Thursday, January 31, 2008

Heffer Confronted: Clash Over Conway

This week on HEFFER CONFRONTED Simon has a right old go at Derek Conway. I put the case for the defence. I must admit I enjoyed the moment when I said to Simon: "repeat after me: David Cameron got it right." He nearly got there, but not quite...

The full RIGHT ON show can be seen HERE. Ann Widdecombe and Andrew Pierce discuss why the Tories aren't being more hard-hitting in their opposition. Widders sees red.


Anonymous said...

Well, Iain, in this discussion with Heffer, unlike your Monday night comment when you unjustifiably got flack just for not commenting, you actually seem to be defending him, regarding it as "administrative".

Oh dear. I suppose this really does start to show the perils of being a commentator and a player. I like you (from your media persona, don't know you personally), so I just hope this doesn't unravel any further and you lose all credibility as both.

Or you could be proved totally right and we could all be accepting in six months' time that it was a total stitch-up and the only flaw was the failure to keep strict time sheets or not to have insisted that his staff never worked from home...

Anonymous said...

Heffer 5 Dale 0. You just do not get it do you Iain. Conway has done so much damage to the Tories it is impossible for you to see the wood from the trees. So what about Hain. Two wrongs do not make a right. Sit back, separate your personal life from the professional and stop going on about the indefensible. Think about this; Blair was a successful politician and this was partly due to the fact that he knew when to separate out his professional and personal lives. He sacked Mandelson and then on the night of the 2nd sacking he was having dinner with the Blairs at their request. Move on and stop damaging the party you say you support.

Anonymous said...

that photo above is just soooo Gilbert and George.

Newmania said...

You actually seem to be suggesting there is another side to the story Iain. This is not what you were saying before which , in its way , was as damning as anything anyone else said ( I`d like to defend him but I can’t )
Is there as possibility he might face charges ?
I heard there are no clear records of who is employing family members and the 38 discovered yesterday might be up to 100.Of them I do not believe Conman is alone although he does seem to have been energetically dishonest.
Its the details of his sons and their faux Sloane life style , the "F---Off I`m rich "Party . The acquisition of Brideshead Revisited affectations . The Mail and Guardian absolutely tore him and his family to pieces with excruciating details about their delusional self regard. The only way this is a problem for the Conservative Party is if David Cameron had fudged . He did get it right as he does most things and whatever anyone says that was the only course of action.

Its just a personal story , not poltical in my view and now its over .

Anonymous said...

The idea that this is a personal story and not a political one is absurd.

Labour sleaze is bring, so far it seems to involve a bunch of morons who don't understand the rule book, they wrote.

Tory sleaze is exciting, it confirms in the electorate what they really believe, that the Tories are a bunch of hedonists, who are only interested in power, so they can behave as they like.

My God! if they are this sleazy in opposition, imagine how sleazy their going to be when in government.

I do hope Iain, that young 'Freddie' isn't a friend of yours. I do hope you haven't been at the receiving end of his, 'largesse' we wouldn't want to see you exposed by the Daily Mail, know would we.

Anonymous said...

Giving MPs optional expenses if they can find someone to employ is asking for trouble. We should lump their salary and expenses into one and pay it regardless, while ensuring that they declare what it has been spent on. Then their constituents (and election opponents) can decide what to do with the information. It would also give us a clearer idea of what they are costing us than seeing the salary figure alone.

Julian Gall

Anonymous said...

I do have to say Iain that the last thig Cameron,Osborne and Boris want is a Public School fop story such as is going on in the press this morning.
The poncey cravat photos make Bullingdon boy look a bit close to it all.

In addition Dave is going to have to apologise for lying to the house over Quradawi.
The Tories didn't ban him.They let him in five times.Twice when Cameron was an advisor to Michael Howard.
Oh Dear

ChrisC said...

Please cut down on the cuts - or at least the "clangs" which accompany them!

Anonymous said...

Heffer clearly hates Cameron.

His paper need to look at the continued employment of one so biased.

Chris Paul said...

The case for the defence? Come on Iain. That's ridiculous. £45,000 to one son, £32,000 to another, two decades of top dollar to wifey. No trace of the work by the sons at least. There is no case for the defence. Go on admit it. This is far worse than any of the Labour deputy leadership/scottish leadership wrinkles. This is personal gain by the look of it in an absolutely chronic way involving seven or eight annual returns for the two sons - every one a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

Iain, I must agree with the above comments. You cannot walk both sides of the line (participent/observer)without stumbling and you are increasingly losing credibility in my eyes with your recent posts.

I agree that the seperation of personal and political is something blair (for all his other faults) did very well.

You can have a personal blog where you give personal opinions with all that entails, or you can choose to ty and define yourself as a political comentator. By switching from no comment to a defensive position with no actual substantive defence you do yourself a diservice

Anonymous said...

I simply repeat the question I have posed before: does anybody genuinely believe Conway's mistake is on a par with what Peter Hain, Wendy Alexander or Alan Johnson did?

Conway made a silly mistake, he held his hands up and he's paid very heavily.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland and the Health Secretary, having committed far more serious and wide-ranging offences, remain, unbelievably, in office.

I think Conway actually deserves a lot of credit for the way he's dealt with this - certainly a lot more than some commenters on this blog who have devoted far more effort to attacking one of their own MPs for a fairly innocuous mistake while letting the Government off the hook.

Anonymous said...

Conway and his family are exactly the reason why so many people are STILL wary of supporting the Conservative Party - modern or not. Never trust a Tory? Now you know why.

David Cameron doesn't stand a chance while there are still Tories like the Conway family hanging around.

I think Conway should pay back every single penny to the taxpayer - and I think he deserves a criminal record.

We've had enough of greedy and dishonest politicians who abuse their positions. This really is about the past vs the future.

So, Conway throws a "F*ck Off - I'm Rich" party?

How about we throw him a "F*ck Off - You're going to Prison" party instead?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the londoner and howard.

That you think it any form of 'defence' that Conway's sons might have done 'some' work (whatever that means) and that the issue is simply one of being paid a little too much just goes to show how easy it is for people on the inside of the westminster village quickly let their personal connections disconnect them from the reality of how they are perceived in the outside world.

Cameron did the right thing. Conway's only gripe can be that he was the unlucky one to be the first to be exposed. I'm sure many more MPS on all sides are nervously thinking about their own situations as a result, and a GOOD THING TOO.

P.S. Who ate all the pies?

Anonymous said...

It all just goes to prove that Cameron took the right decision in making it clear to this sleazebag that he has no place in the Conservative Party.

Don't hold your breath waiting for dithering, cynical Brown to do the same with his even bigger bunch of miscreants.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't understand your logic Iain. On one hand Conway had nothing wrong, it was an administrative error?

Then David Cameron was right to remove the whip.

Surely if Conway had done nothing wrong, Cameron was wrong to remove the whip.

Anonymous said...

I think you have it badly wrong here Iain. You can support your friends through their troubles but this looks like cover-up in the face of the facts. By all means ring him up and give him a shoulder to cry on or whatever but this "administrative error, wrong payscale" nonsense shows very poor judgement.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Iain, even though I'm really not a fan of Heffer and I am of yours I think he's right on this issue and you're wrong.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time that I've EVER agreed with Heffer! Tsk, tsk, Iain.

Anonymous said...

The difference between Conservative and Labour sleaze is that Conservative crookery is always about the lining of pockets. Labour crookery is about corrupting the electoral process, the machinery of government, and the entire financial structure of life in Britain, to ensure that Labour stays in power forever, stuffing their pockets with grants, allowances, and subsidies, even if almost nobody is voting for them.

Conway should be absolutely eviscerated for interfering in the process of showing Broon and his attendant filth up for the maggots they are.

You've got too close to these riff-raff Iain. You're starting to resemble a man looking in a mirror in an attempt to observe his own contact lenses. It's impossible to do so. What he must do is take them off and notice the difference it makes.

4x4 the people said...

cam4me said
"does anybody genuinely believe Conway's mistake is on a par with what Peter Hain..."

since when is committing fraud a "mistake"? Or do you mean as in "mistake getting caught"?

I hope you get the chance to defend Conman again Iain, as a character witness for the defence.

Mark Senior said...

As you are a personal friend of Conway , perhaps you will help him out and repay me the money he has taken for himself and his family from myself as a taxpayer - I need it rather more than he or his son(s) do .

Anonymous said...

Just read Fraser Nelson in this weeks Spectator. The article is spot on. Damage done. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

Your description of Twitty using his expense account to indulge his family for a few years as an "administrative error" was hugely entertaining.

If the production team had gone for the full comedy soundtrack there would have been hoots of laughter after that one.

What a pity that Del Boy and Rodney were not available. They are the only two who could have done a better job.

Congratulations. You have become the Malibu and Cherryade of politics.

Anonymous said...

Cam4oil said...
“I simply repeat the question I have posed before: does anybody genuinely believe Conway's mistake is on a par with what Peter Hain, Wendy Alexander or Alan Johnson did?”

Conway certainly isn’t on a par with Alan Johnson.

Conway is a political low-life who defrauded the taxpayer of many thousands of pounds.

What did Alan Johnson do? He accepted the donation in question only after his staff had checked that that donor was (a) a Labour Party member and (b) on the Electoral Register.

Unlike Camoron’s Constituency Association in Witney which banked two substantial donations knowing that they were from illegal donors. The Electoral Commission discovered the first one and the Association then owned up to the second.

Anonymous said...

If any proof were needed that the family Sloaneway were gainfully employed in the running of the Westminster office of pater familias then this photo is surely it:

camp as xmas

I understand from Henrietta that Lady Conman's fur is at least 2 years old. They need our support. Now leave the poor fuckers alone to get on with counting our money.

humbug said...

Iain, I think you and cam4me have got this one seriously wrong. Man in the street looks at the Hain fiasco and it make them wonder if they filed their tax return on time - I know it is serious and people at their level should not make such dumb errors, but man in the street doesnt realy see it as true sleaze.

Conway however is personal, well familly anyway, gain at man in the street expense. He see's it as fiddling the expenses and then laughing at the poor people. That's why its so damaging to us Tory's. It brings back the entire nasty party aura DC has done so much to get rid of.

It's OK to be contrarian and being contrarian to Heffer must be fun, he's such a dinosaur, but think outside the Westminster village before picking sides with Conway. What worry's me is how many other of our MP's are in the same position. It only needs another couple to be identified and we will be back in the same position as 97, just when we should have a home run in the next election. The public's memories on sleaze of this kind are long and unfortunately our party has had more than its share of skeletons, from Maudling onwards.

Lets try and forget Conway fast and get back on attacking the Bron menace.

Anonymous said...

Ian - for heavens sake - stop digging! He might well be a friend and a nice bloke but hes been caught with his hand in the till - support your friend certainly but please do it in private and don't assume we're all as dim as the average Labour MP.

Anonymous said...

The Victorians introduced civil service examninations to thwart the sort of nepotism we are seeing here. The people employed by MPs are public servants paid for out of the public purse and there is no excuse for them to be hired as part of a cozy relationship between family members. These jobs should be acquired in the same way as other civil servants and if anything the use of close family members should be avoided.

The excuses that MPs come up with that employing their wives and relations is necessary is simply not tenable.

Chris Paul said...

Trying to suggest Alexander and Johnson are on a par with what Frank Field today called "Embezzlement" is a non-starter. Hain could not be accused of embezzlement either. Chump and clown yes but approximately £45,000 plus £32,000 ... and no sign of any work?

Plus 20 years of £30,000 day to wife at today's prices plus who knows what else may come out of the woodwork. Anyone know anything about this cat charity of Conway's???

As Field said fi some in the HoP catering operation was unable to account for any return from £80,000 paid to ghostlike payroll rellies they would be sacked on the spot and the book would be thrown at them too.

Once again the suggestion that LP mistakes and lateness in internal election returns are remotely comparable to what Field rightly calls embezzlement in this case are way wide of the mark. Members of the public who are interested in this know the score.

Tories are out for themselves. More businesslike perhaps. To a fault.

Anonymous said...

Heffer clearly hates Cameron. His paper need to look at the continued employment of one so biased.

What? He's a columnist so of course he's biased; that's his job. You can't have a meaningful debate with two 'impartial' persons. I must say this stinks of typical left-wing intolerance.

Scipio said...

Newmania is corect Iain.

Conway might be a friend of yours, and I understand the desire to stand by friends, but Conway has been taking money from the tax payer and filtering it to his family for their own personal enrichment. He has at been taking us for a ride, using the excuse that "lots of s employ family" to screw as much out of us as possible! This is disgusting and unforgivable behaviour, and really pisses me off - especially as I have just comleted my self assesment, and will as ever be writing a big fat check, which I would rather spend on my own children's university education and not subsidising that of arrogant and greedy, money grabbing MPs!

You could easily have said "he is a friend and will continue to be so, but he has done wrong". You could have "condemned the sin, but not the sinner", or if you know something we don't, you should have said "the report was wrong and my fiend has done nothing worng". But you sat on the fence and gave the impression that it's onlt sleaze when it's got a red rossete on!

As far as I am aware, Hain has never taken tax payer's money, so in that respect at least, Conway is worse that Hain. And that takes some doing. The comparrison is meaningless.

People like Conway do the party a great injustice. they create the impression that, MPs in general, and Tory MPs specifically, have their hands in the till and noses in the trough.

I am glad he has stood down, but he doesnt deserve any great credit for it. It's rather like a condemned man answering the question "do you have anything to say before sentence is passed". He knew he was toast and decided to create some goodwill by 'doing the decent thing".

About 20 years too late though!

He should pay back all the money he siphined of to his kids, and an investigation into his wife should be launched. If he ends up in clink - goood, even if only pour encourager les autres!

Maybe these greedy MPs will think twice about screwing over the tax payer in future!

Anonymous said...

The whole situation is ridiculous.

MPs have access to huge sums of money for which they don't have to account because of arcane rules of Parliamentary Privilege.

I see so many MPs who are incompetent, who before coming into Parliament were in non-jobs and earning quite modest incomes. Now they earn a decent wage (£60k), often employ their wives and pay them £30K, and then have the tax payer buy them a house too.

One MP I know well was, before his election, earning under £20k, and his wife earnt just £10k. They lived in a small maisonette. Now they have a joint income of £110k a year, decent pensions, have rented out their maisenette, purchased a second home in the constituency (what is by local standards a very nice house), and bought a pad in London – all courtesy of the tax payer.

And this MPs is the most ineffective – dare I say ‘almost invisible’ - member in the house, and openly admits he would never have this lifestyle in what he calls ‘the real world’! Of course, to his constituents, his motivation is their interests. To those who know him, we have alternative conclusions!

It's sickening, especially when MPs choose who they employ (fair enough, don't have a problem with that), and how much they pay them (which is wrong and should be tightened up). They should have the right to employ a specific number of staff, with the salaries set and paid direct from the fees office. MPs should also only get a free train pass, and an annual set allowance for their car use – but not an open tap of claimables for non-existent mileage. As for accommodation, this needs looking at, as in my experience, it is the thing which causes most resentment – especially when we know full well that many MPs are swinging the lead and living it up at our expense.

Anonymous said...

@ klaxon

Even that lot is far, far too generous. Why should MPs get a free train pass? What's so special about MPs that they need one of those? They should get a second-class season ticket between their constituency home and London, unless they live within 100 miles of London, in which case they should get nothing. Plenty of us proles have to pay out of taxed income to commute to work and so should they. I'd like a free train pass, can I have one too?

Those who supposedly need a base in London as well as in Accrington or wherever the hell can have a hotel allowance. They can sell up and live in London or they can stay in Accrington, but either way, if they need to be away from home, they can damn well stay in a Travelodge like I would have to. If I lived in London and chose to work in London I would not expect my London employer to pay me to run two homes. I'd expect to be paid what I was worth and it's my problem if I want to own two homes. It should not come as a surprise to even the thickest members of the Labour Party that being an MP entails working in London.

Research jobs should be advertised in the usual manner and relatives including wives explicitly banned from holding them. If an MP marries a member of his or her staff, one or other of them must resign. Not swap jobs with another secretary or MP, but resign.

Regarding other expenses they should do wxactly what the rest of us damn well have to do which is to prove the expense was actually incurred with a valid receipt submitted within 3 months of the expense date. If they cannot do this then they absorb the cost out of their own pocket, like the rest of us.

If they want to drive somewhere, then they must submit a claim stating the mileage driven, the car used, and the purpose of the journey. They then get the RAC rate per mile if they used their own car, and there should be random odometer checks to make sure they haven't claimed more miles than the car has been driven. If they drive more than 20,000 miles a year, they can have a company Mondeo and they can pay the personal tax on it and claim the petrol, like the rest of us have to.

Their salary should be whatever they earned in their last job per hour plus 10% - everyone who changes jobs negotiates a pay rise and so should they. So in klaxon's example, the muppet who was on 20k a year (for presumably a 35-hour public-sector week for 47 weeks a year) would get £13.40 an hour as an MP for each hour worked - which deals with the claims that they work long hours. Timesheets would of course be required to support these claims, just like the rest of us.

This will result in MPs being paid different salaries to do the same job, but this is supposed to about the public service ethos. It will ensure that nobody enters Parliament with the aim of getting rich, because all that will happen is that they will maintain their previous level of income. It will also end the problem of nobody competent wanting to enter Parliament because of the pay cut. If you're a million-pound-a-year hedge fund manager and you want to get involved in politics you'll get a salary of £1.1 million for doing so. If you're Jacqui Smith and you taught cookery at a primary school then you'd get £25k a year.

It would also end the practice of MPs voting themselves disgusting perks - instead, after every election, their pay would go up 10% (on the basis that they're newly elected and qualify for a 10% boost over what they were on before). A 10% improvement over 4 years is about what the rest of us proles can expect, so it's good enough for them.

And finally, their pensions should become defined contribution schemes like the rest of us. Once these buggers learn how bloody hard it is to survive as a member of the lumpenproletariat they might start thinking a bit harder about whether it's really such a good wheeze after all to destroy our pensions and grammar schools.

Anonymous said...

"Heffer clearly hates Cameron. His paper need to look at the continued employment of one so biased."

Well as he is one of the Telegraph's stars and the reason I buy the paper and presumably why Iain makes these films with him that view makes no sense at all.

Cameron has been given an amber light by the electorate, but it was not so long ago that he and his education spokeman were saying some very stupid thing about grammar schools and with Conway's sleaze it would be very easy for the light to go back to red. The fact is that the public have not warmed much to Cameron, the Conservatives lead should be much better, they have simply cooled towards Brown. The Telegraph and Heffer give a better idea of the public's relative coolness towards the Conservatives than many who post here.

Anonymous said...

I earn more than an MP but would find it jolly difficult to educate two sons at Harrow and still buy the wife a fur coat.

Do you think Mr Conway might have been on the fiddle?

Born Today said...

Iain, I understand where you are coming from.

You wish to defend your friend - and if what you said on the video is true (and I have no reason to doubt it), then yes there are some records of some work being done.

There is some defense - tissue thin though it may be, that you feel obliged to offer.

But could you tell me at what point you would say "I'm sorry, but even you must resign now"?

And for those who think Hain is any better, he broke the rules in an attempt to secure a role of power, with influence.

He attempted to rule our lives - where as Conway tried to help his family. Both inexcusable, but I certainly know which is worse.

Anonymous said...

Broon's Talking Bawgie said...
"If you're Jacqui Smith and you taught cookery at a primary school then you'd get £25k a year."

She was Head of Economics and GNVQ Co-ordinator at a comprehensive school. Probably on about £45,000 a year at today's rates.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure it was Economics and not Home Economics, i.e. cookery? I went to an independent school that was and is in the top 20 academically, and we didn't have any "Head of Economics".

Anonymous said...

Broon's Talking Bawgie said...
"Are you sure it was Economics and not Home Economics" YES

"I went to an independent school that was and is in the top 20 academically, and we didn't have any "Head of Economics". YOU MISSED OUT THEN, DIDN'T YOU?