ed Davey’s special advisor has called for the coalition to slash Winter Fuel Allowance, maternity pay and free bus passes. Writing for ConservativeHome on 7 March — just three weeks before being hired as Davey’s special adviser – Chris Nicholson (pictured with Davey standing for election in Streatham) urges his Tory pals to be bolder in their spending cuts:
“let me outline a couple of areas where spending should be cut – areas which many Conservatives might find difficult but which should be tackled nevertheless.”
Nicholson argues that Winter Fuel Allowance should be stripped back and taken away from those aged 60-65. He also calls for free bus travel and TV licences to be “strictly means-tested” and taken from about 50% of pensioners.
Then the former director of CentreForum turns his attentions to the evils of, erm, maternity pay. He’s looking for maternity pay to be capped at a maximum £800 per week — a move which would force many women to save before they could have children.
Doubtless Nicholson will feel at home alongside the Tory ministers in DECC.