Iain Dale is an “ex-Tory MP” – POLITICO

  1. On 10 December 2017, political news website POLITICO described Iain Dale as “commentator and ex-Tory MP” in its weekly Sunday Crunch round-up of British politics that, er, Sunday (screen shot in Figure 1). In fact, Mr Dale was never actually an MP: he was a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives in the May 2005 general election, though, according to the biography on his personal website.

    Figure 1. Iain Dale, “commentator and ex-Tory MP” – POLITICO Sunday Crunch on 10 December 2017

  2. Mr Dale is well known for being managing director of Biteback Publishing, which bills itself as “Britain’s leading publisher of political and current affairs titles”. Biteback’s new books include high-profile “Betting the House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election,” by UK political journalists Tim Ross and Tom McTague.
  3. Which brings us back to POLITICO: Mr McTague is its chief UK political correspondent, based in parliament. As such, he was joint author with Paul Dallison of the 10 December 2017 Sunday Crunch.
  4. Mr Dale must hope “Betting the House” is more accurate.
  5. We’d love to hear what you think,” says Sunday Crunch. Yet at date of publication Mr McTague hasn’t responded to my email. The “ex-Tory MP” claim remains, too.
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Tim Yeo was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, says Turquoise

  1. Former Tory MP Tim Yeo is a “senior consultant” at Turquoise, a London-based merchant bank specialising in “energy, environment and efficiency”.
  2. He was South Suffolk MP from 1983 to 2015. His parliamentary career included a stint as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, according to his biography on the Turquoise website (screen shot in Figure 1). That’s a government post.

    Figure 1. Tim Yeo at Turquoise at 25 September 2017

  3. Yet the parliament website shows Mr Yeo was in fact, twice, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/mr-tim-yeo/136. And that’s an opposition post.
  4. Government and opposition are, er, obviously different.
  5. At date of publication Mr Yeo hasn’t responded to a request for comment via email, nor has Turquoise. His biography on the merchant bank’s website is unchanged.

UK 2020: Former cabinet minister’s “dormant” thinktank publishes 157-page report

  1. On 15 August 2017, UK 2020 Limited, the thinktank founded and chaired by former cabinet minister Owen Paterson, filed its second set of accounts at Companies House (registered company number: 09245454). Conservative MP Mr Paterson, who’s now sole director, signed off the accounts on 8 June 2017. Made up to 31 March 2017, note 4 there, “Future activities,” states: “The company was dormant from 1 April 2017.”
  2. Two weeks after filing the accounts, meanwhile, the apparently dormant thinktank published its latest report, “Timebomb: How the university cartel is failing students.” Its findings were first reported on 3 September 2017, in The Sunday Times newspaper and on the BBC News website. Two days later, UK 2020 formally launched the report in the House of Commons Thames Pavilion, according to the thinktank’s Twitter feed (@_uk2020).
  3. The 157-page report was produced “over recent months,” says lead author Richard Tice in his preface. Is UK 2020 the first dormant thinktank to prepare and publish a weighty report?
  4. At date of publication neither Mr Paterson at parliament nor UK 2020 itself responded to requests for comment.

Political donations by Timpson Ltd: unexplained discrepancy of almost £100k between two independent public sources for 2009-2016

    1. Theres an unexplained discrepancy of almost £100k between two independent public sources for political donations made by shoe repair and key-cutting business Timpson Ltd for the eight years 2009-2016. Further, there’s incomplete disclosure of recipient in one of the sources, the company annual reports and accounts. These all show the Conservatives as recipient, failing to identify explicitly Edward Timpson MP as recipient. The MP, who was a government minister until losing his seat in the 2017 general election, is a related party of the family business. Thus the political donations are related party transactions – undisclosed related party transactions.
    2. The firm’s last accounts were made up to 1 October 2016, Companies House records show (registered company number: 00675216). And at that year-end Timpson Ltd had made 13 political donations, all non-cash and total value £730.4k, according to the Electoral Commission online database. The recipient was the same each time: Edward Timpson MP.
    3. Conservative Mr Timpson lost his seat, Crewe and Nantwich, to Labour by just 48 votes at the last general election in June 2017, having first been elected in May 2008 in a by-election. His last role in government was as Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families at the Department for Education July 2016-June 2017.
    4. Beginning in 2009, Timpson Ltd made at least one donation to the MP each of the eight years, Electoral Commission records show.
    5. Political donations above £2k must be disclosed by a company in the directors’ report within the annual report. For each year 2009-2016, political donations were disclosed in the annual report. And the recipient was the same each time: the “Conservative Party”. But here the total value was £633.0k – almost £100k (i.e. £97.4k) less than the Electoral Commission total, £730.4k (Table 1). (The 2009 directors’ report states that the firm made no political donations in 2008.)
Table 1. Political donations by Timpson Ltd 2009-2016 (GBP 000)
Year Annual report Electoral Commission
2009 18.0 66.7
2010 80.0 55.0
2011 72.0 59.2
2012 49.0 57.5
2013 95.0 154.6
2014 85.0 85.0
2015 113.0 125.4
2016 121.0 127.0
Total 633.0 730.4
    1. There’s something else about the company annual reports and accounts: they all fail to identify explicitly Edward Timpson MP as recipient of the political donations. It’s merely the Conservatives. This incomplete disclosure is disappointing because Edward, as his last name suggests, is a member of the eponymous family who own and run the ubiquitous high-street retailer. He’s a son of director Sir John Timpson, who’s company chair; and brother of director James Timpson, who succeeded his father as chief executive in 2011. Both Sir John and James are high-profile business figures.
    2. But the incomplete disclosure doesn’t stop there. The company annual reports and accounts all fail to disclose the donations to the MP as related party transactions. Edward is a related party of Timpson Ltd because he‘s a close family member of Sir John and James (see International Accounting Standard 24 Related Party Disclosures (IAS 24): http://www.iasplus.com/en-gb/standards/ias/ias24). Thus the political donations are related party transactions – undisclosed related party transactions.
    3. Prior to this year’s general election, Timpson Ltd didn’t respond to requests for comment. I wrote twice to the family business in May 2017 via its website. On each occasion I received nothing but an immediate automated acknowledgement of receipt (email). The retailer became responsive after the general election, however. On 21 July 2017, I contacted it for the third time via the website. In her response for Timpson Ltd three days later (email), Christine Hickman encloseda reply that should have been sent to you.” It said: “Further to your enquiry our independent external auditors have confirmed that the disclosures we have made in our statutory accounts are in compliance with the Large and Medium-sized Companies and Groups (Accounts and Reports) Regulations 2008. We have made enquiries of the Electoral Commission and are awaiting a response.”
    4. I thanked Ms Hickman for the email by reply the same day (24 July 2017), adding I‘d await her further response. At date of publication I‘ve heard nothing.

Company donation to Mark Spencer MP requires explanation

  1. On 13 April 2017, Mark Spencer, Conservative MP for Sherwood and an Assistant Government Whip, declared a cash donation of £2.15k on the register of MPs’ financial interests. It came from SJ Ankh Ltd, a local company; but the registered company number that Mr Spencer stated fails to match that on the Companies House register. The mismatch between company name and number requires explanation. Further, while £2.15k may not be a huge amount, here I show that Mr Spencer’s declaration on the register means we’re talking telephone numbers.
  2. Farmer Mr Spencer, who was first elected MP for Sherwood in May 2010, listed 9654867 as company number. Yet the registered company number of SJ Ankh Ltd is 10525122, according to Companies House records. While 9654867 is the company number of Bedfordshire Land Promotions Ltd.
  3. There’s something else about number 9654867, though. It’s the phone number for Sherwood Conservative Association (without prefix 0115, area code for Nottingham).
  4. Samuel (“Sam”) Ancliff is sole director of SJ Ankh Ltd, which is a new company. He’s “deputy chairman (membership)” of Ashfield and Mansfield Conservatives, too, says his Twitter biography (screen shot in Figure 1). On 4 May 2017, Mr Ancliff stood unsuccessfully in the local elections, as Conservative candidate for county councillor in Kirkby North, Nottinghamshire County Council. He came second, behind Labour’s John Knight.

    Figure 1. Sam Ancliff on Twitter at 9 May 2017

  5. Mr Spencer, who is Conservative candidate for Sherwood in the current general election, didn’t respond to requests for comment (emails). Neither did Sherwood Conservatives. Where’s the “strong and stable leadership”?
  6. Mr Ancliff, however, said in an email: “Besides that it is a [sic] clearly a simple admin error on someone’s part, I have nothing further to contribute to your blog.” Well, if so, who exactly made “a simple admin error,” and where?

Jake Berry MP’s avoidable conflict of interest

  1. Jake Berry MP’s second job as a paid consultant to a multinational law firm means that it’s unclear, at the very least, in what capacity he spoke at a recent real-estate event in Manchester sponsored by the same law firm. The MP, a self-proclaimed champion of transparency, hasn’t replied to requests for comment on what I consider to be his avoidable conflict of interest. Nor has the law firm.
  2. Mr Berry is Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen. He’s a solicitor, who, according to his personal website, “specialised in housing and development law” before entering parliament in 2010. On 10 November 2016, Mr Berry spoke at a real-estate event at the National Football Museum, Manchester. Here’s a newspaper preview: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/business/property/more-effort-needed-drive-provide-12156570.
  3. The breakfast meeting had two sponsors: law firm Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP and bank NatWest. The MP has a second job – as a paid consultant to, er, Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP. It’s been paying him £2 500 per month since September 2016, Mr Berry’s entry on the register of MPs’ financial interests shows.
  4. The newspaper preview fails to mention the MP’s second job. An unfortunate omission. I’ve asked Mr Berry in emails in what capacity he spoke at the event. Was he there as MP for Rossendale and Darwen – or as an employee of Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP?
  5. At date of publication I haven’t received a reply. Nor have I heard from Holly Carty, business development coordinator at Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP in Manchester. Ms Carty tweeted about the event on her official work account (@HACarty).
  6. Mr Berry’s failure to respond is particularly disappointing because he’s a self-proclaimed champion of transparency: www.jakeberry.org/transparency. “If you have any questions or would like any further details please do not hesitate to contact me,” he says on that page.
  7. It’s unclear which Mr Berry spoke at the real-estate event in Manchester last November. Yet he had an actual, potential, or perceived conflict of interest due to his second job. This conflict of interest risks undermining trust and confidence in the MP, as well as MPs generally. What’s worse, his is an avoidable conflict of interest.
  8. There’s no suggestion that Mr Berry has done anything illegal.

UPDATE: Has Grant Shapps got another alter ego?

  1. I’ve now (evening) received a reply from Grant Shapps’ parliamentary office (see previous post).
  2. Freddie Downing “was a former employee in Grant Shapps’ parliamentary office, who carried out the preliminary research earlier in the year for the most recent British Infrastructure Group report.”
  3. Document “author” Mr Downing isn’t credited in the report, let alone identified. I wonder why he’s airbrushed from history.